For the New Year, I decided to repost something I wrote and published for the first time on April 18, 1997. It’s depressing, in a way, that it’s even more fitting now than it was when I wrote it. Women’s rights will be under assault like never before. We all need to be vigilant.
When I was a kid, my parents were good friends with a family (a father and two daughters– the father had become widowed several years earlier) who were all on the Baltimore City Police Department at the time. Mr Andy used to love to regale us with stories of the seamier side of life. I know our image of the 50’s and 60’s is based on Leave it to Beaver reruns, but his stories would make a person of the 90’s feel a bit queasy.
A few stories in particular hit me pretty hard, and I remember them very well. It seems that it was almost a daily occurrence for the police department to receive a call from someone who found a fetus in a dumpster outside a building somewhere in the city. Mr. Andy and other officers would have to go out, do a search and write a report, although they just about never “caught” anyone. Mr. Andy was also fairly regularly called out to investigate cases in which women, who had either died, or were severely hurt, by trying to give themselves an abortion, or after having one performed by someone who had no business performing a medical procedure. Among the items used to perform these abortions were coat hangers, soda bottles and vacuum cleaners.
Thankfully, with Roe v Wade, we seemed to have transcended such barbarism. But there are some who would take us back to those days, and once again give the government the choice as to whether a woman gets to terminate her pregnancy, and take it away from the woman
Dominion over her own body is the essence of a woman’s liberty, and the essence of a free society, and that is basically why the anti-choice movement is so dangerous at its core.
No one likes abortion. No one thinks abortion is a desirable outcome. Young girls don’t grow up thinking, “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to have an abortion.” Most women never have them. Most women would never have one. Pro-choice is not the same as “pro-abortion.” Most pro-choicers would agree that it would be a good thing if no one had an abortion. If we could eliminate most or all of the reasons why women have abortions, we could practically eliminate abortion, without having to ban it. .
But many, who rather facetiously call themselves “pro-life”, would rather do the easy thing, and make another law, because they somehow feel that, when you make a law, a problem goes away. You know; like all of those magical drug laws that have served to reduce drug use so much? Like all of those signs along the freeway that keep people driving at such a safe speed? Those have worked so well, say anti-choicers, let’s do the same with abortion.
The anti-choice movement is an empty vessel, full of rhetoric and full of all kinds of self-righteous posturing, but with little in the way of solutions offered. Punishment seems to be the only motivating factor here, as if somehow, the mere specter of punishment would act as a deterrent.
This is ludicrous. On an annual basis, it is estimated that there were just as many abortions in the 1950s as there are in the ’90s. Considering the fact that there are nearly 50 million more women, this is a startling figure. But there are reasons why this is the case. For one thing, welfare is much more of a factor now than it was in the 50s. Food Stamps, WIC and AFDC give a woman in a seemingly hopeless situation at least a little hope that she can raise her child after it is born. Also, many of the Victorian taboos that were still in evidence in the ’50s have been exploded. Women do not have to quit school, and move to a different city to have a baby these days. Young girls are less likely to be labelled as “sluts” or “whores” by the community at large. Parents and friends of these girls and women, as well as the community at large, have become more tolerant of the situation that used to be the main reason for the sense of desperation that led women to terminate a pregnancy.
All of these factors have served to reduce the number of abortions significantly, in the absence of a law against it.
Let’s look at what the anti-choicers want in a (small-l) libertarian framework, shall we?
They want to overturn a Supreme Court decision, in favor of a view that is “spiritual” in nature. The Roe decision is based on sound Constitutional principles; that a woman has a right to have whatever medical procedures she sees fit, without the government interfering. At the time that more than 95% of all women who have abortions have them, the fetus does not have the ability to live outside the womb, under any circumstances. The essence of the anti-choice argument is that a fetus is a “child”. Well, suppose there were a seven-year-old child who needed a kidney, and the government forced you to be hooked up to him for nine months, to keep him alive. Something tells me, most anti-choicers would be outraged at such a breach of their liberty. This is essentially the same thing. While an argument could be made that a “viable” fetus may be a child, there is no way to tell whether it is viable until just before it is born. There can be little in the way of a “definition” of viable, and even if you could define it, you still can’t force a woman to carry it to term.
Pro-choice is not about pro-abortion. It’s about freedom, and the ability to have autonomy over your own body, with no government interference whatsoever. Anti-choice people want to control women, and force them into a morality they themselves feel is the norm. And that’s never a good basis for law.