7 Jun 2012
We ran that piece recently talking about how more people support abortion rights than who currently identify as “pro-choice.” It seems really obvious, but let’s just lay it all out for a minute, as it bears repeating, as we’re seeing (unfortunately) lots of stories about this subject these days.
The attitudes on the pro-choice side can range from “abortion on demand, no apologies” to “I don’t like it but it needs to be available.” We on that “pro-choice” side are mostly armed with legalistic-sounding arguments about “rights” and “choice”, at least until you burrow down into the awful human stories that have resulted from lack of access. The so-called “pro-lifers”? Well, they have the fetus in the jar. They win.
But here’s the thing. Pro-choice vs. pro-life is a false dichotomy. Time and time again, the polls show that most people who support abortion rights aren’t necessarily going to be running out to grab abortions in between their trip to Bloomies and their Starbucks pit stop. For most, it’s not something done casually. I’ve spent some time lately in a mostly fruitless effort to understand the mind of the conservative antichoice woman, and in my travels I stumbled upon Feminists For Life. There’s a lot of claims to dispute on their site, and I’m probably going to write more in depth about them at some point because they are both fascinating and confounding, but there’s one thing that they’re not wrong about, which is that a woman who’s having an abortion doesn’t necessarily want to be there; it’s just that she feels it’s the best option out of an array of shitty ones.
That’s right. Calling yourself “pro-life” implies that your opponents are “pro-death,” which by and large, we aren’t (really, who is “pro-death”? Have you met this person?). And neither are most of the people who support abortion rights. But the anti-choicers, they’ve got the fetus in the jar. So we have been gradually losing the message war when it comes to the phrase “pro-choice.” A term that initially sounded good because it moved the argument away from “pro-life” vs. “pro-death” has been muddied. They’ve taken it and made it about us dehumanizing the life growing inside a woman’s uterus and reducing it to a “choice” instead of a “child.”
This is clearly a falsehood. The anti-abortion crowd draws a simple, bright line and says that life starts at conception. We accept that what is growing inside of a woman is a future human being, a future child, and by rights, terminating that process is a sad thing. A woman’s biology attests to that, as many women who had no desire whatever for a child and no particular moral feelings regarding abortion have reported having a short period of depression following their own abortions, because their bodies were gearing up to do something that they didn’t complete and now those hormones had nowhere to go. That’s biology. Know what else is biology? A fertilized egg is not a person. That’s biology. A zygote is not a person. Biology, baby. We look at the same pictures of a small clump of cells and say, “That’s not a person. Yet.” At some point, a fetus is arguably a person, but you’d have to look pretty hard to find someone who is unbothered with terminating it at that point.
It’s sort of amusing that most of those on Team Fetus are using Science as a prop to back up their claims of fetal personhood, trotting out the ultrasound images and yes, the fetus in the jar, since most of those folks are also highly religious types. You know, the ones who are all too ready to reject science when it comes to things like evolution and the age of the earth.
For example, we ran a piece from the Times today explaining that the way that the Plan B pill works has actually nothing to do with preventing implantation, but rather preventing fertilization in the first place by delaying ovulation., and that a number of scientists are pressing the FDA to remove language on its label that mentions preventing implantation as a possible effect of the pill. Because there is a growing body of actual clinical evidence that refutes that idea. The article mentions towards the end that Jonathan Imbody, vice president of government relations for the Christian Medical Association, raises questions about “whether ideological considerations are driving these decisions.” Science when we like it, Jesus when we don’t. Aren’t you as surprised as I am?
It’s always harder to be on the side that doesn’t claim to have black and white answers: Life begins at conception. God is a man. The earth is 5,000 years old. It’s always harder to be on the side that admits to living in a gray area and tries to make the case that that’s not only OK, but necessary. That you can stake out a place for yourself in that gray, and leave room for others to do the same even if it’s not the same place as yours.
And if that sounds too mushy and relativist, know that we have our own bright line and it rests here: you cannot tell us what to do with our bodies, ever. You cannot accept science when it suits you and then force your interpretation of it on us. We can hold that abortion is a sadness without it being a murder. That said, there are some narrow areas on which we might agree; that perhaps we need to make the world, or at least our country, more hospitable to women who would be mothers, to make this country a place where a woman’s life and future do not get flushed away if she has a child before she’s ready to do so. But that’s something else that needs to be talked about in more depth another time. Right now, I’m here to do one thing, and one thing only, and that is to remind anyone who supports a woman’s right to make her own choices, even unhappy ones, that they are indeed pro-choice. And that, well… that’s a damned good thing.
– by Jen