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Abortion Advocacy Gets Ugly

WEB Abortion on Demand Ken Fager

Ken Fager

Susan E. Wills - published on 08/24/14

As the appeal of "choice" wanes, abortion promoters seek new ways to keep abortion legal.

What’s the toughest job in America?

Not motherhood. That’s a breeze compared to the job of rebranding abortion, now that the country has awakened to the humanity of babies in utero and is discovering the terrible, silent grief carried by the many millions of women who once believed the lie that abortion was nothing more than a “choice.”

The “pro-choice” slogan served the abortion industry well for decades, capped off with its adoption by NARAL in 2003, when it became NARAL Pro-Choice America, abandoning a commonality in its three earlier names, all of which included  the “A” word. From that point, many of the NARAL ads and promotional pieces prominently featured American flags and the head of the statue of liberty (which is still in their logo). Really, what could be more American than having a dizzying array of choices? Just check out the cereal aisle.

The weakness of pro-choice as a brand was, of course, inherent. While “pro-choice” appears to be perfect for our time—tolerant of all views and nonjudgmental (“I’m not in favor of abortion and would never have one personally, but I think every woman should be able to make that choice for herself”)—the problem is that choice implies an object or action to select over other objects or actions. And, unlike the cereal aisle, there are only two possible choices regarding an unwanted pregnancy: the child’s life or death.

In, time, the pro-life community won over a sizeable majority of Americans to the view that a choice involving the death of an innocent human being is not a choice they can rally behind.

Especially the youth who are an idealistic bunch. The cracks in the pro-choice façade were becoming obvious by 2010 when Nancy Keenan, NARAL’s president, referred to herself in a Newsweek interview as part of the “postmenopausal militia.” She confessed her shock at “stumbling” upon the 2010 March for Life in Washington (400,000 or so strong) and finding that “they are so young. There are so many of them, and they are so young.”

It served as quite a contrast to the counter-demonstration of about 2 dozen women carrying placards (depicting coat-hangers) in front of the Supreme Court building. NARAL’s own research was even more troubling: among pro-life women under-30, 51% thought abortion was a “very important” issues. Among pro-choice women under 30, only 26% saw it as “very important.”

How to recapture the youth and stem the tide of state pro-life laws is a tall order. The phenomenally well-funded Emily’s List—which in 2012 spent close to $8 million on pro-abortion female candidates and against pro-life ones—has produced a “tool-kit” for “candidates and activists” of the pro-abortion persuasion to stress anything-but-abortion-rights: “economic policies for women, including paid leave, higher minimum wage, equal pay … and birth control coverage,” according to the New York Times.  

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), and Dawn  Laguens, in charge of PPFA’s political advocacy arm, also urge moving away from the words abortion and choice in favor of more broadly acceptable appeals to “access to health care,” “women’s health” and “economic security.” Such approach may get abortion supporters elected under the radar, but it does nothing to enhance the perception of abortion as a good thing.

There are other voices among abortion supporters who are showing growing impatience with the vague “choice” branding and anything-but-abortion strategy. And they’ve introduced a new “ugly” into abortion advocacy.

Janet Harris, in a recent Washington Post op-ed entitled
"Stop Calling Abortion a Difficult Decision,” urges that supporters of abortion concede nothing. To describe the decision as difficult—as Hillary Clinton and many others have done—is to admit that there is a moral dimension to taking the life of an unborn child. To Harris and others, there is no moral dimension, there is only MY WILL. Harris cites her own non-conflicted decision at 18, on discovering she was pregnant:

“The question wasn’t ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ but ‘How quickly can I get this over with.’ ” 

Jessica Valenti, writing in The Guardian on July 9th, took Hillary Clinton to task for using that so far effective formula: abortions should be “safe, legal and rare.” Rare, she believes, contributes to the stigma surrounding abortion (which, of course, has nothing to do with what abortion is). And she cites lots of support for this viewpoint:

In a 2010 research article, Dr Tracy Weitz, Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) program at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote that ‘rare suggests that abortion is happening more than it should, and that there are some conditions for which abortions should and should not occur.’

" ‘It separates "good’" abortions from ‘bad’ abortions,’ she added."

“Steph Herold, the deputy director of the Sea Change Program – an organization that seeks to create a culture change around abortion and other stigmatized reproductive experiences like miscarriage and adoption – agrees. ‘It implies that abortion is somehow different than other parts of healthcare, she told me. ‘We don’t say that any other medical procedure should be rare.’

" ‘We don’t say that we want heart bypasses to be rare. We say we want people to be healthy,’ Herold said.”

The same attitude was evident in a recent decision by California Governor Jerry Brown’s Department of Managed Health Care. The Department’s director, Michelle Rouillard, recently wrote to two Catholic universities in California to advise them of a policy reversal. They would have to include abortion coverage in their employee’s healthcare plans. Rouillard explained in the letter that “Abortion is a basic health care service” and a 1975 state law requires  “group health plans to cover all basic services.”

So clearly the abortion movement is divided into two irreconcilable camps. In order to preserve the legal “right” to abortion, it’s essential to keep electing people who support abortion. That means winning over the hearts of young voters due to the dwindling size of the postmenopausal militia.

The anything-but-abortion approach of NARAL and Emily’s List may well put abortion supporters in office, but it won’t win the battle of hearts—as pro-life has captured the hearts and minds of young America—because they dare not even mention the “A” word.

Keeping a pro-abortion majority, as in California, demonstrates how a government can impose its values on citizens in the most radical way—forcing Catholic institutions to provide the means for abortion services. So once in power, one can be pretty brazen. But being brazen before getting into power is problematic.

The other group, taking a confrontational approach, is aimed at destigmatizing and mainstreaming abortion. That’s been a goal since the 1960s and it has made no discernible progress in the past 50 years. That was the hope of RU-486—take a pill in a doctor’s office and induce a “miscarriage.” Much more “medical” than clinic butchery.

I think and pray that Americans will never buy into the newer, uglier approach to abortion advocacy. We now know through the ubiquity of ultrasound imaging that abortion is not basic healthcare. It is not the removal of a tumor or a life-saving heart bypass. It’s killing, in a brutal fashion. We get quite enough of that on the nightly news. The deed is repulsive and so is the new cavalier "on demand and without apology" attitude toward an innocent life.

Susan E. Willsis Spirituality Editor of Aleteia’s English edition.   

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