Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ban Abortion to Protect Women?

I found out on Thursday that the New York Times Magazine's cover story this weekend would be about supposed post-abortion syndrome-- a new tactic used by some in the pro-life movement in the drive to get abortion rights repealed. I was prepared to be enraged by the article and depressed that the Times would give national exposure to this drivel.

Fortunately, the article makes clear that research, when conducted correctly, does not find a correlation between abortion and things like depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. And author Emily Bazelon did the movement no favors by choosing to focus on Rhonda Arias, who councils women who have had abortions and who blames her drug use, suicide attempt, and FOUR abortions on the first abortion she had-- rather than on, say, the sexual abuse and rape (and resulting pregnancy) she suffered as a child. Bazelon reports that Arias' seventeen-year-old, unmarried daughter, who was taught to abstain from sex until marriage but was not taught about birth control, is pregnant, and she quotes Arias as saying, without a hint of irony, "Abstinence works better than birth control, really. It's just that people don't do it." I'm sure members of the pro-life movement will point to this article as an example of how biased the liberal media is.

However, I am angry anyway, because this new tactic in the fight against abortion is nothing more than disrespect for women dressed up as concern for women. The idea that abortion ought to be outlawed because it is harmful to women assumes that women are not independent agents who can decide for themselves if something is harmful or helpful. It sees us as children. I am willing to believe that, for some women, having an abortion does result in negative feelings-- depression, regret, shame, whatever. (Of course, I'd wager that those feelings are often the result of the cultural stigma attached to abortion, rather than the abortion itself.) I also believe, though, that for the majority of women, having an abortion results not in negative feelings, but in relief at having dealt with a bad situation in a responsible way.

Excursis: pro-lifers may wonder how I could possibly say responsible here. I say responsible because there is nothing more irresponsible than bringing a child into the world who cannot be taken care of or who is unwanted. There are plenty of American children waiting to be adopted, so adoption as an alternative is often not better.

To try to ban abortion because SOME women who have had one (or four!) suffer from it is ridiculous. That assumes that women are unable to consider their own moral and ethical principles and unable to intelligently weigh their options and determine which is the best for them. If having an abortion conflicts with a woman's sense of morality, it's no wonder she's going to feel badly afterwards; that woman is free to have the child and keep it or give it up for adoption (assuming that she was considering abortion because she's not equipped to care for the child, this also assumes that her sense of morality has no problem relegating a child to a life of poverty or the foster-care system...but that's between her, the child, and her God, I guess).

Women deserve respect as intelligent adults who can make decisions about their lives and their bodies. Pretending to care about women while really giving them nothing but contempt and attempting to take away their rights is disgusting.

Epilogue: I feel sort of sleazy making a big deal about Arias' four abortions, and I deleted several snide remarks about that fact as I typed this entry. But! I just have to wonder how on earth it makes sense to shun birth control (which I'm assuming led to four unwanted pregnancies, since she didn't teach her daughters about birth control) only to, in effect, use abortion as birth control. There's something seriously flawed with a philosophy under which abortion and birth control are wrong, sex without the aim of creating life is ok, and, when push comes to shove, abortion is better than birth control! Because you'd think after the first, or at least the second, she'd realize that she's going to keep having sex, and she's going to keep getting pregnant, and maybe she'd realize that birth control is a lesser evil than an expensive medical procedure that causes discomfort, if not pain?!

I'm not even going to get into her seventeen-year-old's pregnancy....
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