Friday, April 29, 2005

Why Should Abortion Be Rare?

I am really, really, really fucking fed up with hearing so-called 'advocates for choice' say that abortion should be 'safe, legal and rare'. Never mind the shrieking hypocrisy and political opportunism of the Hillary-Howard axis and their minxy plan to seduce pro-lifers into the Democratic Party. I'm talking here about the likes of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the old-school bastions of abortion rights. Their official position is 'Being pro-choice means believing abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, and supporting access to birth control, responsible sex education, and a fair-minded judiciary.'

Pro-choice figures feel so embattled in the blasted post-apocalyptic moral landscape of America that they're tripping over themselves to try and evince moral cred, and the way they seem to feel they can do this is by showing themselves acutely sensible to the 'moral complexities' of abortion. This could not be more wrong. By ceding the terms of the debate to pro-life, by essentially admitting that they 'know' abortion is bad, they put themselves in an invidious position. Now they're forced to defend a woman's right to do something everyone agrees is a bad thing to do. This is infinitely harder, and slipperier, than defending her right to do something they don't concede as bad. Now you have to start arguing conflicting rights of mother and child, identifying thresholds of acceptable termination, you're sliding right down the slope into the Valley of Special Pleading and staring stupidly back up at the moral high ground you voluntarily abandoned.

Why would you do this? Why do we have to concede abortion as a Bad Thing That Must Be Minimized? Not everyone does, you know, even in these diseased times. A massive shoutout here to the women of the
I Had An Abortion project, whose explicit agenda is to destigmatize abortion and women who've had them, and promote the view that it is a medical procedure to which no shame should attach. As we all should be doing. Here, watch, it's easy.

Abortion is great. Abortion is a golden privilege of modern human civilization, hard-won past barricades of technology, sexism and religious prejudice. It constitutes the ability of a woman to decide, for herself, when and if she will take on the unspeakably huge, life-transforming (and way too often life-ruining) joy/burden/responsibility/all of the above of bringing a life into the world. It liberates her from slavish thrall to biology.

In a thousand ways, every day, we transcend our brute biological imperatives. Ways we don't even notice. Our genes don't care if we read fiction, or order in Thai, or issue press releases, or wear sailor suits, or any of the infinite other non-survival-related things, large and small, that we are privileged to do by the state of civilization we've achieved. It is rank hypocrisy to rejoice in all the evolutionarily-superfluous advantages of 21st-century Western society, then decry reproductive choice as 'against nature'.

Terminating a foetus is not killing a person. At most it is killing a potential person. And so the fuck what? A potential person does not have a right to live that trumps my right to not become its mother.

Abortion is not wrong. Abortion is fucking brilliant. If I got pregnant today, I would have an abortion tomorrow, and I would skip home trilling a song of joy, because I live at a moment in history where I choose whether or not my body will be a vessel for perpetuating the species. My body does not belong to the species, it belongs to me.

It's about fucking time our prominent abortion rights activists remembered that, and marched back on the moral ground we must occupy to fight and win this battle for good.

Update May 1st:
I posted this philippic on PBA HQ (yah, blatantly looking to stir up trouble), and got one measly comment (where are you people? Doesn't anybody want to fight?). However, it was interesting in bringing out another layer of mainstream pro-choice self-delusion and capitulation, so I reproduce it here, along with my (so-far-unanswered) riposte:

Rare for a Reason
Submitted by Elayne Riggs on Sat, 2005-04-30 09:04.
The reason abortion advocates want the procedure to be rare is that they also want more emphasis put on family planning and education so that women and girls don't find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy in the first place. Any medical procedure that's even minimally invasive carries a risk, and it's always better not to be in a position where you need that procedure in the first place.

Yes But Not That Reason
Submitted by BionOc on Sat, 2005-04-30 10:56.
These are legitimate concerns, as far as they go, but they are way secondary to the main issue of choice and certainly don't merit raising to the level of a slogan.
More pertinently, it's disingenuous to call selectively for abortion to be 'rare', as opposed to any other medical procedure. It's surely no coincidence that no one feels the need to stipulate that lumpectomies, liver transplants or heart bypasses should be 'rare'--of course they should, but we don't bother saying so because they're not embattled, and we all know that in an ideal world they wouldn't be necessary, and given that they are, it's meaningless to agonize over their desired 'rarity'.

The only reason they say abortion should be 'rare' is because there are those who want to make it never, and to say 'rare' is therefore to acknowledge that and to half-capitulate to it.
We have to make a choice: either we consider abortion to be a medical procedure like 'any medical procedure', in which case no special pleading for its rarity absent pleas for all medical procedures to be rare, OR we allow the opposition to define abortion as a special case, in which case we've lost the argument already.

Frankly, and not meaning at all to impugn your honest intentions, I don't believe that the reasons you cite are the real reasons for the inclusion of 'rare' in the slogan. I'm sure those reasons are genuinely on the minds of women's health advocates, as they should be with respect to all procedures. But the real mindset behind 'rare' is the tacit acceptance of abortion as a special case, replete with trauma and anguish beyond those of 'any medical procedure'. And as long as we have that mindset, we are perpetuating the actual experience of trauma for women who choose to have abortions.

While certainly for some (though certainly not all) women, having an abortion is indeed traumatic, isn't it likely that at least some of that trauma is rooted in society's insistence that abortion is in fact a traumatic event? If we are told often enough that we should be upset about something, it's very hard not to absorb that message to some degree and get upset. While absolutely remaining sensitive and supportive to women who do experience trauma from abortions, I think we owe it to women in general not to indoctrinate them preemptively with the notion that they will or should do so.

Update May 5th: I've posted a follow-up to this post here, with some argument and a couple of important points.

2nd Update May 5th: Want to comment? Great. Pro-life? Please read this Public Service Announcement first.

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