Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pro-choice strategy 101: Ignore the prolife argument, attack the messengers

In an editorial for the Guardian on Roe vs. Wade at 40, Jill Filipovic has a number of unsupported assertions about abortion and the prolife movement. Many of them are beyond absurd and show why abortion advocates often avoid debate.
And the central opposition to abortion rights isn't about saving babies, promoting family or protecting women; it's about controlling female sexuality and trying to return to a time when women were forced or coerced into subservience. To anyone who has taken even a cursory look at reproductive rights activism, it's obvious that decreasing the abortion rate isn't nearly as much a concern for the pro-life movement as controlling women is.
This is just laughable but this is disappointingly becoming almost a cornerstone assertion among abortion advocates. They can't make good arguments (or are too lazy to) regarding why it should be legal to kill innocent human beings in the womb so instead they defame prolifers as misogynists who want to keep women barefoot and pregnant.

For some reason, abortion advocates never address why prolife organizations spend countless hours attempting to defend the lives of human embryos from deadly experiments (embryonic stem cell research) or work to prevent the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Those activities must somehow also be about controlling female sexuality but abortion advocates just haven't figured out how they are yet.
We know what leads to a low abortion rate: comprehensive sex education, affordable and available contraception, rights for women, and a progressive sexual culture.
Really? So if we look at a map of the United States, we'll find that the states with the lowest abortion rates have the most progressive sexual culture and progressive politics? You know, states like California and New York?

Oh wait.....

What?  How can this be? Doesn't this map show us nearly the exact opposite of what Jill claims? Aren't the lowest abortion rates mostly in states with more prolife laws and have populations with more conservative sexual mores?  Who knew South Dakota and Oklahoma were so progressive?  
Outlawing abortion doesn't lead to a lower abortion rate, and some of the countries with the highest abortion rates on the planet are places where it's illegal. So if outlawing abortion doesn't mean fewer abortions, what purpose does it serve? Punishing women and making their lives miserable, apparently – illegal abortion doesn't mean fewer abortions, it means more dangerous procedures and higher maternal mortality rates.
Really? So Ireland, Poland and Malta have the same abortion rate as New York City? Jill, like many abortion advocates, prefers to compare apples (inaccurate, guessestimated abortion rates in developing countries by organizations which advocate for abortion) to oranges (abortion rates in developed countries) but rarely do abortion advocates mention the abortion rates in developed countries where abortion is illegal. Also, rarely do abortion advocates examine and compare abortion policies and abortion rates in individual states. Why is that? Doesn't it seem to make more sense to compare abortion rates in the U.S. population over different states than act like the U.S. would resemble the Congo if Roe v. Wade were overturned?
Despite knowing the key to a lower abortion rate, the so-called "pro-life" movement refuses to use it.
Wrong Jill. We don't agree with you regarding what's key to lowering the abortion and you know that. Just because you think something (based on incredibly flimsy evidence) doesn't mean the whole prolife movement agrees with you.
Instead, they feign concern for babies while doing absolutely nothing to help children and everything in their power to make women's lives harder and more dangerous if those women dare to believe that they're entitled to a fulfilling sex life.
Notice how Jill never attempts to make a argument for why it should be legal to kill unborn children past the "illegal abortion is dangerous" argument. She doesn't even attempt to dehumanize the unborn. She just tries to take them out of equation. Maybe that's what abortion advocates are left with. Their attempts to dehumanize the unborn don't work in an era of ultrasound parties so they're left with demonizing prolifers.  Doesn't seem very persuasive in the long run. 
With the pro-life moniker, anti-abortion forces, it seems, are winning the rhetorical war, if not the cultural one. They've managed to stake out better rhetorical ground: by preying on American anxieties about female sexuality, they've managed to get more Americans backing their ideas in theory (though not at all in practice).
Americans have anxieties about female sexuality and the prolife movement preys on those? Huh? This so absurd. Yes, the prolife movement is constantly (through commercials and radio ads) preying on the public's overwhelmingly anxieties about female sexuality. Which is why Jill provides absolutely no evidence for this.

More unresearched facts:
The highest recorded teen pregnancy rate in the United States was in the middle of the 1950s. The difference, of course, is that those teenagers got married instead of pursuing the range of options available for young women today.
Or they were married in their teens before they got pregnant and were perfectly fine raising children like my grandparents were.
Pro-life groups believe that the best model for society is one in which men and women occupy separate and distinct roles, with the man as the family leader and breadwinner, and the woman as the domestic caretaker and helpmeet.
Somebody better tell Chairmaine Yoest, Carol Tobias, Serrin Foster, and all the other women who lead prolife groups they better resign from their positions and get back to domestic caretaking.

What's really sad is that Jill didn't always write like this. I don't know if it's been the experience of running an echo chamber pro-choice blog or just the difficulty of actually having to address prolife arguments which has skewed her writing or maybe it's just the market. Pragmatic, well-reasoned and well-researched editorials on abortion probably don't go over real well with Guardian readership.

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