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70 Responses

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin March 10, 2014 at 11:44 am |

    This is my concern. Anti-choice people often believe that abortion is being used as birth control. It is factual that women who have had more than one procedure often have problems with conceiving again. And I’ve ever heard and read from women who feel that earlier abortions are the result of impulsive decisions, decisions they now regret.

    They may not regret undergoing the procedure, but they may regret the challenge of later efforts towards conception. Or they may feel guilt and shame from cultural attitudes more than their own convictions. But there’s some grey area here we’re not talking about, which I think is deserved.

    I’m careful not to pin blame on any woman, though some would and do. Does this view insist upon making good, responsible decisions prior to the procedure concede some fault towards any woman who has an abortion?

    I’m a strong believer in abortion rights, but can we have a discussion about abortion that isn’t tainted with ideological bomb throwing?

    1. EG
      EG March 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm |

      It is factual that women who have had more than one procedure often have problems with conceiving again.

      Citation? I’ve never heard of this outside of pro-forced-birth propaganda.

      And I’ve eve[n] heard and read from women who feel that earlier abortions are the result of impulsive decisions, decisions they now regret.

      No doubt. The question is, does this happen at a rate any higher than the rate at which people usually indulge in nostalgic regret for earlier decisions?

      I think too much of an emphasis on making “good,” “responsible” choices is essentially anti-human. People sometimes screw up. That’s human. People make the best decisions they can in an imperfect world, and that’s human too. And people’s priorities differ from person to person and time to time. There’s no way to know what the “good, responsible” decision is for any given person in a particular situation unless you know that person and their situation very well. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation.

      I’ve made decisions in the past to prioritize sexual pleasure and convenience over “perfect” contraception decisions, and I’ve done so because I know I have access to safe abortion and no qualms about getting one if need be. If I’d needed one, that wouldn’t have been a failure of decision-making. It would’ve been a situation that I had factored into my decision-making.

      And abortion is birth control. That’s exactly what it is. What forced-birthers mean is that somewhere, some woman might be using it as her first-line, go-to method of birth control. This idea seems to me absurd on the face of it–nobody opts for regular minor surgery as a first choice unless they’re under some major pressures and constraints. Now, it’s a big world, and I’m sure somewhere, there’s a woman who does this, but…so what? That’s her call to make. How is it any more my business than if she decides to use a diaphragm?

      can we have a discussion about abortion that isn’t tainted with ideological bomb throwing?

      What do you mean here, exactly?

      1. ldouglas
        ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 3:54 pm |

        I mean, I don’t think we have to trivialize abortion in order to support its availability. Abortion has risks. It has downsides. So does every invasive surgical procedure, and abortion is more invasive than many.

        The correct approach to talking about abortion is to present the medical facts as accurately as possible. And if (and I haven’t seen studies either way) people have a high rate of regret over having abortions, that’s information that is worth presenting along with all the other information surrounding that decision.

        And then, once people have all the information available to them as clearly and accurately as possible, then they get to decide for themselves.

        1. shfree
          shfree March 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm |

          Abortion is actually the one of the most straightforward, safest surgical procedures, that’s why at the clinic I worked at, we just used a local anesthetic for it. Childbirth is much more dangerous.

        2. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm |

          Abortion is actually the one of the most straightforward, safest surgical procedures, that’s why at the clinic I worked at, we just used a local anesthetic for it. Childbirth is much more dangerous.

          Something like twenty times more dangerous, right? Though I recall that the later in the pregnancy, the more dangerous abortion becomes, and that very late-term abortions (after 20 weeks?) are more dangerous than childbirth.

        3. EG
          EG March 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm |

          And if (and I haven’t seen studies either way) people have a high rate of regret over having abortions, that’s information that is worth presenting along with all the other information surrounding that decision.

          Just as long as we do the same for adoption.

        4. Caperton
          Caperton March 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm | *

          One fairly recent study showed depression and anxiety in women who had abortions stayed the same or decreased over a two-year period following their abortion. Women who weren’t able to get the abortions they wanted suffered increased anxiety immediately after that returned to baseline six months out, but they did suffer significant negative health and economic outcomes.

          What Happens to Women Who Are Denied Abortions?

        5. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 6:51 pm |

          Just as long as we do the same for adoption.

          Not sure if you meant this seriously or if it’s a rhetorical point, but I am so entirely, utterly in favor of doing the same for adoption.

        6. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm |

          To expand: in nearly all cases, I’m in favor of providing as much information as possible on all alternatives and trusting people to make up their own minds.The fact that pro-lifers* lie about things like medical risk or regret doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t present potential downsides to the degree that they actually exist- and I hear the people upthread who are saying that, in general, said downsides are minor to non-existant.

          What I don’t like is the idea- which I haven’t seen specifically here, but I have seen elsewhere- that if any objective scientific data suggesting abortion does have downsides exists, we need to attack it or hide it, or the pro-lifers win. To me, that’s as morally repugnant as pro-life ideology itself; it calls for the same denial of agency.

          *incidentally, just to forestall a potential objection, I use pro-choice and pro-life labels for a reason. The short version is that while saying ‘anti-choice’ lines up with my political beliefs, it’s only meaningful in conversations with other people who are already pro-choice, i.e. where I’ve already won.

        7. Donna L
          Donna L March 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm |

          I am so entirely, utterly in favor of doing the same for adoption.

          I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read that studies show that the rate of “regret” for women who choose not to abort but carry to term, and then give their baby up for adoption, is considerably higher than the rate of abortion “regret.” (Of course, I’m not exactly sure how “regret” is defined in these studies — lifelong regret? An occasional pang?)

          And I agree with Ally that raising the topic at all reminds me a great deal of the way that people who are anti-trans and believe that trans-related surgeries constitute “self-mutilation” are always eager to publicize any example they find of someone who regretted surgery, and are always ready to exaggerate the frequency of such regret, to push their anti-trans agenda. I’m not suggesting that the truth should be hidden; to the contrary. It’s that their version of truth bears little or no resemblance to reality. Just as is the case for forced birthers, from everything I know.

        8. EG
          EG March 10, 2014 at 7:22 pm |

          I am quite serious. I find the dynamic whereby abortion is presented as a turning point of infinite anxiety and regret in pop culture, but adoption is presented as an uncomplicatedly joyful situation not only deeply inaccurate but also enraging.

        9. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 7:26 pm |

          but adoption is presented as an uncomplicatedly joyful situation not only deeply inaccurate but also enraging.

          Yes.

        10. Andie
          Andie March 10, 2014 at 9:20 pm |

          Re: regret. Whether we are speaking of abortion, adoption or the example of GRS down thread, there are varying degrees of regret as well. Regret can mean “I wish I hadn’t done that” but can also mean “I wish things had turned out more as I planned but I still did what was right for me”

        11. piny
          piny March 10, 2014 at 9:34 pm |

          Well, and on the subject of GRS – there is an additional parallel: “we must allow trans people in crisis to take emergency measures now, but in the glorious post-patriarchy future no one will need to transition.” This rhetoric defines transsexuality as a tragic consequence, and trans people as passive victims, and trans identity as abject. And it leaves intact the patriarchal sense of transition-related surgery as mutilation. Trans people are correct in pointing out that this framing is fundamentally transphobic, and that it doesn’t make it easier for trans people to access care.

        12. shfree
          shfree March 10, 2014 at 9:42 pm |

          Late term abortions are still safer than childbirth, they are just more dangerous than earlier term abortions. A fetus is still smaller than a full term baby, and abortion is a discrete medical procedure, whereas childbirth by nature is not. The fact that not everything is easily predicable and isn’t always happening in a tightly controlled environment, like a legal abortion, just inherently makes it riskier. (This is not to say that I believe that childbirth must be medicalized in order to assure a safe outcome. I firmly disagree with that as it is a natural process and abortion is not, it is a medical procedure.)

          Later term abortions only became riskier when non- medical professionals, i.e. legislators and Supreme Court justices felt that they should ban the safest of the late term abortions, the intact dilation and extraction. If the fetus is intact, the doctor is much less likely to miss tissue than if they would have to dismember the fetus inside the uterus to extract it.

        13. rox
          rox March 17, 2014 at 10:02 am |

          “Just as long as we do the same for adoption.”

          Thanks for pointing this out. I also find it so enraging I can’t even think coherant thoughts when it comes up and it’s a shame because my friends who have placed ALSO have to avoid the details of this topic to stay sane either hiding in a sort of delerious bubble of “it was a beautiful experience!” which doesn’t hold up to reality when you ask about the amount of sobbing and grief the woman who just said it was “beautiful” actually went through (Many women who place and say it’s beuatifl also talk about how they sobbed through the night regularly for a year after or more- this is not exactly what I would call a “beauitful” experience for a woman to go through)

          AND THIS IS IMPORTANT- the last study I was in on birthmother trauma was REFUSED PUBLICATION because it portrayed a huge amount of grief in the birthmothers and because according to those consideringpublication “it did notportray adoptve mother experience”

          WHAT THE FUCK. As if birthmother trauma is about the adoptive mother at all? It’s so fucking wack that as you can tell maybe, I can barely type straight, hence I have tried not to involve myself in online activism because it’s to damaging forme to think about and there seems to be so few people who even care. Thanks to all who listen. Abortion and adoption do NOT have the same side effects for women, and women DO deserve the facts. And the ones on adoption are manipulated, geared towards showingwomen’s “positive resolution” of losing their children at birth, and just plain fucked up and reflect the amount of dehumanizing brainwashing required to convince women that love and want their children that they aren’t good enough for their children and that they don’t deserve the resources they need to help them be good moms.

        14. Kelly
          Kelly March 17, 2014 at 6:32 pm |

          Just for the record, that’s not true. First trimester abortion is about 100 times safer than giving birth, and the risks increase slightly in the second trimester. If you follow your post-operative instructions (don’t insert anything vaginally for two weeks afterward, etc) and take the antibiotic they prescribe you, you’ll almost always experience no complications. Cramping and bleeding should be expected, but it’s really not that intense. I work for a clinic that goes up to 21.6wks and complications are extraordinarily rare. Abortion is not “invasive surgery.” It’s completed in 1-20 minutes depending on your stage in pregnancy. (Typically 1-5 in the first trimester, and then you can expect another minute or two for each week beyond that, more or less.)

    2. piny
      piny March 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm |

      I’m careful not to pin blame on any woman, though some would and do. Does this view insist upon making good, responsible decisions prior to the procedure concede some fault towards any woman who has an abortion?

      Yes. “Good, responsible decisions prior to the procedure” absolutely is judging women who get abortions; you are implying that most women who get abortions need them because they have been bad and irresponsible.

      Lots of women have enormous trouble accessing and using birth control – it’s unhealthy for them, inconvenient, expensive. But no community is perfect. No matter how easy the safeguard or how disastrous the consequences, there will always be some people who fail. Some of them will be terribly irresponsible, and some of them will have a good excuse, and most will be somewhere in between.

      This is true of lung disease, for example – lung disease is quite often a consequence of poisoning your lungs. We think people should stop smoking, but we would never dream of punishing people for emphysema. We don’t differentiate like this between “good” cancer victims who really deserve chemo, and “bad” cancer victims whose tumors are the wages of sin and must die in agony. We don’t debate taking healthcare away from the latter on a national level.

      We also don’t see the availability of therapies as permission to ruin one’s health, or worry that higher survival rates might make people smoke more. And we have never viewed the continued presence and lethality of cancer as a crucial aspect of “cancer awareness,” i.e. putting the fear of God into smokers. We don’t connect the two because they really aren’t connected in that way. Not behaviorally, not morally.

      They are connected in another way, though: when we act as though reproductive healthcare hampers awareness of consequence, or as though compassion is indulging immortality, we damage our own collective sense of responsibility, the one we bear towards these women. We forget that healthcare is not an instrument of discipline, and we forget about healthcare.

      Reproductive responsibility – or culpability, because there really isn’t a difference in this context – is not at issue here, whatever your judgment. This is a problem of policy. It’s not about the small number of women who will not do what we wish they would do. It’s about all women, and their collective decreasing access to reproductive agency.

      We can’t interfere in some woman’s interest in not getting pregnant – I mean, it’s not as though it’s an abstraction to her in the first place. We can make it easier for her to take responsibility at every stage, and we can respect her as a moral agent, the end. That is how we allow women to feel and talk. Collective interference in “bad” responses is as counterproductive as an attempt to legislate away “bad” abortions.

      And you’re indicating that here: this is an earnest attempt to support women who may have reservations that immediately devolves into a desire to pressure some women into the kind of regret that is most palatable and sensible to you.

      1. ldouglas
        ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 7:05 pm |

        It’s about all women, and their collective decreasing access to reproductive agency.

        I’m sorry, but this simply isn’t true. Empirically, access to reproductive agency is increasing dramatically nearly everywhere, across nearly all timeframes. While you can cherry-pick specific locations in specific countries across extremely short spans of time in which what you said is accurate, if we’re talking about ‘all women,’ it’s way off.

        1. piny
          piny March 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm |

          Dude, I’m responding to a comment about decreasing all women’s collective access to reproductive healthcare, not a comment about whether or not that is happening everywhere. Comrade Kevin is talking about the moral valence of decreasing abortion access, generally, or tying it to greater social stigma, generally – he wishes he were talking about an ability to reach individual woman.

          I also don’t think it’s “cherry-picking” to pay more attention to the Rio Grande Valley ten years ago vs. today than my birth-control prescription vs. my great-grandmother’s doctor telling her to make her husband go sleep on the roof. I also don’t think it’s “cherry-picking” to talk about Comrade Kevin’s own country right now.

          Sorry about the hyperbolic wording, but I’m really uncomfortable with yours.

        2. tigtog
          tigtog March 10, 2014 at 8:23 pm | *

          ldouglas, I’m seconding piny’s response to you here, with my moderator hat on. What are you trying to achieve by using this extremely fine comb in your nitpicking again and again and again? Would it have helped or hindered the thread, in your opinion, if you’d just left piny’s comment alone?

        3. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 8:54 pm |

          What are you trying to achieve by using this extremely fine comb in your nitpicking again and again and again? Would it have helped or hindered the thread, in your opinion, if you’d just left piny’s comment alone?

          I read piny’s comment as explicitly saying all women were having decreasing access to reproductive agency, mainly because she said

          all women, and their collective decreasing access to reproductive agency.

          I wasn’t comfortable with taking the set of 3.5 billion women in the world and collapsing it to women living in certain US states, for what I hope were obvious reasons.

          It sounds like I misunderstood what Piny meant to say, so I’ll withdraw my response, but I had better reasons for my comment than a desire to nitpick.

        4. tigtog
          tigtog March 10, 2014 at 9:21 pm | *

          I suggest any further side-discussion on this gets taken to #spillover from this point onward, but I’ll briefly note that nearly every post and the majority of the comments here read as US-centric to me, and I just cope with that because this is a US-based blog. At times noting that TWIAVBP is pertinent, but most of the time it’s already very well understood and would be redundant.

        5. irishup
          irishup March 10, 2014 at 9:59 pm |

          I’m interested in the basis for this assertion. The Guttmacher 2013 report for the US would not seem to support it. The WHO specifically cites that tracking progress in reproductive access and maternal* and infant mortality is hampered by poor data collection, definitions, and other issues, and that those problems are worst in countries where access and mortality issues are worst. They currently cite that globally, some 222 million women* who would like access to BC, can’t get it at ALL. Much harder to nail down, is the number of people who have access *on paper*, but for whom real life constraints (access inhibited by travel, finance, social mores, burdensome legislation, other tools of patriarchy) mean they don’t ACTUALLY get to use BC or meaningfully control their own reproductive health. Globally, the majority of people who could potentially become pregnant and would like control over their reproduction, don’t have it as a matter of practicality.

          We have the resources and technology such that, if it were a priority, EVERYONE who has a uterus could be in (just about) 100% control of their own reproductive choices, including ending any unwanted pregnancies. Statistical hairsplitting over what percentage of The Enuterati have access to BC vs in 1900, or 10yrs ago is spurious. The PROBLEM is that the health and well being of 1/2 of the population* is still not important enough to make this potential their lived experience RIGHT NOW.

          [*NB Not all people who can get pregnant or die in childbirth are women. Unfortunately, epidemiological reports are routinely categorized in gender binary.]

        6. irishup
          irishup March 10, 2014 at 10:03 pm |

          DANG! Sorry tigtog – I should have hit refresh before posting. I hit preview but didn’t see your post. If you delete this here, I’ll put it there.

        7. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 10:12 pm |

          I responded in spillover- the TLDR is that the question that was asked wasn’t if access to reproductive care is universally adequate, but whether it’s getting better or worse.

    3. trans_commie
      trans_commie March 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm |

      And I’ve eve[n] heard and read from women who feel that earlier abortions are the result of impulsive decisions, decisions they now regret.

      We all make impulsive decisions that we regret. Abortion is no different. I see a very similar argument used against trans people who seek GRS – I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told “But some trans women regret getting GRS!” It’s nonsense when applied to transition treatments, and nonsense when applied to reproductive rights.

      can we have a discussion about abortion that isn’t tainted with ideological bomb throwing?

      There is ideology on all sides of the discussion. Pretending that there is a non-ideological side is dishonest.

    4. shfree
      shfree March 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm |

      It is factual that women who have had more than one procedure often have problems with conceiving again.

      The only times previous abortions would have any affect on later fertility is if there were complications during the procedures that would have an adverse affect on a person’s later ability to carry a pregnancy to term. These complications in a standard, legal abortion are exceedingly rare, but do exist in illegal abortions performed in unsafe, medically unsound environments. Like EG, if you have a source for your statement above I want to see it. I’ve worked in the industry for a few years, and I’ve never seen anything outside of forced birth bullshit that has tried to push that sort of nonsense to the fore. And again, the only times abortion would have any negative affect on later fertility is if there were complications, which are far more likely to happen during unsafe, illegal abortions, just the thing that they want to see happen.

      And I’ve ever heard and read from women who feel that earlier abortions are the result of impulsive decisions, decisions they now regret.

      As far as women regretting getting abortions, I would imagine there are many that also regret not getting one, they just don’t talk about it outside of extremely safe places for them, or say it to those that it would hurt the most.

      Comrade Kevin, at the end of the day, I’m really not getting a lot of support of abortion rights from you, I’m getting a lot of “I support the rights of these women to get these abortions, if they meet these conditions.” It’s not like you are a rape/incest/life-health only person, but I’m still getting a shitload of judgment off of you, and I think you should explore that a ton before you say you are fully on board the whole abortion rights thing.

    5. Donna L
      Donna L March 10, 2014 at 6:57 pm |

      I’m a strong believer in abortion rights,

      For a strong believer in abortion rights, you seem to have internalized a lot of forced-birther propaganda.

    6. Molly
      Molly March 10, 2014 at 7:13 pm |

      It is factual that women who have had more than one procedure often have problems with conceiving again.

      I’m actually really curious how exactly you think that would work. Are you familiar with what’s medically involved in an abortion? Because it’s a very simple, straightforward procedure and outside of moralizing ideas (that have always kind of reminded me of retrograde ideas about virginity, actually) about bad abortions somehow tainting sacred maternal wombliness, I’ve never been able to come up with a plausible circumstance under which uncomplicated abortions physically could impact future fertility, even leaving aside the utter lack of reputable medical literature to support that assertion. Like, what would actually happen in there, you know?

      As EG pointed out, the only conceivable way an abortion could impact future fertility would be in the case of a uterine perforation leading to hysterectomy, which is incredibly rare– for a first-trimester aspiration abortion, there’s a perforation rate (and perforations do not always lead to hysterectomies) of something like 0.017% [1]– while the risk is going to be pretty much zero for medication abortions, which these days make about about a third of all abortions– whereas the risk of emergency hysterectomy if you actually give birth is up to fifty times higher than that. [2]

      [1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234143/
      [2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234143/

      1. Molly
        Molly March 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm |

        Oops, that first cite should go here, if anyone cares:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673521/

      2. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl March 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm |

        The blanket statement that abortion can negatively impact future fertility is erroneous. That being said, having undergone numerous D&C procedures can increase the risk of developing a condition called Asherman’s Syndrome.

        http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001483.htm

        Now plenty of abortions are not done by D&C, but plenty are. Which is why women should have access to an array of abortion services, including medical abortions if they want them and assuming they are within the appropriate timeframe. Furthermore, it’s something that any doctor would discuss with the patient if there was a potentially increased risk for a condition like Asherman’s because of their past medical history.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 10, 2014 at 10:16 pm |

          Boo, sorry for the typos/awkward wording. NAK

        2. Molly
          Molly March 11, 2014 at 8:11 am |

          I stand corrected! Thanks, Lolagirl.

  2. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin March 10, 2014 at 11:45 am |

    EVEN heard and read from women… Typo.

  3. IndianFeminist
    IndianFeminist March 10, 2014 at 11:51 am |

    I have had this argument hundreds of times with likeminded pro-choice people who believe in the legal right of women to make abortion choice, but are defensive when it comes to the moral right. Phrased typically, ‘I wouldn’t personally make this choice’ , unintentionally, people term this choice as ‘morally wrong’, because hey, their personal integrity will be compromised if they made this choice in their lives.

    On related topic, I personally fume when pro-lifers use examples of China and India, as a testimony to their moral position. I have had thousands of futile discussions on how the forced abortions are the other side of the coin, how both pro-life position and patriarchal system that demands women abort their female foetus undermine the bodily integrity of women. As an Indian feminist, I find it an alarming trend.

    1. Andie
      Andie March 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm |

      Yes! Forced birth and forced abortion are definitely two sides of the same coin, because they both interfere with bodily autonomy. It’s also why, while fighting for access to safe and legal abortion, people should also be supporting programs and services that support parents and children so that both become fully viable, uncoerced options.

  4. AMM
    AMM March 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm |

    My own take on this[*] is that I’m “pro” abortion in the sense that I’m “pro” antibiotics, or “pro” tracheotomy — it’s not something I’d recommend doing for the lulz, but if someone needs it, I want it available and I don’t want political or religious blowhards mixing themselves up in it, any more than I’d want some tea-party Republican or Catholic bishop in the ER second-guessing and generally getting in the way of my doctors if they think I need some procedure.

    [*] And I figure my opinion is worth at least as much as that of some holier-than-thou geezer in Rome, or some hypocritical hate-monger in Washington.

    Somewhat OT, perhaps, but the fact that all the spokespeople I’ve seen for outlawing abortion are also trying to make birth control unavailable and are also into rape denial and the denigration of women and and are also promoting punitive policies intended to make life hell for those oh-so-valuable fetuses _after_ they’re born — well, I’m not willing to assume any good or ethical intentions whatsoever. IM-not-so-HO, they started on the moral low ground and have been digging deeper ever since. It’s like Hannibal Lechter trying to argue that he’s so moral because he doesn’t eat veal.

    1. ldouglas
      ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 5:18 pm |

      My own take on this[*] is that I’m “pro” abortion in the sense that I’m “pro” antibiotics, or “pro” tracheotomy

      Exactly.

    2. piny
      piny March 10, 2014 at 9:17 pm |

      Right, and if you were “pro urgent care,” or “pro public hospital funding,” or “pro cancer treatment,” nobody would assume that you were “pro negligence,” or “pro bronchitis,” or “pro Big Tobacco.”

      We don’t force people to differentiate between the two – we don’t make them underline their support for flu shots and flu treatment.

  5. ldouglas
    ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm |

    I’m not pro-abortion any more than I’m pro-appendectomy or pro-any-surgical procedure. I’m surgical-procedure-neutral. They’re good if people need to have them. End of story.

  6. shfree
    shfree March 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm |

    The thing is, some people are indeed pro-abortion. I’m pro-abortion, because if I got pregnant, most likely I would choose to have one, thus I would be pro-abortion in my mind. However, what another person opts to do with their own pregnancy is none of my damn business. So the fact is, the pro-choice position just can’t be distilled down to that simple one-word descriptor. The best I can come up with is that I’m pro-safe, legal and easy abortion access, or, I want pregnant people to be able to find a safe place to have an abortion easily if that is what they choose to do.

    1. Marcella K.
      Marcella K. March 10, 2014 at 8:17 pm |

      That’s a great point. I would certainly also consider myself “pro-abortion” in that sense (although for the purposes of my post I decided I wanted to focus on the term in a more philosophical sense).

      1. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom March 10, 2014 at 9:03 pm |

        I would also be pro-abortion in this sense; if I got pregnant again I’d be at the nearest clinic (which, because we happen to live in a state with good abortion access, is within walking distance) as fast as I could get there.

  7. Anna
    Anna March 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm |

    When people like Clinton say “safe, legal, and rare,” I don’t hear any moral overtones. To me, “rare” just refers to the need for prevention — comprehensive sexuality education, empowerment to negotiate condom (and other birth control) usage, access to contraception. It’s similar to wishing that treatments for type-2 diabetes and heart disease are “safe, legal, and rare” — no moral judgment of those with diabetes or heart disease, but also a wish for a greater societal focus on prevention.

    Now, those preventive measures include improved diet and increased exercise. So someone could certainly look at diabetes and heart disease through a moral lens, just as they do with unintended pregnancies. But I do think it’s possible to discuss prevention in a morally neutral way. While some people will connect “prevention” to the stemming of lust, gluttony, and sloth, people working in public health tend to look at the systems that make good nutrition and physical activity difficult.

    Those who put all their eggs in the “personal responsibility” basket will see unhealthy lifestyles as moral choices rather than symptoms of inequities and injustices on a society-wide level. So too with unintended pregnancies. Fundamentally, there are those who view society as a collection of individuals making independent choices, and those who view society as an interconnected network of people whose choices are constrained by systemic inequities. The former type is much more likely to see individual moral failings at the root of all problems.

    Discussion of prevention is a Rorschach test. If you’re inclined toward making moral judgments of others, you’ll view prevention as a battle against “sin.” The fact that some people do that can’t hamper my efforts to fight for a society that expands access to health for all of its people. I certainly do want abortion to be rare — not because I think it’s a regrettable choice but because prevention is better than having to undergo an invasive medical procedure. I have the same belief about all medical procedures — better not to need them in the first place, if that can at all be arranged.

    1. ldouglas
      ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 6:52 pm |

      When people like Clinton say “safe, legal, and rare,” I don’t hear any moral overtones. To me, “rare” just refers to the need for prevention — comprehensive sexuality education, empowerment to negotiate condom (and other birth control) usage, access to contraception. It’s similar to wishing that treatments for type-2 diabetes and heart disease are “safe, legal, and rare” — no moral judgment of those with diabetes or heart disease, but also a wish for a greater societal focus on prevention.

      This.

      1. piny
        piny March 10, 2014 at 8:54 pm |

        Hillary Clinton also said that, “We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.” Barack Obama has also said, “Here’s my position on abortion. I believe that abortion is at some level always tragic… there’s always a tragedy and a pain involved, and a moral component to the issue that has to be acknowledged.”

        I believe that Hillary Clinton is pro-choice, but I don’t believe that her rhetoric is just support for access and education. The tragedy she’s talking about isn’t the failure of our society to provide these women with autonomy; it’s about a failure to prevent a pregnancy that must then lead to an abortion. She’s not saying that we need to improve access because autonomy is important. She’s saying that we need to improve access because otherwise women will abort more, and abortion is bad. That’s a really treacherous position to take – “bad” birth-control options are in the eye of the beholder.

        It also defines abortion as the bad outcome rather than a safe, legal way to prevent a much worse outcome. That’s not what abortion means to the woman involved, and it’s not what abortion should mean to us as a nation.

        We don’t usually see prevention and treatment as some kind of conflict. Our politicians link healthy lifestyles and better preventive care to “rare,” but they don’t ever use rhetoric that connects better outcomes with worse behavior. “I want all women to have access to treatment for breast cancer, but I hope very much that women stop needing it so much, and I hope that we can also work together to educate women about breast-cancer risk and the importance of exams,” would be at best kind of senseless and at worst pretty unkind.

        In most cases, there’s no difference between supporting good treatment and hating the disease, or any sense that assuming collective responsibility for sick people in any way relieves sick people of their individual responsibility. We see the fight against cancer (and heart disease, and Alzheimer’s) as a collective battle that includes the sick and dying.

        And when we do squint at patients for their tendency to need cures rather than prevention, it does tend to be a judgment on their behavior (having sex, not having money), not a sense of our own failure to help.

        1. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 10:17 pm |

          it’s about a failure to prevent a pregnancy that must then lead to an abortion.

          I guess I kind of agree with this. I don’t think abortion is inherently ‘tragic,’ but I generally do think lower numbers of abortions due to better education/access to contraceptives is a good thing. I know women who absolutely feel they made the right call to have an abortion, but still really wish they hadn’t had to do it at all; that’s how I presume I’ll feel if it ever comes up.

          So I don’t think I disagree with what you’re saying, but I’m also not sure I disagree with Hillary’s quote, except for the tragic part.

          Sorry if I’m missing your point!

        2. Anna
          Anna March 11, 2014 at 12:59 am |

          Thanks for giving more context with these Clinton and Obama quotes. Maybe the apologist in me sees them as the typical pandering of a politician, but I do agree with you that they are disappointing, as I concur with the overarching consensus here that abortion need not be framed as a sad and unfortunate occurrence.

          And when we do squint at patients for their tendency to need cures rather than prevention, it does tend to be a judgment on their behavior (having sex, not having money), not a sense of our own failure to help.

          I think societies throughout history have connected disease to “sin,” and even now, after all of our discoveries in genetics and microbiology, there is still a tendency to make that connection. You can hear it all over the place, like with cancer: “I don’t understand why my uncle has cancer. He did everything right — ate fruits and veggies, didn’t eat processed foods or red meat, never touched a cigarette, exercised every day!” Looking toward behavior to explain complicated phenomena seems to be deeply ingrained in us as humans, and manifests itself in victim-blaming of all kinds.

          So I guess I understand the compulsion, but I would be very glad if as a society we could move toward a discussion of prevention without invoking victim-blaming or casting moral judgments on people’s choices. And, perhaps, discussing these issues only in terms of “prevention” is a bit too constrained, as we can’t control everything with preventive behavior, we can only mitigate risk to some degree. Cancer and unintended pregnancy will always exist, even in a society in which everyone truly does have equal access to the preventive tools people like me advocate for. And the fact that people will seek medical care is never a tragedy.

        3. shfree
          shfree March 11, 2014 at 1:20 am |

          There are lots of things I wish for in this world too. I wish I could teleport, for one. I also wish that we wouldn’t separate out abortion morally from other medical procedures, but so long as politicians and other people involved in the pro-choice movement keep bringing it into the discussion, let alone the forced birthers, it isn’t going to go away. And saying that you want fewer abortions gives forced birthers too much wiggle room, forces out equivocations, and ultimately muddies the message.

          Again, abortion still isn’t a value-neutral choice in this culture. (and I would be interested to hear if it is a value-neutral choice in any culture, actually) And the words “tragic”, “sad”, and “pain”, incorrectly universalizes abortion as a negative experience for every pregnant person who has one. Also, because it isn’t a value-neutral decision, even if a pregnant person regrets a decision to have an abortion out of purely pragmatic reasons as opposed to emotional or moral ones, (as in they would have rather been able to spend that day skiing, or would have preferred that the birth control had succeeded in the first place, thus this whole thing set them back more money than they wanted to spend) as soon as the word “regret” pops out, this whole assumption of OMIGOD THEY MUST HAVE WANTED A BEBEH WOE IS THEM FOR THEIR IMMORAL SEX HAVIN’ WAYS for too many people happens. Because they conveniently tune out the actual reasons, as the forced birthers have their agenda to spin and spin it they will.

          I really, really don’t care if abortions are rare or not. I just want them to be as accessible, legal and safe as getting, say, a large mole removed for biopsy. That is the heart of it, now. It’s not about choice, it’s about accessibility. Choice should be seen as a given.

        4. piny
          piny March 11, 2014 at 11:13 am |

          (This is supposed to be nested under ldouglas’ comment.)

          I understand what you’re saying about abortion being a medical procedure – that most women prefer not to have to terminate a pregnancy, for all kinds of reasons.

          I also agree with everything shfree said..

          But I also think this argument about “tragedy,” and “rarity” is intrinsically weak.

          I think that abortion needs to be evaluated as part of a comprehensive strategy for supporting women’s reproductive agency – that it needs to be seen as part of a set of birth-control measures, not as something special. I think that when you see it as a negative rather than an affirmative choice, you lose sight of the ultimate negative consequence: forced childbirth. I see no reason to stop the cause and effect chain at an intermediate outcome. I don’t think contraception is valuable because it prevents abortions. I think it’s valuable because it prevents unwanted pregnancy. If contraception somehow had zero effect on abortion rates, it would still be a godsend.

          I also think that when you define it as a negative outcome, you admit that reducing abortions is a valid goal by itself. This allows pro-lifers to restrict abortion in the name of avoiding “tragedy” for women. Waiting periods, demeaning exams, fishing expeditions in women’s medical records – all of these forms of violation and delay have been promoted as ways to protect women from the terrible choice of abortion.

          And there are women who need to treat abortion as a first resort. Contraception isn’t feasible for everyone, and not just because of coercion. We shouldn’t define abortion as objectively crappier than the Pill, for example, or assume that it would be necessary only in the event that other birth-control methods fail.

          I also think it’s unnecessary. We can simply defend reproductive autonomy – and expand support for autonomy to include support for mothers. If we do that, we acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of women want and will use contraception, and we acknowledge that women need access to abortion. We don’t agree that abortion has an objective moral or emotional value.

    2. shfree
      shfree March 10, 2014 at 7:25 pm |

      But on an individual level, it isn’t anyone’s business if a person opts to use abortion as the best method of birth control, whether they have attempted other options, or for whatever reasons, abortion was the first one. So frankly, I don’t care if it is rare or not. What is important is that ultimately, it is available for pregnant people to access.

      In an ideal world, no one would need surgical or medical intervention, ever. That is not the world we live in. I would hope that what we want is that abortion would be seen without moral taint. That is also not the world we live in. And while it is easy for for some of us to interpret Clinton’s words as not having some sort of moral bias against abortion, the fact remains is that her word choice can be easily seen as loaded by a significant portion of the population. And I feel that in order to move toward a place where there is no longer a moral taint to abortion, we have to be very, very judicious in the words we use surrounding the issue, and I believe her words were poorly chosen, given the number of ways they could be interpreted.

      1. ldouglas
        ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm |

        her word choice

        Other Clinton.

      2. shfree
        shfree March 10, 2014 at 8:01 pm |

        Stupid typo from typing too quickly. My bad.

      3. Anna
        Anna March 11, 2014 at 1:06 am |

        I agree with what you have said. The only reason I want abortion to be “rare” is that I think it’s better not to have an unwanted pregnancy in the first place than it is to go through an abortion procedure, which can be painful. To me it boils down to “no pain” is better than “pain.” But that is my personal value judgment. You’re right that it’s not really my business if someone “opts to use abortion as the best method of birth control.”

        1. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon March 12, 2014 at 8:27 pm |

          Right, like, I would get an abortion if I became pregnant, but it would be kind of a pain the ass and it would just be way preferable to not get pregnant in the first place. I think most people would prefer to spare themselves the possible pain and the probable hassle.

      4. Azalea
        Azalea March 16, 2014 at 8:57 am |

        I guess that works if you’re simply talking about the abortion PILL but using SURGERY routinely increases your chances of complications, complications which are specific to people who can become pregnant and can be fatal. How is that ok for feminism or a feminist viewpoint that intentionally doing something that could cause increasingly significant harm is wise when there are other, far safer options?

        1. shfree
          shfree March 16, 2014 at 11:14 am |

          Because it isn’t my business if another individual decides that a surgical abortion would be preferable than other methods of birth control. My personal opinion is yes, it’s misguided and certainly more physically hazardous, but I have no idea what another person’s thought processes are, and maybe they have a whole other system that they are working with. Ultimately, it’s their body, not mine.

        2. piny
          piny March 16, 2014 at 1:04 pm |

          There aren’t options! A woman who gets an abortion no longer has the chance to take birth control. That ship has sailed. Abortion is not an alternative to contraception. Both are birth control strategies; they are used by women in different situations. Supporting abortion access does not somehow compromise contraception access, education, and advocacy.

          What shfree said, again, but there is also no way to impose that calculus on the individual. You can’t guarantee that birth control is the best option for every woman. You can’t force each woman to exhaust her contraceptive (or nonsurgical abortion) options before she undergoes a surgical abortion.

          All you can do is restrict access to abortion in ways that inevitably force women, or create social pressures against abortion that inevitably coerce women. Neither of these strategies pressure women into safer, more “responsible” choices. They have the opposite effect. They inevitably make contraception less viable and termination more dangerous.

          The only sure way to make more women have fewer abortions is to (a) make it really, really easy to obtain all manner of contraception and (b) make it really, really easy to get an abortion. There’s also (c) make it really, really easy to learn about reproduction and contraception and (d) make it really, really easy to raise children and thrive with them. And as a tacit baseline, (e) stop making women feel miserable in the name of their health and freedom. That’s it. That’s the effective strategy. The effective strategy is the just strategy.

          Also, I don’t think you can make a coherent feminist argument around the right of any woman to maybe harm her own body. I don’t think we can have a stake in that decision, and I think we have a moral obligation to back off from it. Surgical procedures might be inherently more risky than prior alternatives, but it’s not ours to complain on behalf of the woman who assumes that risk.

        3. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll March 16, 2014 at 2:06 pm |

          Bingo.

        4. shfree
          shfree March 16, 2014 at 9:45 pm |

          Just because I don’t trust the nesting, and I want this to stand alone, piny your contributions to this thread have been awesome. You have said everything I have been meaning to convey, but far more eloquently.

        5. shfree
          shfree March 16, 2014 at 10:20 pm |

          Argh, and I thought I even DE NESTED that last comment. Stupid, stupid system.

        6. piny
          piny March 17, 2014 at 11:21 am |

          Thank you! I have enjoyed your comments, too.

    3. Marcella K.
      Marcella K. March 10, 2014 at 7:55 pm |

      Thanks for this response!

      I don’t think we are actually in much disagreement. I absolutely agree that it is “possible to discuss prevention in a morally neutral way” and I am certainly among those “who view society as an interconnected network of people whose choices are constrained by systemic inequities.” However, I don’t think that politicians like Clinton are necessarily speaking about prevention in the same way that you are when they use the word “rare”; I think they employ the “safe, legal, rare” language in an attempt to appease those who do view abortion as morally contemptible. Those who work in public health might very well put the same emphasis on making abortion rare that they do on making other invasive procedures rare, but when it comes to public discourse I think this language is particular to the abortion context. I support measures to expand access to education and contraception as ardently as you do, but I still think it’s important to be mindful of the way we use the word “rare,” given abortion’s fraught context.

      1. Anna
        Anna March 11, 2014 at 1:11 am |

        I don’t disagree with you either, really — perhaps I just have a much more idealistic interpretation of the use of the word “rare” in this context.

        when it comes to public discourse I think this language is particular to the abortion context

        You’re probably right about that! I certainly agree that language matters, and that it’s good to be mindful of the double standards that permeate discourse surrounding a stigmatized medical procedure like abortion in comparison with something less taboo. The language used is different, and it probably does have a lot to do with pandering, with deep-seated notions about “sin,” and with differing views of “personal responsibility” vs. systemic inequities, etc.

  8. emily
    emily March 11, 2014 at 6:12 am |

    There is a blog that I normally enjoy, but lately it turned into a bunch of men discussion the morality of abortion. I’ve been fact checking them (no, the birth control pill is not an abortifacient. no, experts estimate that approximately 70% of conceptions result in a spontaneous abortion/chemical pregnancy. that sort of thing) because I have an interest in making sure people are factually accurate, but I’ve totally lost interest in any moral debate. I realized I don’t see abortion as a moral choice. This realization was really freeing. It’s like I suddenly see through all the BS.

    (only 4 months to go [hopefully] until I’m no longer pregnant!)

  9. TomSims
    TomSims March 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm |

    The only people that are anti choice are the bible thumping fanatics aligned in their thinking with the Taliban.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 18, 2014 at 9:56 pm |

      Sadly that’s not the case, Tom. There are atheists who are anti-choice as well; take a look at recent Pandagon or Pharyngula threads.

      1. ldouglas
        ldouglas March 18, 2014 at 10:06 pm |

        Yep, and there are plenty of anti-choice people of all religious denominations as well- not just Christians.

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