13, Slate published a piece by Hannah Rosin called “Abortion is Great,” in which Rosin discusses the views of pro-choice author Katha
Pollitt and explains why more pro-choicers should embrace abortion as a social
good. My blog post here is my initial reactions as I read Rosin’s piece.
out that 6 out of 10 American women who have abortions are already mothers. In
my experience, many pro-lifers don’t seem to realize this, as I’ve heard so
many of us talk as if pro-choice people inherently dislike kids and would be
incapable of parenting. Something to think about.
who’s reading this piece and has had an abortion, or any man who has supported
one, should go in the comments section and [tell their story], until there are
so many accounts that the statement [‘I had an abortion’] loses its shock value.”
neglect the many post-abortive women and men who became pro-life because of their abortion experiences.
all essentially been brainwashed by a small minority of pro-life activists.
Only 7 to 20 percent of Americans tell pollsters they want to totally ban
pro-lifers I know, including many pro-life activists, don’t believe abortion
should be totally banned. For example, nearly every pro-lifer I’ve ever
interacted with agrees abortion should be legal to save the life of the mother,
and a majority of self-described pro-lifers believe abortion should be legal in
cases of rape. It’s a misconception to suggest that pro-life activists are only
those who think all abortions in every circumstance should be illegal.
may disagree on the legality of abortion in the harsher cases: when a woman’s
physical health is endangered, when she was raped, when the fetus has a severe,
possibly life-threatening condition, etc. But if I had to describe the common
thread that pulls together most people who call themselves “pro-life,” I’d say
it’s the agreement that abortion is immoral and should be illegal at minimum when
it is done on healthy fetuses resulting from consensual sex and carried by
healthy mothers. And the great majority of abortions today are done in such
cases. Rosin alludes to as much herself:
“Three in 10
American women have abortions by the time they hit menopause. They are not
generally victims of rape or incest, or in any pitiable situation from which
they need to be rescued.”
“They are making a reasonable and even admirable decision that they
can’t raise a child at the moment. Is that so hard to say? As Pollitt puts it, ‘This
is not the right time for me’ should be reason enough. And saying that aloud
would help push back against the lingering notion that it’s unnatural for a
woman to choose herself over others.”
asking people to be more direct about abortion, yet she describes a woman’s
choice to abort as merely “choosing herself over others.” That description is not
direct at all. Abortion kills a human. That’s direct. Many people don’t
consider that human worth much moral consideration, and so some of them are pro-abortion,
as Rosin clearly is. Fine. But pretending that a death isn’t happening means
ignoring why the entire subject continues to divide Americans. Rosin wants to believe this is about being aghast that
a woman would choose herself over others, but it’s not about that at all.
this: if a woman feels it’s not the right time for her to have children, she
can choose not to have sex, or choose to only participate in non-procreative
sex, or choose to use contraception, or choose to give a child up for adoption.
She could also choose to abort. All of these choices may reflect her position
that she isn’t prepared to or doesn’t want to raise children, yet one of these choices
is far, far more controversial and contentious than the others.
really about us being upset that a woman would want to choose herself over
others, we’d be against any decision
that puts her education, career, or other aspects of her life above
procreation. Yet, for example, the vast majority of Americans, including the majority of pro-lifers, believe contraception is morally acceptable. Rosin says there is a “fog of regret” surrounding abortion, but we
simply don’t see that same “fog” surrounding
these other decisions. There’s a clear distinction between abortion and other choices not to raise children, and Rosin, and so many
pro-choice activists, skip this distinction entirely. Abortion is not simply about reproductive
freedom, healthcare decisions, or a woman choosing herself over others.
Abortion is about having a very young, less developed human killed. That’s the
in with her gender-based theory by saying we don’t apply the same standard to
men. “We would never expect a man to drop everything and accept a life of ‘dimmed
hope’ because of a single ejaculation.” I expect the many men who (rightfully) have to pay child support for single ejaculations would beg to differ.
on some of Pollitt’s explanations of alleged pro-life contradictions:
cites one poll for example showing that 38 percent of people say abortion is as
‘bad as killing a person already born.’ But in the same poll 84 percent say
it’s fine to save the life of a mother. If you really think about it, this
position is untenable. No one would say it was fine to kill a toddler if the
mother needed its heart.”
strange comparison. When is abortion about the mother needing the fetus’s
heart? The proper analogy would be if somehow a toddler’s very presence was
actively killing the mother (akin to an embryo in an ectopic pregnancy) and the
only way for the mother to save her own life was to remove the toddler, and the only way
to remove the toddler resulted in the toddler’s death.
scenario where that would be true – which goes to a point Rosin and I agree on:
the fetus and the mother have a complicated relationship. But if there was an
analogous situation with a born human, I think many people would defend the
right to kill as self-defense. This isn’t about killing someone else to use
their heart (when would a mother ever be able to use a toddler’s heart anyway?)
This is about killing someone else to prevent them from actively killing you. Most
people, and our own history of self-defense laws, see the two scenarios
on to discuss how the left and pro-choicers should advocate for abortion,
especially for poor women, as part of an effort to urge women to wait to have
children until they are in stable relationships. She believes promoting
abortion as an extension of birth control is part of “a new era of family
values.” She agrees with Pollitt, who believes “the moral high ground is in
reclaiming the right to have an abortion, regardless of the circumstances.”
But I’m not sure “reclaiming” is the correct verb here. Was there ever a time
when people who promote abortion regardless of circumstances had the moral
Rosin seems to think her side has descended to defensiveness by saying
abortion should be safe, legal, and rare and by focusing on abortion in the
extreme cases of maternal health and life or of incest and rape. But (to my
knowledge) this isn’t a descent – it’s where many abortion defenders have been from
the beginning. Perhaps they focus on the extreme cases and act defensive about abortion in general because polls suggest most Americans think abortion as birth control – the kind of remorseless abortion
culture Rosin promotes – should be
piece is not the first to push back against pro-choice defensiveness, but I suspect this
aggressive strategy will ultimately backfire. From what I’ve seen, the
average American finds abortion problematic but sees it as a “necessary evil,”
at least for the extreme cases we so often focus on. I’m dubious our society is
willing to instead embrace abortion as an unapologetic good.