Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Since the election, I've been discussing abortion w friends at work who are very anti-abortion, and my v creative friend K and I were talking about it tonight. I seriously disagree with some of this Catholic's points. (Back off my Constitution, you woman-hating creep.) But he does make some worthwhile points.

Years and years of trying to criminalize abortions and of turning the catholic church into the church of "please elect a republican" (who among us can forget the catholic church doing everything possible to steal the election away from John Catholic Kerry and to give it to George the Torturing Warmonger Bush? Nicely done, bishops. You must be so proud.) have failed to stop women from getting abortions. So if your REAL goal were to prevent abortions (and I don't think that is the real goal of many who want to criminalize abortion, but, again, another story for another day), now would be a great time to stop and try to re-think your methods.

Here are the facts:

Criminalizing abortion doesn't stop abortion. We know that this is true because, back in the bad old days when abortion was criminalized, women still had abortions. They had them in back alleys from hacks who butchered them and left them to bleed to death, but they still had them. Abortion has been around for centuries and centuries. Before abortion was available, people exposed unwanted children. There's a long-standing human need to control family size and it's not going away any time soon, laws or no laws. And, even those who advocate criminalizing abortion can't explain exactly how they'd punish women who seek abortions. If it's murder, would you execute the woman? Leave her other children orphans? Only penalize the doctor? Even if she saved the woman's life? WTF? (One suspects these "pro-life" sorts would gladly execute the woman, but don't think that notion is too marketable, "yet." First they'll criminalize abortion and then they'll introduce stoning and burning at the stake. Cuz they're "pro-life.")

Countries in South America with stringent laws criminalizing abortion have high rates of abortion and countries in Scandinavia with liberal abortion laws have low rates of abortion. Abortions were down under Bill Clinton, who was pro-choice, are up under Bush, who says that he opposes abortion. The conclusion is obvious and inescapable: Criminalizing abortion -- the primary goal of the catholic church and of the past several decades of the "pro-life" movement -- doesn't and wouldn't prevent abortion.

You might want to just sit with that thought for a few minutes.

There are things that have been empirically shown to reduce abortions. Sadly, for the catholics and other wingnuts, those things also empower women and reduce unplanned pregnancies (which lead to abortion), and they can't get behind either of those outcomes.

Teaching girls to read, write, do math, do science, understand history, and run small businesses -- dollars spent on educating girls -- empowers women, and reduces unplanned pregnancies and, thus, abortion. Check out any developing nation or American inner city and you'll see that this is true.

Real sex education, not bullshit "abstinence education," empowers women and reduces unplanned pregnancies and, thus, abortion.

Opportunities for women to advance in the work world empower women and reduce unplanned pregnancies and, thus, abortion.

Enforcement of child support laws, provision of affordable, effective and safe birth control, provision of good, affordable day care, provision of medical care for pregnant women and infants, jobs with equal pay: all of these have been shown to decrease abortion.

And, yet, for over a generation, the catholic church and the "pro-life" movement have focused relentlessly on criminalizing abortion. When someone consistently works towards an ends shown not to be associated with his asserted goal and consistently refuses to support those things shown to be associated with his asserted goal, it causes me to question that person's true goal. But that's another story for another day.

If I were concerned with preventing abortions, I think that the last 8 years and this election would be a wake-up call for me.

Even in wingnut South Dakota, anti-abortion ballot measures fail. Your vaunted "state's rights" arguments -- last used by those who wanted to be able to discriminate against African Americans in their own states when they realized they were losing the national debate on that issue (nice company, bishops; you must be so proud!) -- won't save you. Obama's going to pick the next 2 to 4 SCOTUS Justices and they're not going to criminalize abortion. Several generations have grown up accepting that women have a right to terminate pregnancies when they choose. Even when Republicans control the WH, the Congress, SCOTUS, and the media, (and it's going to be years and years and millions of abortions before they ever do again; go look at who's up for re-election in 2010 and 2012) they don't criminalize abortion. They just save the issue to use to make a bunch of fools donate and vote for them every two years. That's all. They use the fundies like the gullible fools they are.

It turns out that you can't have both. You can either decrease abortions -- your stated goal -- and increase women's power and control over their own sexuality, or you can continue to try to control women's sexualiy while fetus after fetus bites the dust.

As the wonderful psychiatrist in my favorite episode of the Sopranos told Carmella, at least you can never say that no one told you.


Aelwyn said...

Excellent post, and I totally agree! I'm "hard core" pro-choice (meaning I believe a woman should have the choice at any time to terminate the pregnancy).

My father (a lapsed Catholic, who used to be VERY conservative in his views) said that if governments want to call a fetus a baby, they should start sending out mother's allowance, baby bonus, etc. while that "baby" is still in the womb.

But the governments WON'T do that, because that means higher taxes, and less pay raises for the politicians.

Makarios said...

My dear Sister,

It's not about eliminating abortion.

It never has been about eliminating abortion.

If it were about eliminating abortion, then the Roman Catholic church would be passing out condoms at Sunday Mass and teaching their Sunday-school kids how to use them.

But it's not about eliminating abortion--it's about who controls women's reproductive choices. And, at the moment, the RC church takes the position that women's reproductive choices should be determined by a celibate German guy who lives in the Vatican and goes around in a white dress. said...

I've always thought, "when the Pope is facing an unwanted pregnancy, then he can tell me what to do with my body."

What I really can't stand is when the pro-life people call pro-choice people pro-abortion. NO ONE is pro-abortion!

sott'Eos said...

Some good news: even if abortion is outlawed, an abortion will not be difficult to obtain, and will not be the dangerous back-alley surgical abortions that were common before Roe v Wade. Those same enterprising gentlemen on the street corner, and in their compatriots in every city and school, who sell meth, crack, extacy, etc. will sell RU-486, if there is a market for it. I strongly suspect that 'back-alley' pharmacological abortions will be a whole lot safer than back-alley surgical abortions.

On a related note: until someone can show me that they have rid their community of illegal street drugs, they cannot claim that they will be able be able to prevent any abortions by outlawing them. We can't keep street drugs out of our prisons, with lock-downs, strip-searches, and complete loss of travel and privacy; who the hell thinks that they can keep RU-486 off the streets.

In fact, if abortion is outlawed, access to abortion might get easier in much of the country. Today, the drug dealers don't bother with RU-486 because there isn't that much demand (because abortion is legal). But if politicians create a demand for an illegal supply of this drug, then women in every county, nay every town, in the nation will have access! This will mean *increased* access for women who do not have local doctors who are willing to perform abortions today (note, this is not ideal; there are risks associated with this drug (as with most drugs), and it would be better for everyone if a doctor could be involved in this process).

shrimplate said...

Good post and good comments.

crowsfoxes said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- when the Pope and the boys come up with their own vaginas, ovaries and uteruses, then they can have something to say regarding abortion. Until then, shut the hell up.

Abortion will never go away, simply by making it illegal. It has existed since the beginning of humankind. Give women the ability to prevent the pregnancy in the first place and you will curtail abortions drastically.

nanoboy said...

Your post includes some excellent preventative measures. I'd like to add a couple of others to the list. Adoption reform is paramount. What Arkansas did to gay people seeking to adopt was awful. The adoption system needs to work more efficiently and allow more qualified people to adopt children from women and girls who don't want their children or can't support them. I'm not an expert on the topic, but I sense something is deeply wrong with our adoption system.

Also, providing better health care for everyone would likely decrease the number of abortions. Knowing that she'll receive post-natal care and other support up to and after the birth of a child, a woman can feel more comfortable in choosing not to end her pregnancy.

Prevention is clearly best, but when life happens, as it is want to do, having more alternatives would probably be of great service to the unfortunate women (and their lovers, male and female.) After all, many feel it's sinful to abort, so if they can choose something else, then their consciences will be cleaner.

Lucy Fur Leaps said...

Yes! Wise words. Education,empowerment and self-worth are key.

Celestite said...

Excellent post. It's all about control.

pluky said...

Perhaps off thread, one of my favorite Sopranos episodes ends with Dr. Melfi sitting in a session with Tony shortly after she learned that her rapist was going to walk on a technicality. Lorraine Branco should have got an Emmy for that performance.

Anne Johnson said...

Excellent post, these thoughts need to be spread like seeds in the wind.

Chas S. Clifton said...

"wingnut South Dakota"? Have you ever been there?

It was South Dakota that gave us George McGovern. Perhaps you are old enough to remember him.