Over the years of debate over Pro-choice or Pro-life positions on abortion rights, I have been struck by many issues that have ultimately taken me to positions I might not have gotten to without this very public struggle over women’s rights and women’s liberation. For example, I have learned through this struggle that some very smart people on the political Right have talents in wordsmithing that have controlled much of the debate for decades.
Pro-life is just one example. Obama Care is another. Just as the term Obama Care allows incipient and insidious racism to be linked at once to our President and to increased access to health care coverage, so too does the moral high ground get attached to a limitation of women’s rights over their own bodily integrity through the term Pro-life. Literally millions of words get written each year arguing that Pro-life proponents are not actually in favor of life except for fetal tissue, but that air space is largely wasted because of the highly-skilled word craft of a small group decades ago. This talent for controlling debate through the skilled selection of terms early in the process has been instructive to me as I consider my own understanding of the truth about issues.
Similarly, the anti-choice forces have been repeatedly successful in limiting public funding for abortions and other reproductive and sexual health services. This success is usually described in terms of religious conservatives winning the day for the rights of the unborn. While religious conservatives are clearly part of the lobbying effort and the public face of the issue, I find the emphasis on their involvement disingenuous at best, and frankly an abject lie. The control over human reproduction and sexual behavior is a key component of keeping the masses in check. That working class girl might get too uppity if she gets on with her life after an unplanned pregnancy. That Black gay teen might shake up society if he avoids HIV and unleashes his creativity outside the club circuit.
The moral argument against public funding of abortions again came to the surface when religiously affiliated hospital systems and private educational organizations sought exemptions under the Affordable Care Act, claiming that they were being put into a position of needing to support abortion services and birth control. Catholic universities have made similar arguments seeking exemptions from federal regulation for decades on other issues besides reproductive choice. Interestingly, we saw no offers put on the table to refuse federal funding in educational, research, or health care support by these institutions. This talent for obscuring the less palatable motivators for limiting access to abortion has been instructive to me as I consider my own story about my support for support of abortion on demand.
When I see the smoke and mirrors of policy proposals that would require pregnant women to get and see ultrasounds or be “counseled” by anti-choice advocates prior to obtaining a legal abortion, I want to scream. To position these actions as necessary, useful, or relevant is absurd. This talent to inflict more pain on women already in pain defines cruelty. It is instructive to me as I consider my own position on abortion in contrast to the anti-choice position of punishing women for their sexuality.
Something we almost never see or hear is first-hand accounts by politicians or their families about their own experiences with access to abortion. Though one or two courageous women have stepped forward, I do not believe that they are actually that few in number. It would be interesting to see what would happen if along with Hillary Clinton’s hard-drives and emails, all candidates were asked to turn over their health care histories since their teens or to share the health care histories of their siblings and their own children. Of course, their treatments for chlamydia might be obscured with terms like non-specific urethritis; their induced abortions, with terms like scraping or therapeutic evacuation. The relatively privileged positions of politicians shield them from scrutiny not afforded to poor or working class people. But even so-called political liberals are usually tepid in their support for abortion. NARAL and PPFA cannot call these congressional votes to task for their silence because they count on them and cannot afford them to risk re-election. Still, it is rare indeed to hear a single congressman actually speak in support of abortion. Instead they speak of abortion as a legal right that must be defended.
Chip Berlet and Frederick Clarkson have written in Culture Wars, Evangelicals, and Political Power Lessons from the 2008 Presidential Election,
“Some Democratic political wonks who study polls and electoral outcomes have been selling, wittingly or unwittingly, a dubious narrative about the role of White evangelicals for several years now. It is time to take a close look at their product. There is convincing evidence that over the past 20 years a small percentage of White Christian evangelicals are swing voters when the Democratic Party stakes out clear and strong stands concerning peace, a fair economy, political corruption, a clean environment, and other issues that most Christians see as ‘moral values.’ Many of these swing voters, however, remain rigid in their opposition to abortion and gay rights.”
We have a problem telling the truth about abortion in the US. While it remains legal, it also remains inaccessible and increasingly unavailable to women who are poor. In the Midwest and South, there were more than two dozen restrictions placed on abortion services in 2015. To my knowledge, not a single one of these restrictions received anything resembling support from women who have had an abortion or who believed they needed one. That we as a nation and as states should tolerate this ongoing pandering to anti-choice, anti-women, and Christian evangelicals is the real moral dilemma here.
As a man I cannot become pregnant. I do not know first hand the implications an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. I can and have placed restrictions on what can be done to my body even when I am unconscious or otherwise incompetent to make decisions. It is against that background that I support abortion on demand. Period.