Ever since I first became aware of the abortion debate, back in 1970 when I was 14 and the Roe v. Wade lawsuit was filed in US District Court, I’ve had the feeling that a lot of pro-abortion advocates had a guilty conscience.
Justice Harry Blackmun Wrote The Eventual Decision
The name they called their movement — pro-choice — seemed a kind of misdirection, sort of like a red-handed kid saying to his mom, “But I didn’t really shoplift that record, I didn’t hide it or anything, I just carried it out of the store and nobody stopped me so, y’know, it’s their fault. It’s not really stealing. Honest.” Even as a tender teen, I couldn’t figure out why people fighting for abortion rights didn’t say they were pro-abortion.
Now I know the pro-abortion people didn’t all have guilty consciences. Some, maybe, yeah. But the vast majority of them didn’t feel that aborting an unwanted fetus was a mortal sin. Or even a venial sin. [For those of you who weren’t raised in Catholic schools, the Church makes distinctions between gross sins and easily forgivable ones.]
Still, all the arguments made by the “pro-choice” crowd were weighted down with excuse-copping and apologies. By the time Ronald Reagan was canonized into the Presidency, most “pro-choice” politicians were saying things like “I’m not in favor of abortion but I believe a woman should have the right to choose.”
Which sounds like a losing argument if I’ve ever heard one.
Okay, Then Where Do You Stand?
The abortion rights argument often went, If woman are denied abortion, the babies they don’t want may be neglected, beaten, emotionally abused, tormented, starved, thrown in Dumpsters, and so on, a litany of horrors guaranteed to turn women seeking abortions into harpies that would terrify Adolph Hitler.
And some people wonder why the concept of feminism is not universally embraced. Feminists, Ma & Pa Murrica surmised, want abortions, plus they’re prone to throwing their babies into Dumpsters.
At times it seemed the “pro-choice” argument really was, We want every woman to have the right to an abortion and we’ll work like hell to make sure none of them ever gets one.
Like most liberals and Democrats of the last 45 or so years, the “pro-choice” people were mealy-mouthed, obsessively equanimous, tepid, and apologetic. The truth is the American electorate — hell, the electorate in any country on this Earth — despises people like that. We want — and by we, I mean human beings — leaders who are bold, strong, and confident. One of the reasons why the Conservative movement thrived in this holy land even after the supposed death of the Right in 1964 was that people like Saint Ronald “brazened it out.” The Right Wingers who would eventually take over this country stuck to their principles even when it seemed they were a minority of a dozen. Reagan himself refused to soften his rhetoric in the face of all sorts of advisors and friends urging him to do so.
Reagan won the presidency in 1980 because he appeared to tower above all the other mere politicians. He was so adept at brazening it out that even when he and his people were caught beyond a shadow of a doubt selling arms to Iran to finance the Contras in Nicaragua, he not only denied wrongdoing, he claimed the evidence simply wasn’t there.
It would have been like that shoplifting kid saying, “I didn’t steal anything. There was no record. There wasn’t even a record shop.”
And getting away with it.
Today, thanks in large part to pols who emulate Reagan’s appearance of towering strength and “pro-choicers” who shrug and alibi too much, abortion rights are being eroded and chipped away from one end of the country to the other.
That’s why I’m eager to dig into Katha Pollitt‘s new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Pollitt has been clanging the bell for feminism — unapologetic feminism — for years. She writes for The Nation as well as pretty much every other magazine and newspaper that claims to have the ear of the Left.
Adam Gopnik reviewed her book in The New Yorker this week. He wrote:
“Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights” has two major originalities. First is its lack of bowing or scraping for its pro-woman position. Abortion, in Pollitt’s view, must be seen not as a moral compromise requested by poor, weak women—we’re sorry, and we promise we’ll make it rare, but please, forgive us, we’ll still need it in extremis— but as a positive doctrine of women’s control over their own bodies, and of their own lives and destinies. Abortion, she insists, is a right integral to women’s own autonomy, not a privilege to be used as infrequently as possible.
Now, there’s an argument I can get behind.
In fact, if someone were to ask me, I’d say a woman’s pro-abortion argument should go like this:
I want to fuck. I want it as much as any man. It is in my nature to want it. I do not necessarily want to be saddled with the lifelong responsibility of caring for a human being because of it. No one else’s personal morality nor particular religious viewpoint should interfere with my ability to fuck and abort if I so desire. I am in charge of my own body!
Okay, clean up the language a little bit, sure. But still, present the case like this and the “pro-choicers” just may have a winner. It certainly couldn’t do worse than the arguments they’ve been offering since Roe v. Wade.