I haven’t read the book, but do you really think that would stop me from commenting on it?
I have a PhD, y’know, which means I am more-than-well-qualified to talk about an argument on which I have not laid eyes. After all, who but PhDs would have come up with the whole I haven’t read it, but I’ve read of it gambit?
Anyway, Katha Pollitt has a new book out—Pro—in she argues that those of us in favor of abortion rights should stop apologizing about our support and “reclaim the lives and the rights of women and mothers.”
As you would expect from someone who has written on this issue ad nauseam, I can only respond Right on! Right the fuck on!
The other day I noted that stories are unlikely to work the same kind of magic in swaying people toward a pro-choice position that they did in gay marriage; perhaps the, or at least a, solution, then, is simply to drop the stories, assert the right, and not budge.
I like how Hanna Rosin handled this in her review of Pro:
I had an abortion. I was not in a libertine college-girl phase, although frankly it’s none of your business. [. . .]
I start the story this way because Katha Pollitt, author of Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, would want it this way. In fact any woman who’s reading this piece and has had an abortion, or any man who has supported one, should go in the comments section and do the same thing, until there are so many accounts that the statement loses its shock value. Because frankly, in 2014, it should be no big deal that in a movie a young woman has an abortion and it’s no big deal. We shouldn’t need a book explaining why abortion rights are important. We should be over that by now.
Yes: simply state, Yeah, I had an abortion, what of it?
I haven’t, by the way, had an abortion (although frankly it’s none of your business. . . ) and likely never will: I’ve never been pregnant, and, given my age, never will be. But had I gotten knocked up, I almost-certainly would have been clinic-bound.
In any case, being nice, being sorry, being afraid to make the political case of the necessity of abortion for women’s liberation has gotten us bupkes—no, worse, has gotten us fewer clinics, longer waiting times, and, unfuckingbelievably, a pushback against contraception.
Contraception! The “responsible” choice (as opposed to the irresponsible abortion) has now been hectored into the status of “controversial” among corporate owners and politicians alike.
Well, fuck that.
Ta-Nahisi Coates has been arguing of late that attempts to be “responsible Negroes” have black people little more than jail time, beat-downs, and death. He’s not arguing against responsibility per se, but against the double-bind that black people must be responsible in ways over-and-above the ways any [white] human beings must be responsible and that, too often, such Negro-respectability offers no protection whatsoever.
Trying to be “respectable” or “responsible” on sex and birth control and abortion hasn’t done much to secure women’s rights, so maybe now it’s past time to try something new: the assertion—without apology, without permission—of our full humanity.
That’s no guarantee of success, of course, but it will make damn clear what the stakes are.
h/t Scott Lemieux, Lawyers, Guns & Money (click link for more reviews by people who actually read the book!)