Monday, July 30, 2007

Think About the Women? Are You Mad?

Why would we think about the women?

There's a video of anti-abortion demonstrators currently in the 'net spotlight. It considered of several women at a protest being asked, if abortion were made illegal, what they think the penalty should should for a woman who obtains an abortion.

I have mixed responses after watching it. First, I disagree with the comment made at Dark Christianity that for the women in the video the debate surrounding abortion "boils down to: sluts get abortions." The protesters interviewed do not display any real malice to the women who are having abortions. They express that they believe it is a sinful act and murder, but that's not actually malice. (Pre-emptively: I'm sure many a video wherein anti-abortion protesters display actual malice could be found on YouTube. This one, however, does not.) These women, and I would venture to say the average person of the anti-abortion persuasion, do not see themselves as doing damage to women. They see themselves as trying to help babies. The women hardly register in their minds at all. They see a potential baby -- not the pregnant woman. There are problems with that -- I'll get there, give me a minute -- but it's far different from painting all anti-abortion advocates as malicious individuals out to make the lives of women everywhere miserable. Besides, seeing them as malicious gets us nowhere as far as figuring out how to respond is concerned.

Anna Quindlen has an excellent editorial on the matter. She points out that sustaining the calls to outlaw abortion require "ignoring or infantilizing women, turning them into "victims" of their own free will." While the women interviewed don't display malice towards other women, they do display disregard for or an unawareness of women as full human beings. The exclusive focus on the potential child and the repeated mantra of: we're here for the babies reveals that their viewpoint simply ignores the potential effects on the women involved. Of course, they don't see that anyone could suffer from outlawing abortion -- in that world view there just aren't any female-bodied persons to suffer. (Ironic, isn't it, how many women espouse that view.)

This video does display a vast amount of ignorance on the part anti-abortion advocates interviewed. One young woman apparently thinks that if abortion were made illegal very few women would seek to obtain illegal abortions. This is a belief based in fantasy. Abortions will continue underground as it did prior to being legalized. More women will die from botched abortions. More lives and potential lives both will be lost. Such a belief can only be sustained by serious gaps in one's knowledge of history. So I suggest that the debate be taught. Let's talk about the number of women who died, or who were rendered sterile, by a botched back alley abortion. Sure, legal abortions aren't perfectly safe -- it's still either a medical or surgical procedure with risks -- but legal abortions are eons ahead of back alley methods and the suggests of old wives tales. Stop only framing the debate in terms of choice. Should abortion be legal, women will still choose to have abortions, and more people will suffer. Frame it in terms of the human sufferings. Give voice to the stories of women who have suffered because abortion was illegal. Insist that the living, breathing, independent woman (and not the potential human life) be the subject of the debate.

And perhaps, the non-malicious anti-abortion advocates will be forced to stop ignoring the women and see the suffering they would cause. Maybe, I can always be optimistic every now and then . . . right? Maybe?


Dw3t-Hthr said...

I know someone who performed a coathanger abortion on himself (he's a transman, hence the confusion of pronouns) after Roe v. Wade because he knew that that was how back-alley kinds did it, and he didn't have the knowledge or resources to get to a legal one.

The story is ... shudderingly horrifying. I just ...

Zan said...

This whole notion just makes me crazy. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes....they can't logically follow their position. If abortion is murder, then women who have them are murderers and should be punished accordingly. Which means, in my state, either life in jail or death. Period. So, tell the scared 14 year old that she's got to spend the rest of her life in jail, please. Or better yet, tell her she's got to die now. Or maybe that mother of six who was carrying a fetus that was destined to die shortly after birth? Hey, what if it's your sister? Or your daughter? Or your wife? Go ahead. Tell them. Bastards.

WordK said...

I think I have this desperate need to occasionally take a break from cynicism and believe that people aren't actually evil -- just rather dumb, or badly informed, or something. This is accompanied by some hope that if they can only be made to see the error in their logic -- if they can see that it's more complicated than a "baby" or that cutting off access to legal abortions won't erase the need for abortion -- they might actually revise their thinking. Of course, at the end of the day, the end result is just as bad, no matter what the intention was. (I'm still innocent, perhaps.)