Abortion, Public Policy & the Consequences of Myopic Focus

Woman with tape over her mouth
Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer (flicker)

The publicity surrounding the support of Planned Parenthood by the Susan G. Komen Foundation brings into stark reality the truth pro-abortion/anti-abortion controversy. In that form it doesn’t exist. No one is pro-abortion. It is always a last and often desperate option.

The revulsion, whether religiously inspired or not, toward the act is fully understandable. In fact I share much of it. I am, as many American’s, against abortion and pro-choice. This is not an inconsistent position.

The fact that I can see reasons for terminating a pregnancy does not lessen my opposition to the act itself. But then I didn’t have badly malformed fetuses. I didn’t have a test that told me I would have to raise a mentally retarded child. I didn’t carry a stillborn child in my womb. I could easily afford to feed as many children as I could bear. Even in disagreement, the men in my family treated me with love and respect.

It’s important that all women understand that abortion is NOT the issue. It is simply the boat that carries a load of other issues. The oars that launched that boat were two shared public reactions; one that abortion not be abused and second that it not be supported by those who didn’t want to support it. Neither of these motivations say eliminate the procedure.

The outboard motor that started this craft on its way is the ancient American tradition of trying to hammer everything into law. As a country we are control freaks and this infects both the right and the left. Thus movements, led first by people of good will, escalate into zealotry and finally violence. The outcome is always unforeseen. The Civil War after one hundred and fifty years of public and private violence ended in the Civil Rights Act. Looking back on it, it was an awful passage. Prohibition offers a better example. The banning of booze led to all the excesses we still deal with today from organized crime to a welter of stupid and outdated laws. Prohibition is the mirror image of Roe v. Wade. Without termination of a pregnancy being safe and legal, we will surely go back to back alleys, coat hangers and knitting needles with their fellow travelers, infertility and death.

Most important, the jet engine that is carrying this controversy along is a dispute over power. The real issue is about property and governance. The more autonomy a woman has over her reproduction the more civilized the society. It also means men have less authority and have to share in all aspects of governance. To many men and many institutions run by men, this seems like a loss in a zero sum game. The actions of the Roman Catholic Bishops since President Obama adjusted his stance on coverage for birth control is a case in point writ large. The legislation in many states concerning many so-called pro-life issues isn’t about that at all. It’s all about control–period.