We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives. We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary.
The problem, however, is that a large chunk of the American population, male and female, is not comfortable with the notion that women have sex, and that sometimes as a result of having sex, have abortions that they do not regret.
Even some of those who don’t want abortion outlawed do want women to feel bad—both for having sex “irresponsibly” and for ducking their responsibility by having an abortion.
When we gloss over these truths [about voluntary motherhood] we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat. What, you didn’t agonize? You forgot your pill? You just didn’t want to have a baby now? You should be ashamed of yourself.
Pollitt wants women who’ve had abortions—and the men who’ve supported them—to speak up, and yes, sister, I’m right there with you.
It is understandable that women who have ended pregnancies just wanted to move on. Why should they define themselves publicly by one private decision, perhaps made long ago? I’ll tell you why: because the pro-choice movement cannot flourish if the mass of women it serves — that one in three — look on as if the struggle has nothing to do with them. Without the voices and support of millions of ordinary women behind them, providers and advocates can be too easily dismissed as ideologues out of touch with the American people.
I’d love for such a speak-out movement to work to blunt bill after proposed bill after proposed bill designed to deter women from accessing the clinic those bills’ sponsors are trying to harass out of existence, I really would, but I am dubious.
After all, this is a country in which most adults use contraceptives and yet the notion of contraceptive coverage is “controversial”.
Okay, it’s not, really, not as a general matter, but as a policy issue, even programs which provably help lower the incidence of unwanted pregnancy are in jeopardy.
(There are any number of reasons for the success of what could perhaps be called anti-sex bills, including the everlasting desire to control women’s sex lives, but apart from any ideological reasons is the plain fact that there are no obvious consequences for passing such bills—not to the legislators, at least.
Unwanted pregnancies carry all sorts of social costs, of course, but these tend to be spread (however thinly) across the general population; the acute burdens are, of course, carried by those who legislators deem should be so burdened.
And any woman who complains? Well, that’s what she gets for having sex.)
In any case, I propose that, in addition to Pollitt’s speak-out movement, those of us who favor abortion rights start talking, loudly, about just what kinds of consequences antiabortion legislators have in store for women who seek illegal abortions.
So you want to outlaw abortion?
- Okay, so how will you distinguish miscarriage from abortion? Could you go to jail for miscarrying? For reckless endangerment? Will the state have to prove an abortion, or will the miscarrying woman have to prove the miscarriage?
- How far will you go in forcing women to undergo procedures to save a pregnancy? Will you forcibly detain her? Will you arrest or detain women who don’t have recommended c-sections?
- What about the friend, the boyfriend, the husband, the sister, the parents who help the woman kill her baby? Accessories to murder?
- The doctors or nurses or whoever the abortionists are: murderers, so jail time, for sure. And if they’re known for aborting a lot of babies, well then they’re mass murderers, right? So capital punishment?
- Finally, let us not forget—as we so often have—the woman herself: what kind of punishment for the woman kills her own baby? Jail? That’s the logical response to murder, don’t you think? Prison time?(And if she already has children, well, then, clearly she’s an unfit mother, so they should be taken away from her.)
This makes me sound like a maniac, I know: this could never happen! But it could, and it does.
So let’s ask all of those who want outlaw abortion exactly how they mean to enforce these laws, and what will the consequences be for women who run afoul of them.
Such an approach may not make any difference, but thus far it’s been too easy for antiabortion legislators to duck out of the consequences of their actions.
Let’s make it hard for them.
You want to outlaw abortion? Over a million women a year get abortions. How do you stop the abortions without stopping the women?