Choice Joyce: December 2015

Choice Joyce

Essays from a pro-choice feminist liberal skeptic infidel activist (and animal lover)

Friday, December 18, 2015

How to Mansplain the Abortion Wars

I’ll start by giving Kurt Eichenwald the benefit of the doubt in one respect – he probably didn’t choose the inappropriate cartoon fetus on the cover of this week’s Newsweek to illustrate his cover article: America’s Abortion Wars (and How to End Them).  Abortion is not really about fetuses. It’s about women – what’s at stake in the abortion issue above all is women’s rights, lives, health, freedom, and dignity. 

Eichenwald’s article makes many strong arguments, but they are not original and his overall framing is offensively wrong. He paints both sides as extremists and complains about the “hypocrisy” and “flaws” in both sides. Yet, he fails to point out a single problem with the pro-choice position. Instead, he spends most of his article attacking the anti-choice side, while agreeing several times with the pro-choice side. I guess that makes Eichenwald an extremist too, just like the rest of us who defend truth and justice. 

Eichenwald does make an attempt to compare the twin evils of pro-choice and anti-choice rhetoric. A feminist calling a guy a “mansplainer” is just as hyperbolic as an anti-abortion person calling a doctor a “baby killer.”  Right, no difference there – they're both so incendiary. Although when’s the last time you heard about a deranged feminist going on a murderous shooting rampage against mansplainers? 

It’s not possible to find common ground with anti-choice fanatics and terrorists. They must be strongly opposed as a threat to our lives and freedoms. Let’s get a few other things straight, too:
  • Being against terrorists who kill people at abortion clinics is not an “absolutist” position.
  • Defending women’s lives and health is not an “absolutist” position.
  • Supporting constitutional freedoms for women (and everyone else), such as privacy, conscience, religion, speech, etc. is not an “absolutist” position.
  • Anti-choice ideology relies on religious dogma and doctrine, which are absolutist. The pro-choice view is steeped in the Enlightenment values of tolerance, secularism, autonomy, and universal rights.
  • Religious belief and fanaticism do not occupy the same playing field as evidence-based medicine.
  • The misogyny inherent to the anti-choice position is not morally equivalent to the respect and compassion extended to women and their families by abortion providers and the pro-choice movement.

There is also no “rational middle” in the abortion issue. Eichenwald probably means the “muddled middle”, a segment of the public that is unfortunately misinformed because it’s been fed too much anti-choice propaganda and tends to distrust women. Pro-choice is already the broad middle ground, the democratic position, the reasonable and rational position. Indeed, the pro-choice movement found the best solution to the abortion issue long ago and has been trying to put it into practice ever since: safe and accessible abortion without stigma and discrimination. 

The author expects people to open their wallets to help women have babies they can’t afford, but it’s delusional to expect private charity to prevent most or even some abortions.  Individuals can’t be financially responsible for helping a million women a year in the U.S. – on that scale, the problem becomes a societal and government responsibility. More importantly, many women having abortions don’t want to go through pregnancy or have a baby at all, regardless of finances. Not to mention that full-term pregnancy comes with medical risks and negative side effects and major disruptions to a woman’s life. And even when unintended pregnancies are carried to term, the vast majority of women won't give up the baby for adoption.

When the author recommends increases to the minimum wage, funded daycare, free healthcare and the like, he is simply talking about Reproductive Justice. Eichenwald seems to believe he conceived all this by himself just last week, which is offensive to say the least. Reproductive Justice was developed over two decades ago by Sistersong, a group of women of color in the U.S., and it has been widely adopted by the pro-choice movement in North America. It is the feminist movement’s solution to the "abortion wars", not the author’s.

Shame on Kurt Eichenwald for equating anti-choice extremist rhetoric and terrorism with the progressive, pro-choice values shared by a majority of Americans. Shame on him for being ignorant of history and feminism, and for failing to give credit where credit is due – especially to women of color. Dare I say it?  Eichenwald’s entire article is a classic example of mansplaining.

Labels: , , , , , ,