Sunday, November 20, 2005

Achieving Peace - Chapter 5

We've started to read and discuss Rachel McNair's Achieving Peace in the Abortion War. So far we've read chapters 1, 2, 3, and Chapter 4. Now, let's look at Chapter 5, When Ideas Don't Fit. (Links added to Dr. McNair's work are my own.)
For abortion personnel, we need to look not merely at whether they might have some conflicting thoughts, but whether those are way above average. Does the actual practice of abortion differ from its defenders' ideas of how it's supposed to be? Does the knowledge of those differences cause tension in the minds of those involved?

Now we got to the real meat of the matter, to me:
Increasing safety was one of the major justifications for legalizing abortion. .... That being the case, the relative safety of legal abortion is a cognitive element that is absolutely essential to anyone working in the abortion field.

The record immediately after Roe v. Wade did not show the back alley butchers being yanked out of business. An example from the beginning is given by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who had been ... given the assignment of improving a New York clinic. A staffwoman is giving him a list of all the tasks he must do:

".... You got to get those doctors shaped up. I mean half of them don't even wash their hands anymore before doing an abortion, let alone scrubbing. They refuse to use masks or caps, and their moustaches are dragging into the suction machines. I swear, one of these days we're going to lose one of those guys right into the suction trap and the lab is going to tell us the tissue is pregnancy tissue and the abortion is complete."

This facility went on not only to kill a young abortion patient, but to chart the dead patient's condition as "pink, alert, responsive." And it was this clinic's review of its own records that convinced the US Supreme Court that abortion could be safely performed on an outpatient basis.
How do people who advocate legalization for safety reasons deal with the dissonant information that safety problems are, in fact, widespread under legal abortion? Why does NAF, which is the obvious choice for watchdog over the clinics, feel little or no obligation to get these places cleaned up? Why would they leave all efforts at cleaning up the safety records of abortion clinics to the opposition?

Good question, Dr. McNair! She goes on to examine the cognitive dissonance:
We have two cognitive elements:

(1) legalization of abortion is necessary to make it safe for women; and
(2) there are a lot of places where abortions are performed where it's not safe for women.

It may seem logical that the best way to resolve this one is by changing number two. If watchdog efforts can be applied, that second point could be either eliminated, or at least brought down to the level that it can be accounted for by noting that nobody's perfect

Again, good point. Why is it the prolifers, who supposedly hate women so much, that are always the ones dogging on the abortionists to quit botching abortions? Why aren't prochoice groups -- NAF in particular -- staying on top of these guys?
Ignoring the second point, and deliberately sweeping it under the rug, is certainly a way of dealing with the dissonance it creates. But since abortion defenders have a strong urge for the public to believe the first point, it would seem that ignoring the second point would be an odd way of dealing with it. But the theory of cognitive dissonance would predict such a reaction as a possible way of dealing with it.

Can you say, "Whistling past the graveyard"?
Judith Fetrow, a former Planned Parenthood worker, summed up the tension at a pro-life conference. "It is extremely difficult to watch doctors lie, clinic workers cover up, and hear horrifying stories of women dragged out of clinics to die in cars on the way to the hospital without beginning to question the party line. I began to wonder if we were really caring of these women, or if we were just working for another corporation whose only interest was the bottom line. But these are questions that one does not voice at Planned Parenthood."

This is far and away enough for one post. We'll deal with the next part of Chapter 5 tomorrow.

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