Bush has selected his nominee. And though I’d rather write about this book (sweet, succinct, sublime, superior and scintillating) or this movie (deliberately paced, yes, but vastly underrated and absolutely excellent) or the patio project that is underway in our backyard, or the poem I wrote on Monday (the ending is clichéd, but it still has promise) or my utter and inalterable hatred of the New York Yankees, I’ll write instead about abortion.
Here are the truths as I see them:
Eliminating abortion is impossible. It will never happen. Never. Ever.
Reducing abortion as much as possible is an admirable goal; held by both the pro-choice community and the anti-choice group.
Energy spent making abortion inconvenient would be better spent in making it less necessary.
Say what you want about abortion these days, it is safe and legal.
The anti-choice movement lacks imagination, and could direct its energy in ways that, instead of making abortions difficult to get, would make them less common, but it chooses not to do it. People like Eric Rudolph exemplify this lack of imagination at its most extreme. The same logicians that give you "killing abortionist will prevent abortions;" give you "making abortion illegal will prevent abortions."
In fact, many actions of the anti-choice community lead to more abortions (anti-choicers are sometimes anti-birth control too, they sometimes support messages that prevent adequate education to teens on health and sexuality, they often oppose legislation that would make RU 486 (which, depending on when it is taken is not an aborting pill, but a pill that prevents conception) available, they sometimes work as (or support) pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control and other lawful medications, they march at clinics and injure or kill those who work in them, thereby inspiring scores of people to support women, to provide those services, and to make abortion available in rural communities).
The Supreme Court, over the course of the next several years will probably restrict abortion (a.k.a. make it more inconvenient) and may overturn Roe v. Wade. They may, in fact, make abortion a state-by-state issue. This will make abortions more difficult for women to get. Also, this will stimulate the travel industry in progressive northern and coastal states.
Making abortion illegal in the United States (were that ever to happen) would have little or no effect on the abortion rate. It will have a significant impact on the setting for abortions - they will move from clinics and hospitals to less sterile environments.
Interestingly, countries where abortion is illegal, on the average, have a higher abortion rate than countries where it is legal. Source. Here’s another source focusing on the importance of education to the teen pregnancy and abortion rate.
This will make it a hassle for middle class (and wealthier) women to have abortions, but they will still have them. It will make it much more difficult for lower income and poor women to have abortions, but many of them will still have them.
But lower income and poor women will have them in unsafe conditions.
It will also undermine our ability to track the rate of abortions and monitor how successful we are in our efforts to reduce the number of abortions. Abortions will go underground.
Women will be harmed by limitations on this health right. Hospitalizations for abortion related injuries will increase (see the Source cited above; in countries where abortions are illegal, they track abortion rates in part by tracking the number of abortion related hospitalizations (nice)).
More practical and effective means to limit the number of abortions will continue to languish in obscurity.
For some reason this morning, on learning of Bush’s nominee (My flight got home late last night, and I missed the hoopla), I was phlegmatic. I’m getting to the point where I really feel that the only way we are going to make a return to intelligence and compassion is to let stupidity have its day. There are some conclusions that are inevitable, but we can ignore all that and just imagine that everything is wonderful. You want to make abortion illegal? Okay fine. And yes, the world will be better as a result. Zillions of babies will be saved (hooray for us!); go ahead and believe that (in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary). You want to make physician assisted suicide illegal? Go ahead. We won’t have to worry about incarcerating the dead for violating the law because they’re dead! Instead we'll lock up their grieving relatives! And besides, when it’s illegal, no one will ever choose to hasten their inevitable death and there will be the yippy bippy skippy culture of life all the time unless someone tries to buy uranium in Africa even though they didn’t, in which case it’s the culture of war comin’ at cha (but fear not, we’ll be welcomed as liberators!). yeah, right! While we’re at it: Karl Rove and Tom DeLay are patriotic; Judith Miller and Paul O’Neill are traitors; the war is just; we are winning the war; democracy is going to spread in the Middle East; there were weapons of mass destruction and our good and noble President saved us from eminent attack from a credible and formidable foe; there’s nothing wrong with a little torture - besides, it’s all going to lead to freedom (or is it liberty?); the economy is good; it’s okay when pensions are stripped from people who worked decades to earn them; the government should do nothing about it (because what’s good for corporations is good for the citizens too); Terri Schiavo could follow balloons and was going to make a return to health; we need to post the ten commandments in public places; allowing same sex marriage will lead to our ruin; it’s good to cut military pay; the House energy bill is a great idea; the Kyoto protocols are a bad idea; even though the government published statistics today that are to the contrary, child poverty is not increasing; even it if was (which it isn't) that’s no big deal; and, we all just need to keep believing life is good, and we are heading in the right direction and our leaders have our best interests in mind. Whatever. Have your day. Ruin everything and call us later when you can’t drink water or breathe the air or get your child out of the military or get your pension, or make a living wage.
Okay, so maybe phlegmatic is not the right word.