Happy Anniversary, Roe v. Wade

The GOP’s use of abortion as a wedge issue hurt them more than it helped them in the November election. I believe Barack Obama would have won anyway. But I also believe that had John McCain chosen Joe Liberman or Tom Ridge — both pro-choice — as a running mate instead of Sarah Palin, the vote among Independents would have been a lot closer.

Given what looks to me to be a clear reality, what will Republicans do? What will Democrats do?

Digby says the White House issued this statement today (I can’t find it elsewhere):

“On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

“While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

“On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.”

This sounds good to me. Even so, there is some twitchiness on the Left that talk about reducing the number of abortions is somehow going to lead to making concessions to the anti-reproductive rights crowd. In the same post linked above, Digby writes,

But, as you all know, I mistrust all this “common ground” business. So far, it’s perfectly fine. We have always been for access to contraception, comprehensive reproductive health care and education and help for expectant mothers. Let’s hear it for the progressive agenda being considered “common ground.”

But, I am curious as to what the people who believe abortion is murder think they are getting out of this. We know that many of them do not believe in birth control and the last thing they want is to educate people in anything but abstinence. Yet they have supposedly signed on to this common ground concept, so they must feel they have made serious concessions. What do they want in return?

I hadn’t heard the anti-reproductive rights crowd had “signed on” to anything. I sniffed around, and apparently some religious policy wonks in Washington came up with some “third way” manifesto that is being pushed as the “common ground” on which pro- and anti-reproductive rights people are supposed to meet. As Fred Clarkson says, what’s being left out of the “common ground” is a clear support for a woman’s unfettered right to elective abortion, at least until the late second trimester. Thus, “abortion reduction” is being taken as a code for “abortion restriction.”

A few points: First, it’s important for everyone to understand that the hard core of the anti-reproductive rights movement hasn’t “signed on” to anything. This third-way, common ground business is being promoted by what Fred C. calls the Religion Industrial Complex — “that sprawling array of political manufacturers and journalistic conveyor belts that deliver their products to market from Inside the Beltway.” This RIC is made up of people like Jim Wallis and Amy Sullivan, who have promoted themselves to media as spokespersons of some vast and reasonable moderate religion movement but who in fact aren’t speaking for anyone but themselves and their careers. I know a great many genuinely religious progressives (including Fred Clarkson, who is very nice), and they are as fond of Wallis as they are of heartburn.

So, basically, no one is behind the common ground manifesto except the people who wrote it. But news media haven’t caught on to that yet, and probably a lot of politicians haven’t, either.

The anti-reproductive rights movement never will compromise, because they are fanatics. There have been several times since the Roe v. Wade decision in which some do-gooders attempted some kind of “common ground” approach, in which the emphasis would shift from banning abortion to reducing the rate of abortion through various programs. It seems like such a fresh, original idea every time someone thinks of it. These attempts are always futile, because anti-reproductive rights people cannot be reasoned with and will not budge from their extremist positions. (And see? I’m even being nice and not calling them “Fetus People.”)

In another article, Fred quotes the Rev. Anne C. Fowler:

“… the moral reality of women’s lives is that sometimes abortion is the best moral choice.” …

”What is missing from this document,” she continued, “is recognition of the sacredness of all life, and a moral tradition that allows us to weigh relative values, of potential life versus a lived life in its full spiritual complexity.”

I can already see the religious absolutists latching on to that word “relative.” They cannot abide “relative.” In their world, everything is either absolutely right or absolutely wrong; absolutely good or absolutely evil. But the real world isn’t like that, nor are all systems of morality based on absolutes.

Fred continues,

The idea that abortion is sometimes the best moral choice is the view of many major religious institutions representing tens of millions of American Christians, Jews, Unitarians, and others. Many of these institutions are represented in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), including major mainline Protestant denominations (such as the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ), the major bodies of American Judaism, and such organizations as the YWCA.

As I believe I’ve already written, Buddhism generally discourages abortion but considers imposing moral absolutes on people to be worse.

I agree with the Rev. Fowlers that it must be said that sometimes abortion is the best moral choice. I think most people understand that, even if they cannot articulate why it is true.

However, I don’t think that talking about reducing the rate of abortion is necessarily a bad thing or always a code word for “selling out women’s rights.” If we really did “expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services” it would almost certainly reduce the rate of abortions. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that.

13 thoughts on “Happy Anniversary, Roe v. Wade

  1. I’m old enough to remember when Roe v. Wade was decided. There was not much hue and cry about it until the religious rightwing crowd picked it up as a wedge issue several years later.
    And it’s been one humdinger of a wedge issue!

    There is, you’re right, no negotiating with them. What bothers me with the whole ‘pro-life’ movement is its inconsistency. They are pro-life until you’re born, and, of course baptized; after that, good luck Charlie, you’re on your own…
    The term ‘sanctity of life’ came from the Catholic Church. Yes it talked about abortion, but also the death penalty and poverty. These issues have been completely ignored by this crowd. Instead of “Pro-life,” we should call them “Pro-prenatal Life.”
    Let’s start calling it what it really is: The “Pro-prenatal Life” Movement.

  2. The “Pro-prenatal Life” Movement

    “Fetus People” is easier, although it hurts their feelings for some reason.

    I was a student at the University of Missouri when Roe v. Wade was decided, and as I remember the state legislature did very little else but argue about either abortion law or banning outdoor rock concerts. In some states it was a big controversy. Then when Roe v. Wade was decided everybody settled down, for a while.

  3. maha,
    I’ll go with “Fetus People,” if that will help. I just object to their using “life,” and if we can incorporate “Life” into our slogan, I’ll be even more for it.
    Any idea’s???

    PS: Back in the day, when this became an issue, my friend’s and I I used to say something really crude about them, and for the side of women’s choice: ‘No fetus can ever beat us!’
    How wrong we were………………………

  4. I don’t think that the assertion of comon ground means caving in to the religious right. The common ground is fewer abortions–safe, legal and rare. Where is the cave in to the right in that? It’s not as if anyone likes having an abortion.

    Granted the real wackos on the right will not support this common ground. WHich is fine. By asserting that common ground exists, and by being willing to stand on that common ground (ie safe, legal, rare) we establish legal abortion as the political middle ground where all of us normal people are. If the right doesn’t join us in making abortion rare through access to birthcontrol and education, they marginalize themsleves.

    So no concession is necessary. They join us or marginalize themselves.

  5. “Fetus People” is easier, although it hurts their feelings for some reason.

    And never mind the fact that they uphold the embryo and fetus to the exclusion of all other stages of human life… a form of idolatry, imo.

    When I was younger, I used to be angry at these hypocrites pretty much all the time… a terrible waste of my time and energy. Now, I’m more or less simultaneously amused and exasperated by their fantastical thinking, e.g. my favorite slogan: Thank your mom for not aborting you! For a “religious” movement, the FP sure are ignorant of the opening verses of Genesis, in which the first thing God created was linear time. In other words, thanks be to God, two mutually-exclusive realities cannot coexist, and all the FP’s sordid imaginings are for naught.

    Unfortunately, the FP spend a lot of money putting their mindbleepery out there (such as Norma McCorvey’s sad and nonsensical “I Was Jane Roe” TV ad)…. All we can do is hang on and wait for the pendulum to swing back to sanity, and for government that rejects the worst of their craziness.

    Along those lines, I sure didn’t feel betrayed by our new president today. Wish I could say the same for my dumbass state legislature… we have bills pending that would ban all abortions, under all circumstances. (Gee, that worked so well next door in South Dakota. The biggest problem with the FP is they never learn.)

  6. “It’s not as if anyone likes having an abortion.”

    Really? Why not? If abortion is not murder, why should it be “rare”. why should anyone dislike it? If abortion is notmurder, then an abortion should cause no more concern that getting your appendix removed.

    Answer: abortion IS murder.

  7. #6, Hateful Flaming Idiot (yes, I edited the name, because it was ignorant), is an example of the Evil of Moral Absolutism. People like HFI are the cause of much of the unnecessary suffering of the world. The simple-minded equation of abortion with murder justifies cruelty, oppression, physical suffering and sometimes death of women — which, of course, is the real point of the criminalization of abortion.

  8. What HFI forgets is that no one goes to their doctor and says, “Hey Doc, you know that appendix I got? Well, it’s not doing anyhing so just go ahead and take it out. No, I’ll wait…”
    No, the appendix is removed because there is a problem or an issue with it.

    I started to write a long post using reason in answer to HFI but I erased it and am ending it here. You can’t reason with someone who believes as strongly as that. We can all be flaming idiot’s once in a while, I just wish that individual weren’t so proud of being hateful.

  9. If abortion is not murder, why should it be “rare”. why should anyone dislike it?

    Why should SUVs be “rare”? Why should anyone not want to own an SUV?

    If abortion is murder, is a miscarriage suicide? According to your “logic,” sure, why not. Miscarriages are also sad occasions. So are divorces.

    If abortion is murder, then war is mass murder. And yet so many of the same people who say “Abortion is murder” turn positively gleeful at the thought of war. They’re not really bothered by “murder.”

    All you’ve done is support our arguments that you’re highly inconsistent in your morality, and not the clearest thinker we’ve heard from in a while.

  10. And in case anyone else doesn’t understand, white supremacist groups like the KKK have worked in support of the anti-abortion movement. Margaret Sanger, on the other hand, promoted contraception— which means the prevention of conception— and which prevents the need for abortion.

    It’s about controlling the marriages and child-bearing of perfect strangers: the ultimate fascism.

  11. joanr16,
    Go get ’em!!!
    “…and not the clearest thinker we’ve heard from in a while.” An understatement at best.

  12. Gulag, I’m giving this person the benefit of the doubt– s/he appears to live in a bubble where all her/his information comes exclusively from crank sources like the Conservapedia (a/k/a “Where the Schlafly Family’s IQ Goes to Die”).

    Also, there’s a certain inspirational quality to the Fetus Person’s comment. Continuing the argument that, because something is onerous and deeply regrettable, it is therefore murder:

    Ignorance caused by misinformation, murder. My grades as a college freshman, murder. Having to put my mortally-injured cat to sleep, murder (and I was just 14; a regular Caryl Fugate). That used car I bought when I was 19…. Well, you get the idea.

    It doesn’t help the anti-abortion side one bit to trivialize murder… but that’s the best they’ve got. That and lying their tailfeathers off every time they have to cite a “fact” or “statistic.”

    So one more for the road: homeschooling = murder! Onerous and deeply regrettable, for all of society.

  13. joanr16,
    Well put as usual.
    HA!!! “(a/k/a “Where the Schlafly Family’s IQ Goes to Die”).”

    Abortion is such a sad issue – and it needn’t be. Why can’t others see that being pro-women is not being anti-life. But the subjugation of women is the focal point of the argument. Until women can control what happens to them and their bodies, there is NO EQUALIITY!
    Just like in the issuees of race and poverty, the issue of mysogyny is an issue of control.
    And that is where the vitriol comes from. Power, control…
    I feel sorry for the person that feels the way that HFI does. It’s a sign of moral ignorance to us; a sign of moral pride for them.
    I don’t know how you approach them to discuss it. We can provide ration; they have only vitriol and hatred.
    Tough to argue there…

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