Saturday, March 18, 2006

Let's get the issue into the open

Achromic is my main resident pro-choice commenter, and she brings up things that, because they come from one of my beloved regulars, I can't just brush off as, "That's purely the prochoicers' problem." And what I'm about to tackle, I'm tackling now because achromic brought it up. Achromic, thank you for holding my feet to the fire.

We do know that one assertion by the abortion advocates is partially true. Though fewer women will get pregnant in untenable situations if abortion isn't readily available, some will still do so after re-criminalization. This is no doubt doubly true given the current "You're a real weirdo if you're over 16 and not having sex with somebody" societal norm.

Of those women who continue to get pregnant in untenable situations, there will be some that persist in seeking out abortions even though it's been re-criminalized.

Granted, just reducing the overall number of unintended pregnancies is a good, as is reducing the overall number of abortions. But it's callous to just cop a "Devil take the hindmost" attitude toward the few who will pursue abortion even after it's criminalized again. No matter how cold-hearted they may be at the time they're seeking out abortions, their lives are of just as great a value as the lives of those who don't get pregnant, and of those who reject abortion.

But research done by Nancy Howell Lee and others prior to Roe showed us that the mere perception that abortion is a normal activity, one chosen by the woman's peers, is enough to tip the balance in many women. Just the perception that others like her choose abortion will tip the scales for some women who are casting about for what to do about their pregnancies. So that means that two options are closed to us:

1. Openly taking action that "makes abortion safe." If we're going to obvious trouble to make it safe, we're making it normal.
2. Simply allowing the abortion advocates to deal with vulnerable women. They'll work hard to re-normalize abortion if we give them a chance. And if they achieve that, what have we accomplished? We've still abandoned women and children to those who have for some reason made abortion their cause in life.

How do we then eliminate legal abortion without allowing the cancer of criminal abortion to establish itself in the vacuum?

We have to make sure that there's not enough of a vacuum.

Whatever we do is going to have to make it abundantly clear that abortion is not normative, and not an acceptable option.

We will also have to make it clear that the responsibility for the well-being of those seeking out illegal abortion lies squarely on the heads of the people promoting and facilitating it. And I think that this is a big chunk of where the pro-life movement failed last time. We allowed the people who were killing and maiming women with the practice of illegal abortions to blame us for the deaths. And we can't afford to let that happen again.

I'm not saying I have the answers as to how to achieve these ends. I'm just saying that we need to achieve them.

So, to clarify:

1. We must clearly establish that though the idea of bailing out of a pregnancy is normal, this idea passes. We need to get out the information about the normal psychology of pregnancy. We need to get out the information that just because you think you're not ready doesn't mean that you really aren't ready. We need to make it clear that following through on the idea of bailing is what's abnormal. Abortion needs to be marginalized, to be clearly the act of a woman who isn't thinking clearly, who is acting out on a temporary but normal panic that is familiar to most women, and certainly well known to physicians who deal daily with pregnant women.

2. We need to make it very clear that abortion is hurtful to mothers, babies, families, and everybody who cares about them. The Silent No More movement is doing a very good job on this, but everybody needs to pitch in.

3. We need to make it abundandly clear that every woman who dies of a botched abortion is dying at the hands of a prochoicer. Every abortion death is a needless death, because every person near the pregnant woman has the wherewithal to help her get past the normal ambivalence of early pregnancy. Anybody who facilitates an abortion is acting out of either ignorance or some motive of their own -- be it financial, political, or social. These people need to have 100% of the blame fall on their heads starting right now.

So! Thoughts on where to go from here? Reducing the number of abortions to the bare minimum that normal human evil allows will go far to limit the carnage. And adding the burden of shame and humiliation to the legal sanctions against those who hurt women with abortion will add to their motivations to keep the women they abort as sound and whole as something as hideous as abortion will allow. But how do we achieve this?

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