|Actress Martha Plimpton models her “Abortion” dress|
It seems pro-choice activists are divided into two camps:
- Abortion is unfortunate but necessary. It should be safe, legal, and rare.
- Abortion is liberating and praiseworthy. It should be available on demand, without apology.
For this post, I’m referring to group 1 as “pro-choice” and group 2 as “pro-abortion.” (Note that plenty of people in group 2 also refer to themselves as pro-abortion.)
The pro-abortion group gets exasperated when pro-choicers talk about abortion as if it were in any way problematic. Pro-abortion people dislike the phrase “safe, legal, and rare” because “rare” implies abortion is undesirable in some way. In her article “Dear Politicians, put ‘Safe, Legal, and Rare’ in the Dustbin,” Renee Bracey Sherman argues:
Demanding abortion be “rare” is stigmatizing at its core; it posits that having an abortion is a bad decision and one that a pregnant person shouldn’t have to make, and if they do, it must be in the direst of circumstances. This messaging tells those of us who’ve had abortions that we did something wrong to need an abortion, and we shouldn’t do it again. It unfairly stigmatizes people who will have more than one abortion, which is nearly half of abortion patients.
On the blog for the National Women’s Law Center, Yumhee Park claims:
The media often paints abortion as a divisive political issue, but here’s the truth: abortion actually is an act of love, an act of compassion, an act of healing, and an act of selflessness.
It makes sense that these authors omit any acknowledgement of the humans killed in abortion. If embryos and fetuses are amoral clumps of cells, they have no interests and no place in ethical discussions, just as we wouldn’t consider the perspective of tumors when we discuss cancer treatment. Given the premise, I get the logic. I just wonder how many people really believe the premise.
In any case, for pro-abortion people it isn’t enough that elective abortion stay legal. It should also be, at minimum, stigma-free, but preferably honored and celebrated (and paid for by the government). These aren’t new demands, but they do seem to be made with increasing vigor and volume.
I’m curious to see how this shift plays out. If the anti-abortion view is that abortion is immoral and should be illegal throughout pregnancy, and the pro-abortion view is that abortion is morally good and should be legal throughout pregnancy, most Americans agree with neither. Polls find that, when it comes to timing, Americans are generally accepting of first trimester abortions and not of later ones, and when it comes to reasoning, people are much more likely to support abortions due to medical problems than for any reason. And these results include significant numbers of women, Democrats, and (to a lesser extent) even people who refer to themselves as “pro-choice.”
From time to time I still see pro-choicers insist “no one is pro-abortion,” but the claim seems to be less popular than it used to be. As the abortion rights side pivots from “safe, legal, and rare” to “on demand without apology,” what effect will this shift have on average Americans? Maybe they’ll see this mentality as a reductive extremism they can’t abide and feel pushed more toward the pro-life side. That’s my hope. But it’s possible they’ll be radicalized by a new “pro-abortion” normal. That’s my fear.
[Related post – How #ShoutYourAbortion Changed My Mind]