Oh, the Humanity

Once upon a time — early 1970s, pre-Roe, I believe — I remember reading a newspaper column written by a fellow who had been opposed to legal abortion. I say had, because he had changed his mind. What changed his mind was a tragedy — his beloved granddaughter, a college student, had been raped.

The young woman didn’t become pregnant. But the episode had made the man think — what if she had. Before Roe, several states banned abortions even for rape victims. For the first time, he reflected on what a pregnancy from rape might do not only to his granddaughter, but to his entire family. Could the family accept such a child? Could he? How would it feel to give a grandchild away? Not just a hypothetical grandchild, but his real, breathing, flesh-and-blood grandchild?

And he considered, for the first, time, how such a pregnancy would prolong and deepen the trauma his granddaughter had already suffered. All his hopes for her — that she would finish college, that she would marry happily and have children — depended on her recovery from the trauma. How could a compassionate and just society not do whatever it took to help her? Yes, babies are precious, but so was his granddaughter!

As I remember it, the man remained uncomfortable with abortion. But he thought on, and he thought about teenagers with poor impulse control, and couples with as many children as they could afford already, and a thousand other circumstances in which people — real people — might choose to seek abortion. Suddenly, for him a woman who sought an abortion was no longer just a hypothesis or an archetype — Careless Woman, Selfish Woman, Woman in a Vacuum. Now he understood these women were real individuals with parents, siblings, husbands, children, and grandparents who loved them.

Today I thought about the man who cared about his granddaughter when I read two posts by Digby — “The Sodomized Virgin Exception” and, um, this other post. What comes through loudly and clearly in both posts is that the anti-abortion rights position is based on an assumption that women aren’t real people — especially women who get abortions. Oh, they’re human in a scientific sense, but they aren’t people. They are archetypes who live in the heads of the anti-abortion righters — Careless Woman, Selfish Woman, Woman in a Vacuum. The same people who imagine embryos can think and feel emotions — and therefore deserve protection — must believe a pregnant woman is just a major appliance.

There are copious anecdotes from abortion providers who say that often the same people protesting outside the clinic one week are patients (or parents of patients) the next week. These people assume that their situations are unique and should be the one exception. They often want the abortion staff to know they aren’t like those other women who get abortions. This inspired the bitter joke that the legitimate reasons for abortion are “rape, incest, and me.” Such people recognize their own humanity (or their daughter’s), but those other women who get abortions are just archetypes who don’t deserve respect or considertion.

I’ve long believed that whether one is pro-choice or anti-choice does not depend on whether one thinks embryos are human beings. It depends on whether one recognizes that women are human beings. Not archetypes, but real, individual human beings. Including women who get abortions.

See also: Amanda M., Echidne and the Wege.

Worst Memory Ever

Or, Condi Strike Again … Jonathan S. Landay writes for Knight Ridder

A State Department-commissioned poll taken days before January’s Palestinian elections warned U.S. policymakers that the militant Islamic group Hamas was in a position to win.

Nevertheless, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the election that they had no advance indication of a major Hamas triumph.

What is with this woman?

Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy, said that while the poll didn’t predict Hamas’ big win, it clearly showed a trend toward victory for the Islamic militants.

“Either Secretary Rice was being disingenuous or else her department has a serious information-sharing problem, because INR could not have done a much better job of assessing the Palestinian election than they did,” said Aftergood. “No one else did a better job than INR. So to profess surprise of the outcome is incomprehensible.

“This is secrecy squared,” he continued. “It’s one thing to keep secrets from the public. But when the bureaucracy is keeping secrets from itself, policy is compromised.”

Maybe she was out buying shoes.

Update: See Skippy, “we don’t think anybody anticipated that things might happen while he was in office and he’d actually have to lead the country.”

Update update: I’ve been thinking the nation would be better served by a potted plant as POTUS. And Secretary of State, for that matter. But eventually we’d hear “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated that President Ficus would shrivel up and die if we didn’t keep him watered.”