Monday, May 28, 2007

that old topic, abortion, again

I just sent a letter to the New York Times. I've never done this before, and no doubt it will go unpublished, but I couldn't help myself. Last week the Times ran an article, Abortion Foes See Validation for New Tactic, about the pro-life movement's success in reframing the abortion debate in terms of protecting women. This is a sea change for the far right over the past decade. Historically, most of the pro-life argument has been about protecting the fetus, not the woman, as evidenced by the fact that often enough pro-life legislation has not had health exceptions for pregnant women, and has thus been summarily defeated in the courts.

Gonzalez vs. Carhart turned this on its head. Not only is there no health exception, but, perhaps even more frightening, the court adopted the far right's new argument that women need to be protected from the potentially traumatic experience of having an abortion. The Justice Foundation collected stories from a couple thousand women who claim to have been emotionally wounded by having abortions, to have been, in fact, the "victims" of abortion, and Justice Kennedy, at least, clearly took these stories to heart. But if you figure that every year over a million women in the United States get an abortion, of course there will be a few, even a few thousand, who regret this decision.

Anyway, they ran this article on May 22nd, and today they published five letters-to-the-editor in response to this article. All five letters refuted the pro-life argument that women need this protection from themselves, which I found slightly surprising, if encouraging, given that the Times, though clearly liberal in slant, does try generally to publish letters from various sides of any given debate. Either the Times was being more blatantly pro-choice than usual, or everyone with any eloquence who wrote about this article was disgusted and appalled by it. But the thing that got to me most was that all five letter writers were women. Do only women care about this issue enough to write about it? I've always found it odd that many of the big names on the pro-choice side have been women (the various presidents over the years of NOW, of Planned Parenthood, of Naral Pro-Choice America, etc.) while many of the pro-life bigwigs have been men (the leaders of Focus on the Family, the Moral Majority, the Justice Foundation, etc.) That's not to say by any means that all pro-lifers are men. Feminists for Life, for example, counts Jane Sullivan Roberts amongst its most dedicated supporters. But it's Jane Sullivan Roberts' husband, Chief Justice John Roberts, who has the actual clout to get things done, to ban ill-defined or, some would argue, non-existent medical procedures in a misguided effort to save women from themselves.

So I sent off a letter to the Times this morning, wondering about the lack of male respondents. I would hope that men, too, find this latest pro-life tactic disturbing, and I would hope that the men in my life, and the men in every woman's life, trust that we women are intelligent enough, strong enough, rational enough, to make our own decisions, and to live with the consequences of those decisions, whether we come to regret them or not.

Other articles of interest:
Is There a Post-Abortion Syndrome?, New York Times, 1/21/2007
Abortion Under Attack, Ms. Magazine, 2001
Abortion and Mental Health: Myths and Realities, Guttmacher Policy Review, Vol. 9, no. 3, 2006


Anonymous said...

I'll agree that the lack of male outrage on this point is sad and depressing. That being said, many men simply do not feel they have the "standing" or the right to say something about a topic that they think only applies to women.

Emma said...

If only the honorable Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas, not to mention all the men in Congress, were as sensitive to their "standing" in regards to abortion, your argument would carry more weight. But given that it is largely men who are restricting women's choices, it doesn't do anyone any good for more liberal-minded men to keep silent. Besides, I do think that men have a clear interest in abortion rights, given that after all it does generally take some sort of male involvement for a woman to have to make a decision concerning abortion in the first place.