Thursday, February 02, 2006

More Abortion

I think Pollitt's response to Lord Saletan (scroll down half way to find it) is quite good:

After I sent off my entry yesterday afternoon I asked myself: What exactly are Will and I arguing about? We both agree, after all, that it's better not to have an unwanted pregnancy in the first place than to have an abortion, we both agree that America needs lots more birth control and lots more realistic sex education. We both want emergency contraception to be widely available over the counter. We both want men to take more responsibility—to use condoms, for example. If you and I were actually designing policy, I'm guessing we'd see the practical piece much the same way: Ramp up that funding! Build those clinics! Make health insurance companies pay for birth control like they pay for Viagra. We'd ask stern questions about how that male pill is coming along and about when we might see some new options for women. We'd look at the experience of countries with lower rates of unwanted pregnancy, teen births, and abortion (every other Western industrialized nation); we'd interview experts and study the literature, we'd set up a bunch of pilot programs to see what worked best with what sub-populations.

And then would come the ad campaign. Mine would have pictures of cheerful girls and women: "At my local Saletan clinic, the doctors are great and birth control is free! They really took time with me and answered all my questions. Best of all, I can call anytime and talk to a nurse in total privacy. Thanks to Saletan, I'll have a baby when I'm ready—but not till then." Yours would show a spiky-haired, pierced, and tattooed girl looking sullen and miserable: "I stayed out all night and forgot to take my Pill. Now I'm having an abortion and it's totally my fault. Go on, hate me, I deserve it! If only I'd listened to the doctors at Saletan." Or maybe you could have a picture of a stern-looking nun standing in front of an abortion clinic: "Birth Control: Because Purgatory's better than Hell."

That seems about right. Whether yours is a purely political goal (convincing wavering pro-choicers to support legal abortion) or an outcome (reducing abortions by encouraging greater use of contraception) I just don't understand how the Saletan version works.

It's basically a Bill Bennett version of the world - use public shaming, if gentle, to make those bad girls behave. Sorry, not going to sign up for that. I have no desire to make women feel any worse about abortions and the circumstances surrounding them than they already do.

It just comes back to the same issue - choice. Whatever its utility as a political slogan, which I admit is probably somewhat mixed, it is still the underlying issue. I want a society where women can make choices about what to do with their uteruses without subjecting themselves to a public scolding by annoying males deciding which are good abortions and which are bad ones.