“Pro-Life:” Not What You Think It Means


On this week’s podcast, I interview Jessica Grose, who wrote an excellent article for Slate explaining why the Gallup polling that shows a jump in the number of Americans who identify as “pro-life” doesn’t necessarily mean what it might seem to initially.  After all, while 47% of Americans embraced the label “pro-life”, the number of Americans who thought abortion was “morally wrong” actually declined, and support for the right to abortion remains high.  So high, in fact, that the only logical conclusion is that some people who identify as “pro-life” must support the right to abortion. 

In other words, the term “pro-life” is more of a tribal identifier or a feel-good term than it is a political stance.  This become only clear when you consider that pro-life activists tend to follow the lead of the Vatican (even if they’re Protestant) and object to all forms of fertility control that offer women a reasonable amount of control over their own bodies.  If they had their way, women wouldn’t have condoms or the pill or diaphragms or anything besides the rhythm method, one that sows discontent in marriages because it turns sex into a scheduled event instead of a spontaneous demonstration of affection.  It’s basically impossible for most self-identified “pro-life” people to agree with objections to legal contraception. Daily Kos’s poll of Republicans found that 31% wanted contraception outlawed.  That sounds like a lot initially, but that was only amongst Republicans, who are usually far more conservative than the rest of the country. Most people who call themselves “pro-life” flout the movement to use and support the use of contraception.

So when anti-choice organizations advertise this Gallup polling as evidence of their success, we have to note that they’re exaggerating their own effectiveness.  They may be able to guilt and cajole people into adopting a feel-good term like “pro-life”, but they haven’t been effective in getting Americans to support outlawing abortion, much less contraception.  They’ve even failed in their mission to get Americans to support abstinence-only education, i.e. tricking sexually active kids into not using the hated contraception. 

Most people are quite capable of adopting feel-good labels for themselves without following it up with action or even belief.  Consider how many conservative women like Sarah Palin claim to be “feminists”, even though they object to pretty much everything that actual feminists work for.  That’s the problem with labels—there’s no minimum standard you have to meet to take one on.  When someone calls herself “pro-life”, that is as likely as not to mean “I want you to think of me as a sexually modest person who loves rainbows and babies”, and doesn’t necessarily mean that the person wearing the label supports banning abortion, refrains from premarital sex, objects to contraception, or will never have an abortion herself.  It means mainly that the anti-choice movement has been effective at creating and disseminating a feel-good label.

None of this, however, means that pro-choicers should entirely dismiss the Gallup poll. One of the things that alarm me about the dissemination of the “pro-life” label is that it does work well in increasing the stigma attached to abortion.  And as Carole Joffe demonstrated in her book Dispatches From The Abortion Wars, when abortion is stigmatized, even people that support the right become afraid to defend it.  And that allows a small but vocal misogynist, hard line minority to push through increasingly miserable restrictions.  Someone who identifies as “pro-life” and still wants legal abortion and contraception is simply less likely to stand up against those who would restrict it.  She doesn’t want to be tarred with the brush activist anti-choicers use against those who support reproductive rights—that we’re sluts and users and anti-family. 

The widespread popularity of the term “pro-life” indicates above all that anti-choicers have been successful in intimidating the American population into caring what they think about us.  You certainly see this in the mainstream media coverage of the abortion wars.  Journalists and pundits pander to the notion that the anti-choice movement is composed of a group of people with deeply felt moral convictions that should be respected, instead of portraying them accurately as wild-eyed fanatics who have convinced themselves that they can get people to quit having sex through enough legal restriction of reproductive health care and education.  The widespread popularity of the term “pro-life” also owes a lot to this mincing media coverage.  Your average member of the public has no way of knowing how radical the movement is that they align themselves with when they call themselves “pro-life.”  If more people understood that activists use the term to indicate a hard-line position against legal abortion and contraception, way more people would abandon the term.

What to do about it?  Pro-choicers tend to navel gaze when it comes to dealing with the propaganda machine that created the term “pro-life”.  We want to come up with an equally good term and compete with them on their level.  Generally speaking, I think this is a bad idea.  Pro-choicers can’t ever really compete with anti-choicers on the same plane—we don’t have the same stomach for misrepresentation and intimidation as they do, nor should we want those things.  Instead of trying to win a propaganda war against an opposition that doesn’t feel constrained by the ethical responsibility to be honest, we should instead look to making it harder for anti-choicers to mislead the public on who they are.  And we should start by pressuring the mainstream media to drop the use of the fuzzy, meaningless term “pro-life,” and replace it with more accurate terms such as “opponents of legal abortion,” “anti-contraception” or “anti-choice.” 

NPR has already taken this step.  Opponents and supporters of abortion rights will be referred to with those terms, instead of “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”  It’s a good first step, and hopefully NPR will continue down this path of embracing accuracy and start covering the way that the anti-choice movement also fights sex education and legal contraception.    

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  • harry834

    on the NPR link, but that seems ok with me, at least for now.

  • bei1052

    I will, however, point out that the following statement:

     

    …wild-eyed fanatics who have convinced themselves that they can get people to quit having sex through enough legal restriction of reproductive health care and education.

     

    Is so ridiculous on its face, is an overly blatant straw man and is such a lie, I can’t believe that Zeus didn’t strike you down with a bolt of lightning for typing the above out.

  • prochoiceferret

    I don’t have time to point out every flaw in the above article

    Yes, fabricating a “pro-life” denunciation would take some time and effort. Perhaps you could take the shortcut of cutting and pasting from a Lifesite article?

    Is so ridiculous on its face, is an overly blatant straw man and is such a lie, I can’t believe that Zeus didn’t strike you down with a bolt of lightning for typing the above out.

    Well, okay. They don’t mind it when married people have sex to make babies (or at least leave open the possibility of baby-making). Everything else, however, they want to put the kibosh on tout suite.

  • bei1052

    Yes, fabricating a “pro-life” denunciation would take some time and effort. Perhaps you could take the shortcut of cutting and pasting from a Lifesite article?

     

    Glad to see you’re still trying hard. Unfortunately, people don’t get rewarded for effort.

     

    …But since you asked, no, I don’t feel like taking an hour or two detailing why the above article is in so many ways wrong, when people (and animals) will simply disregard the bulk of it and go off on some unrelated rant about misogyny and the like.

     

    Well, okay. They don’t mind it when married people have sex to make babies (or at least leave open the possibility of baby-making). Everything else, however, they want to put the kibosh on tout suite.

     

    [citation needed]

     

    (Yeah, good luck with that, ‘cuz a quick Google search nets enough to prove you wrong.)

  • princess-rot

    They don’t mind it when married people have sex to make babies (or at least leave open the possibility of baby-making).

    Only middle-class white people, PCF. Oh, and possibly poor whites, too, if only to create an overflowing pool of cheap and exploitable labor so they don’t have to hire immigrants, and adorable white infants for middle-class infertile couples to adopt. Non-white poor women can take a hike, as far as they are concerned. I am surprised that self-identified pro-lifers on this site do not make the logical connection that if you support forced pregnancy, the flip side of that is coerced and forced sterilization and adoption. This is not flippancy, because it has happened and continues to happen (CPCs demanding that poor women hand over their babies or have to pay back thousands of dollars for all the medical attention and board they received, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?). If you deem women unfit to gestate “correctly” without outside influence, it is also possible to deem them unfit to parent. If they’re concerned about the babies, why aren’t pro-lifers up in arms about parenting rights? Or making sure minority, immigrant and poor children get free medical assistance and education?

  • amanda-marcotte

    So what’s your opinion on a woman who has had 40 or so sex partners, played it safe and has successfully avoided STDs or abortion, and cheerfully says that while she’s had offers, she’s not interested in getting married now?  Answer honestly, please.  Then we can talk about whether or not this is about sex.

    • catseye71352

      That was _me_ 20 years ago. And here I am; still fat, happy, single, and in control of my life.

       

      Blessings!

  • amanda-marcotte

    Let’s talk abstinence-only.  One of the main reasons that abortions happen is that women don’t use contraception as consistently as they should.  The reason for this is they often don’t know how to use it properly, or they feel ashamed to be having sex and so aren’t prepared.  A solid program of comprehensive sex education could attack the shame and ignorance that lead to so many unintended pregnancies and therefore abortions.  So, if you’re not in this because of sex-phobia, I expect you fully support comprehensive sex education in all 12 grades, correct?

     

    Also, some nations are finding that they do well by backing this up with federally subsidized contraception that makes access simple (in some parts of France, they had out condoms and emergency contraception in the streets!) and inexpensive.  Surely,  if this was about stopping abortion and not sex, you feel that every bathroom, bar, and convenience store should be stocked with free condoms provided by the government, right?

  • invalid-0

    Instead of trying to win a propaganda war [...] we should start by pressuring the mainstream media…”

    Outstanding.

  • emma

    Just the fact that so many anti-abortion Americans seem to be self-identified conservatives who worship the military and support any and every military adventure in which the American government chooses to engage; who support the death penalty; who support torture; who oppose universal health care and all forms of income support, and so on and so forth, indicates to me that the term ‘pro-life’ is absolutely meaningless. Those who use the term to describe themselves are generally the most rabid supporters of the most sadistic, murderous, inhumane policies. They’re anti-abortion, but they’re most certainly not pro-life.

  • gordon

    For an example of what “pro-life” really means to “pro-lifers”, I highly recommend an op-ed piece by one Marc A. Thiessen in the 4/19 issue of The Washington Post titled “Bringing humanity back to the abortion debate”. 

     

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/19/AR2010041902082.html

     

    The piece is an unapologetic defense of Nebraska’s recent Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (which has been widely exposed on RH Reality Check and elsewhere for the fraud that it is).  Like other anti-choice screeds before it, this one contains not a single word about the humanity of the pregnant woman.  The well-being of her spouse and children?  No.  Her pain?  No.  Her physical and mental health?  No.  The value of her life?  No.

     

    I consider myself articulate, but words fail me when I try to describe the authors of these misogynist rants.  Pro-life, however, they are definitely not.  Perhaps we should all take the time to explain that to the next anti-abortion zealot we encounter who makes that claim for himself.

  • prochoiceferret

    Glad to see you’re still trying hard. Unfortunately, people don’t get rewarded for effort.

    Which is why you’re putting in none, apparently.

    …But since you asked, no, I don’t feel like taking an hour or two detailing why the above article is in so many ways wrong, when people (and animals) will simply disregard the bulk of it and go off on some unrelated rant about misogyny and the like.

    Well, naturally, since you believe that misogyny has nothing to do with it. (The rulers of Saudi Arabia who prohibit women from driving cars also believe that misogyny is neither here nor there.)

    [citation needed]

     

    (Yeah, good luck with that, ‘cuz a quick Google search nets enough to prove you wrong.)

    Well, okay, if you consider the forced sterilization of “undesirables” (thank you Princess Rot :-) Are there other exceptions you would like to bring up?

  • bei1052

    Who is this comment aimed at?

  • bei1052

    Which is why you’re putting in none, apparently.

     

    I’m putting in as much effort as is needed.

     

    Well, naturally, since you believe that misogyny has nothing to do with it. (The rulers of Saudi Arabia who prohibit women from driving cars also believe that misogyny is neither here nor there.)

     

    Well, considering how both men and women are similiar regarding their views on abortion, you’re going to have a hell of a time playing the misogyny card. Unless, of course, you’re telling me that a plurality of women are self-hating.

     

    Well, okay, if you consider the forced sterilization of “undesirables” (thank you Princess Rot :-) Are there other exceptions you would like to bring up?

     

    I didn’t know pro-lifers were for the forced sterilization of anyone. My mistake. And I’m still waiting for that citation.

  • bei1052

    Sounds fine to me. Any other questions?

  • prochoiceferret

    Well, considering how both men and women are similiar regarding their views on abortion, you’re going to have a hell of a time playing the misogyny card. Unless, of course, you’re telling me that a plurality of women are self-hating.

    Yes, it’s not like people ever internalize prejudice and negative attitudes about their own group. There have never been, say, slaves who defended slavery, or women who agreed that women shouldn’t be able to vote.

    I didn’t know pro-lifers were for the forced sterilization of anyone. My mistake.

    Well, you learn something new every day:

    Given permission to go on a misogynist spree, conservatives took the bait.  Roy Edroso detailed various right wingers declaring that they would like to brand single teenage mothers with scarlet letters to shame them, have them sterilized against their will, and otherwise punish them, with hints that prison for sexually active girls isn’t out of the question.  Hollywood was blamed.  Hands were wrung.  TV reporters waxed sorrowful over the poor boys tricked into this procreative sex.  It was all nonsense.

     

    http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/07/07/the-myth-of-pregnancy-pacts

     

    And I’m still waiting for that citation.

    Sorry, I’m only putting in as much effort as is needed.

  • amanda-marcotte

    But I’m serious.  If being “pro-life” isn’t about being anti-sex, let’s talk about your feelings on sexual liberation, how you support it, how you think contraception should be handed out on the street, etc.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Then you wouldn’t be “pro-life” as defined by any single anti-abortion organization out there, all of which currently are quietly to openly hostile to legal contraception, especially female controlled contraception.

     

    Here’s today’s fun time reading, for instance: The National Review’s Kathryn Lopez denouncing the pill.

  • crowepps

    Lopez’s article can be accessed directly at:

     

    http://article.nationalreview.com/434242/raquel-welchs-sexiest-storyline-yet/kathryn-jean-lopez

     

    A few points:

    The feminist movement has a lot to answer for when it comes to the open and enthusiastic embrace it gave the contraceptive mentality, which interferes with a woman’s relationship with her own body, never mind her relationships with men. Of course, many of the women of the “sexual revolution” generation paid the price in their own lives — they found that their best fertility days were gone by the time they realized they wanted to be women, not women suppressing that which makes them most creative.

    The ‘contraceptive mentality’ which allows women to escape the control of their own bodies.  Golly, we sure can’t have that.  After all, then she can escape the control of men.

     

    Why is Lopez, who apparently is a childless woman in her 30′s, an authority on having children? Why is she channeling HER creativity into conservative commentary?  If she were a REAL woman she would have 8 kids by now.

     

    Second, the idea that women are at their “most creative” when biologically reproducing is outright stupid. I might agree if she was talking about RAISING children, but there isn’t anything particularly ‘creative’ about being pregnant.   And since most married women with children use birth control, I certainly don’t see any basis for the idea that women using birth control don’t “want to be women”.  They ARE women, with children, who don’t want more.

    Welch continued, “A woman is wonderful thing. We are a real prize to be won. It’s not an easy role to play, but a beautiful and powerful one.” The late John Paul II called it the “feminine genius.” She also talks about other “traditional” ideas that have been out of style in elite culture, the two-parent family and marriage — despite her own admitted failings on these fronts.

    I do not think a woman is a ‘wonderful thing and do not believe women are ‘a real prize to be won’. I think they are PEOPLE. And I don’t want to hear all about how sacred marriage is from a woman who’s failed at marriage four times.

    But the truth is that motherhood is at the heart of what it means to be a woman, and, for decades now, the pill has been trying to deny that reality. Mind you, you don’t have to have children to be in tune with that great gift to the world, but you do have to know it, acknowledge it, and not pop a pill the purpose of which is to treat fertility as if it were a disease rather than a tremendous power.

    Oh, geez, so again, women who don’t have children aren’t ‘real women’ and the place where women appropriately have “tremendous power” is their ability to get pregnant and women don’t actually have to HAVE children but they have to know and acknowledge that they SHOULD have children (but never have them unless they’re married and never have sex unless they want to get pregnant).

     

    Considering the history of how women have been treated over the centuries by the Church and how hard they had to struggle to be treated as more than domestic slaves, this is just enormously sad. We might as well perform lobotomies on all women so they won’t have all those pesky THOUGHTS in their heads and can believe their life course is defined by their possession of a uterus.  After all, they can pregnant and be “tremendously creative” even in a coma and they’ll still be smart enough to do housework without their frontal lobes.  Then we can all go back to the “good old days” before women like Lopez were allowed to learn to read, go to college or live independently while holding down jobs as shills for the Heritage Foundation.

  • invalid-0

    For clarification, the groups Amanda is referring to by and large have no objection to the legalization of contraception – they discourage its use on morality grounds.

    Given that it’s – at best – hopeful, and – at worst – stupid to hand out contraceptives to kids as young as 12 thinking that no unwanted pregnancies will occur as a result (yes, even with “comprehensive education”), the argument that pro-life groups MUST support your idea of sex education is a red herring.

    I personally don’t think that government should hand out contraceptives in middle and high schools.  Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I’m not.  Whatever.  Amanda, would you agree to a law which mandated free contraception to every teen in America, but also outlawed abortion?  If you can agree to that, so will I.  And I’ll bet you a milkshake that just about every group you’re referring to would agree as well.  Then we’ll see who’s really got the agenda here.

  • deb-r

    and as we see in another post “the oily logic of right wing family values”–the so called pro-life people are often the most anti-environmental of anyone! pollution of all kinds has a worse effect on fetuses and newborn babies than the rest of the population–including death! Yet you don’t see them on the pro life side of these issues–so it certainly seems to have more to do with controling sex and women’s bodies than about the fetus.

  • bei1052

    Yes, it’s not like people ever internalize prejudice and negative attitudes about their own group. There have never been, say, slaves who defended slavery, or women who agreed that women shouldn’t be able to vote.

     

    More slaves believed they should be slaves then should be free? More women believed they shouldn’t vote then they should be allowed to vote? I’m going to take a total stab at the dark here, and say “no”. See, your contention works for a small portion of a group, not a plurality (Yeah, look that word up) of a group. As is per usual, you’re totally trying to grasp at straws, disregarding those arguments which don’t suit you, much like you did with the whole “those over 65 being the least supportive of abortion” thing. But I can’t fault you any.

     

    Sorry, I’m only putting in as much effort as is needed.

     

    Which, apparently, is a lot less then what you think is needed. At any rate, do you have a link to something which isn’t a podcast which has some kind of actual, you know, evidence and not just hearsay?

  • bei1052

    Asking who a question is aimed at constitutes a “dodge”. Ugh, right…

     

    Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t care who people sleep with and how many partners they have, nor do I oppose contraceptives. Now, I’m guessing you were trying to make some point, but I’m not seeing it.

  • bei1052

    Then you wouldn’t be “pro-life” as defined by any single anti-abortion organization out there, all of which currently are quietly to openly hostile to legal contraception, especially female controlled contraception.

     

    Wait… So you’re defining what it means to be pro-life, then projecting that definition onto another organization, and then claiming that by that organization’s standards I’m not pro-life? You do see the problem there, don’t you?

    • jen-r

      Sort of a reverse “No true Scotsman” argument.

  • bei1052

    Amanda, would you agree to a law which mandated free contraception to every teen in America, but also outlawed abortion?  If you can agree to that, so will I. And I’ll bet you a milkshake that just about every group you’re referring to would agree as well.  Then we’ll see who’s really got the agenda here.

     

    I remember making a similar comment on another thread, but no one bothered to respond.

    • amyc

      No, I would not agree to that. I was pregnant myself two years ago. I was using contraception. I found out I was pregnant when i went to the doctor because I was bleeding. I was having a miscarriage. Technically, my body was spontaneously aborting. Since I wasn’t very far into the pregnancy they gave me a pill to make sure that the “abortion” was completed with no complications. I had to go back two days later to make sure there was nothing left. If abortion were made illegal, then I would have been left in a hospital bed to bleed until my body finished expelling it’s unwanted contents. That could have been very dangerous. It can lead to infections. In any case, there are some women who just don’t feel that they can have a child at that point in their life. Rather than add yet another child to the adoption circus, they opt for an abortion. Then there are those who already have children; another child could take away precious resources that woman’s present children desperately need. My sister is ardently “pro-life”, even so a few years ago while her marriage was on the rocks (they have reconciled), she thought she was pregnant. She intimated to me that if she was that she would get an abortion, because she could not afford to have four children and be a single mom. She had already seen what happened to our own mother–she did not want her own children going through that. As it happens, she wasn’t pregnant, and her husband came crawling back.

      There are many situations in which having an abortion is seen as the best option. I cannot possibly go through each one here–mainly because every woman has one for her own reason (and that reason is justified in her mind). To outlaw abortion would trap many women into poverty or force them to find other methods of abortion. This is not wanted by anyone.

  • ahunt

    Oh for cryin’ out loud…

     

    Mind you, you don’t have to have children to be in tune with that great gift to the world, but you do have to know it, acknowledge it, and not pop a pill the purpose of which is to treat fertility as if it were a disease rather than a tremendous power.

     

    Speaking as a woman who could get pregnant with a sidelong glance from the Better Half…I can assure Ms Welch that there has never been a time when in my sexually active life when I was unaware of my fertility and the power it had to shape my life in ways I would not choose for myself. In that sense…I suppose fertility could be viewed as a chronic “condition” requiring astute management.

     

    “A woman is wonderful thing. We are a real prize to be won.

     

    Gagging here…but I suppose coming from a woman who made her chops a a sexual “thing,” one ought not to be surprised that she views all women as objects, and not persons.

     

    Crap! Just Crap!

  • prochoiceferret

    More slaves believed they should be slaves then should be free? More women believed they shouldn’t vote then they should be allowed to vote? I’m going to take a total stab at the dark here, and say “no”. See, your contention works for a small portion of a group, not a plurality (Yeah, look that word up) of a group.

    Why not a plurality? Is there something that limits the number of people within a group that can believe in attitudes harmful to their own interests? If you’re talking about attitudes borne from sexism, which has been a part of womens’ lives from the day they were born, why wouldn’t a large majority of women make peace with the system by conforming to it?

     

    If you seriously believe that it’s not possible for many women to accept misogynist beliefs, and even enforce them on others, then you have a lot to learn about how oppression works writ large.

     

    As is per usual, you’re totally trying to grasp at straws, disregarding those arguments which don’t suit you, much like you did with the whole “those over 65 being the least supportive of abortion” thing.

    No, your “people over 65 would be more supportive of abortion if it had really killed so many people back then” thing didn’t even pass the laugh test. You’re arguing against people who know what it was really like back then.

    At any rate, do you have a link to something which isn’t a podcast which has some kind of actual, you know, evidence and not just hearsay?

    Add this book (the link is an interview with the author) to your reading list:

     

    http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/08/04/demanding-right-reproduce-voluntary-and-forced-sterilization-america

     

  • crowepps

    If you and I were in total agreement right now just how would the two of us ‘prove’ you were right or wrong? Certainly the Catholic Church has made it clear that THEY aren’t going to agree to contraception of any type whatsoever, even in cases where the purpose of using condoms is to prevent a women from contracting HIV from an adulterous husband.

     

    In addition, even if contraception was free to everyone, every sexually active person used contraception perfectly and the only pregnancies that occurred were the wanted pregnancies (dropping the number of pregnancies by half), in the case of pregnancy complications therapeutic abortions would still be necessary to save the lives of women.

     

    A quarter of a million women would still have miscarriages which might require D&C abortions to prevent septicemia and ectopic pregnancy would continue to require as many as 30,000 interventions by RU-486.

     

    http://www.americanpregnancy.org/main/statistics.html

     

    It’s certainly much easier to communicate when you actually reveal your own take on this issue instead of just criticizing what you assume everybody else is thinking, but I believe you’re far too optimistic so far as the possibilities of what ”every group you’re referring to would agree to as well”.

  • crowepps

    If you’re talking about attitudes borne from sexism, which has been a part of womens’ lives from the day they were born, why wouldn’t a large majority of women make peace with the system by conforming to it?

    In addition to internalized oppression and internalized prejudice, there’s also exceptionalism and the jealousy/envy of older women whose attitude towards young women is “my life was miserable because I was conned into  tolerating this, so why should YOU get off the hook?”

     

    I can certainly see why an elderly woman who buckled under to a religion that encouraged her to ruin her health bearing 10 children and who gave up all her own personal interests in order to devote her life to raising those children wouldn’t necessarily be supportive of a younger woman choosing to have no or only a couple children and thus being able to fulfill her own personal ambitions.

  • mechashiva

    If you’re talking about attitudes borne from sexism, which has been a part of womens’ lives from the day they were born, why wouldn’t a large majority of women make peace with the system by conforming to it?

    I can speak on this one from first-hand experience. When I worked at an abortion clinic, if we had an Indian (as in from India) patient, it was almost always for a second-trimester sex-selective abortion. These women had internalized their culture’s message about the value of girls, and they came to terminate their female fetuses. When asked about contraception, they all said they intended to become pregnant again as quickly as possible, in hopes of having a boy next time. This made many members of the staff incredibly uncomfortable.

     

    I made peace with it by saying, “Who am I to tell each individual woman that she is responsible for bucking all the messages about gender that her culture has rammed into her head? Who am I to insist that she carry to term, even if I think her reasons for aborting are wrong?” That’s because… I’m pro-CHOICE. I apply the same kind of reasoning to anti-feminist women. Who am I to tell someone that they must relinquish parts of their culture that I find abhorrent, when I am not the one who would have to deal with the consequences?

  • ahunt

    Slam dunk, Mech….another example is the oft-repeated and consistant studies that women are just as likely to rate (insert whatever endeavor) higher when told that (inserted) was written/created/performed by a man.

  • emma

    The countries with the lowest abortion rates are those in which school kids are given comprehensive sex education and in which contraception is readily available and financially accessible. Those policies are much more effective at reducing abortion rates than abnning abortion is.

     

    For the record, comprehensive sex education does not involve telling students ‘hey, kids, go out and fuck everything that moves at as early an age as possible’. It includes all kinds of things like learning to negotiate healthy relationships and recognise abusive ones; learning that sex is a big step and it’s important to be sure that one is 100% ready before you engage in it, rather than allowing oneself to be pressured by partners or peers; and how to have sex safely once one is ready to take that step.

     

    Why are you opposed to measures that are demonstrably the most successful at lowering abortion rates? One would think that someone strongly opposed to abortion would want to use the most effective policies possible to reduce rates of unwanted pregnancy and therefore the need for abortion? That just does not make sense to me.

     

    And no, I wouldn’t support an abortion ban in exchange for distribution of an endless supply of condoms to everyone. Unwanted pregnancies would still occur, although at much lower rates, plus abortions are sometimes medically necessary (unless, I suppose, one takes the view that women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy should just die), besides which, I just don’t think abortion is wrong.

  • bei1052

    Why not a plurality? Is there something that limits the number of people within a group that can believe in attitudes harmful to their own interests? If you’re talking about attitudes borne from sexism, which has been a part of womens’ lives from the day they were born, why wouldn’t a large majority of women make peace with the system by conforming to it?

     

    Let’s ignore abortion for a moment. You cannot show me a system which is inherently oppressive to a certain class of people where a majority, or even plurality, of those people oppressed by that system willingly embrace it, and when offerred the chance to change it, don’t support that change. Not a one, henceforth my response to your slave/women voting example. Following your logic, those who are oppressed would forever be oppressed, as they would accept that oppression as normal. Using your logic, you cannot explain why the majority of slaves didn’t want to remain slaves (After all, they were borne from a society based on racism) or why the majority of women weren’t against the right to vote (After all, they were borne from a society based on sexism) as they should have conformed to said system. Indeed, that would be similar to women wanting to remain “oppressed” by opposing abortion.

     

    Of course, the reason you can’t explain anything is because your assertion is non-sensical, and runs contrary to both history and the real world.

     

    No, your “people over 65 would be more supportive of abortion if it had really killed so many people back then” thing didn’t even pass the laugh test. You’re arguing against people who know what it was really like back then.

     

    Oh, look. PCF pulling another straw man. Surprise surprise. Not that this matters or anything, but I do believe what I asked was that, if things were so bad back before 1973, why people over 65, who would be the most likely to remember the “bad old days” pre-1973, are the least supportive of abortion?

     

    See the difference between what I asked and what you wrote out? You should, but you probably don’t.

     

    Add this book (the link is an interview with the author) to your reading list:

     

    And as you can clearly see, that has everything to do with pro-lifers be for forced sterlization. Oh wait…

    • gopher

      Bei says:”Using your logic, you cannot explain why the majority of slaves didn’t want to remain slaves (After all, they were borne from a society based on racism) or why the majority of women weren’t against the right to vote (After all, they were borne from a society based on sexism) as they should have conformed to said system”

       

      http://www.tighsolas.ca/page16.html

      “ladies home journal 1909 against right to vote”

      ” The anti-suffrage groups in the U.S., for example, were mainly led by women.”

      http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/essay-06-04.html

      http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1156/women-reluctant-voters-after-suffrage-19th-amendment

      and you even have “modern” day women asking the question:

      http://ccostello.blogspot.com/2007/11/should-women-vote.html

      ” In a survey conducted ahead of the parliamentary elections held less than six months later, more than 60 percent of Bahraini women were opposed to the participation of women in the elections”

      http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/gulf-women-are-not-women%E2%80%99s-best-friends

       

      This elaborates on why:

      “”It is the nature of slavery to render its victims so abject that at last, fearing to be free, they multiply their own chains. You can liberate a freeman, but you cannot liberate a slave”
      -Halle, Louis J “

       

    • amyc

      Using your logic, you cannot explain why the majority of slaves didn’t want to remain slaves (After all, they were borne from a society based on racism) or why the majority of women weren’t against the right to vote (After all, they were borne from a society based on sexism) as they should have conformed to said system

       

      The African slave trade lasted for centuries (with Africans themselves selling other Africans). It took the American Civil War to end it–not a slave uprising. And there were in fact slaves who fought for the South–although they were usually forced to do so. It’s not that the slaves did not want freedom; the point is that they were oppressed so much that they did not believe they could have/deserved freedom. Even in the hundred years after slavery ended, blacks were still oppressed. Some of them felt they deserved the indignity. It took one hundred years for them to fully gain all of their rights as humans. That’s why it’s called oppression.

      Female activists started trying to gain the right to vote, among other rights, in the mid-19th century. They were inspired by the abolitionist movement. Why in the world–if the movement started in the 19th century–did it take until 1920 for women to gain suffrage? Because many prominent women were against it and fought against it. These women actually believed what they were told during their patriarchal, mysogynist upbringing–so much so that they fought against their own interest (kind of reminds me of the tea partiers these days). It took so long because the women who were fighting for their rights had to work to change the mind of the status quo. Again this is similar to blacks gaining their total freedom.

      Oppression doesn’t work if the oppressed feel empowered. The only way for oppression to truly work is to convince those you are oppressing that they deserve it/it’s not really oppression/it’s for their or society’s own good. This is something that happens to many peoples who are oppressed. It happened with blacks and women (and other groups) in America. It happened in India during the British colonial days (that’s why Britain remained in control until the 20th century). It’s a phenomenon where the oppressed actually begin to believe what their oppressors tell them. It happened to many Jewish people during WWII. It could easily be said that it is happening now in the abortion debates.

      Many women/girls are brought up to believe that abortion is all about baby killing and that there is never an acceptable reason to get an abortion. I myself was told all the way through high school (and I even believed it for a while) that abortion should not be allowed even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. I was brought up to believe that if I was raped then the “child” should not suffer the consequences of the rapist–no matter what type of psychological trauma I might be put through. I was also taught that if I was pregnant and had to decide between my life and the baby, that I should choose to die and let the baby live. I was told this was noble.

      Now I see that it was an example of an oppressed person being taught to believe her/his oppressors.

  • bei1052

    The countries with the lowest abortion rates are those in which school kids are given comprehensive sex education and in which contraception is readily available and financially accessible. Those policies are much more effective at reducing abortion rates than abnning abortion is.

     

    Both Poland and Ireland disagree with the last sentence. And that’s just off the top of my head.

  • prochoiceferret

    You cannot show me a system which is inherently oppressive to a certain class of people where a majority, or even plurality, of those people oppressed by that system willingly embrace it, and when offerred the chance to change it, don’t support that change.

    Offered the chance, how? By turning their backs on the only way of life they’ve known, and with it the good graces of nearly all their social relations? Are you aware of how much scorn feminists receive in our society, and in general women who do not follow the script expected of them? Do you really believe that you can reject a social system that exists all around you without paying a heavy price?

    Of course, the reason you can’t explain anything is because your assertion is non-sensical, and runs contrary to both history and the real world.

    Of course. We only have multiple people here who have not only experienced internalized oppression firsthand, but also have decades of real-life experience beyond your time on this rock. Oh, but they’re women, so I guess that invalidates everything they say.

    what I asked was that, if things were so bad back before 1973, why people over 65, who would be the most likely to remember the “bad old days” pre-1973, are the least supportive of abortion?

    Exactly. Which is as silly as asking, “If Jim Crow laws were so bad, why are older people the least supportive of mixed-race marriage?” The question only serves to show that you don’t know what things were like back then, let alone why people acted or thought as they did (and do now).

    And as you can clearly see, that has everything to do with pro-lifers be for forced sterlization. Oh wait…

    …you don’t know jack squat about the history of forced sterilization, and who supported it, and why. Maybe you’ll want to read up on that.

  • ahunt

    Oh for fuck’s sake PCF…you cannot argue with someone who wilfully ignores the repeated, consistant, peer-reviewed, methodologically impeccable research demonstrating how women internalize their oppression.

     

    I appreciate your strength in engaging…

     

    But at some point…this passive aggressive shit will wear you out.

     

    And when that day comes…and it will…I’ve got a triple expresso shot medium roast Hammerhead for you.

     

     

  • colleen

    Both Poland and Ireland disagree with the last sentence.

    Go away and stop wasting our time.

  • princess-rot

    I can’t get too wound up about K-Lo or her ilk spouting off in the tabloids. I laugh every time they release a new screed decrying uppity women and telling us to get back in the kitchen while doing nothing of the sort themselves. As I’ve said elsewhere, they must be all waiting for Phyllis Schlafly to die so they can fight over who gets to be Queen Anti-Feminist Hypocrite. They remind me of Skeksis from the Dark Crystal, crowding around the deathbed of their ailing Emperor, waiting to steal the royal sceptre.

  • prochoiceferret

    Oh for feet’s sake PCF…you cannot argue with someone who wilfully ignores the repeated, consistant, peer-reviewed, methodologically impeccable research demonstrating how women internalize their oppression.

    Yeah, it was more of a “nothing better to do” thing. Some folks just beg to have their ignorance rubbed in their faces.

    And when that day comes…and it will…I’ve got a triple expresso shot medium roast Hammerhead for you.

    Ferrets and caffeine don’t mix! You think it’s bad with squirrels

  • crowepps

    You cannot show me a system which is inherently oppressive to a certain class of people where a majority, or even plurality, of those people oppressed by that system willingly embrace it, and when offerred the chance to change it, don’t support that change.

    Although I will agree that oppressed Blacks did not “willingly embrace” either slavery or Jim Crow, they certainly learned the rules of both, taught them to their children to help keep them safe, ENFORCED them against their fellows so they would not be considered conspirators, and tolerated them because they were afraid of the consequences if they did not.

     

    In addition, the history of the civil rights movement clearly shows that until fairly late in the process when there was a more likely than not chance that it would actually succeed, the majority of the ‘oppressed’ did NOT support this attempt at change, but instead feared a dangerous backlash and argued that being ‘uppity’ would get them all killed and that instead the plan was to humbly work for incremental changes over time.

     

    Keep in mind that the oppressed persons who resisted the movement, who were afraid or comfortable with their accomodation and who resisted change aren’t writing books about how correct they were to discourage the movement, because why would they?  They were proven to be wrong.

     

    Try these:

    http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/0/7/8/5/p107855_index.html

     

    In addition, there wasn’t a majority of women in support of suffragettes when the movement began (asking that the right to vote be extended to single women who OWNED PROPERTY but continuing to exclude most women) or a majority of women in support of the movement to enable girls to get a ‘real’ university education instead of just going to ‘normal school’ and becoming teachers.

     

    You are conflating long histories into their end points and ignoring the fact that when these movements started they were small and had only a few adherents, and that the movement BUILT the public support until the majority recognized the justice of their demands, although as a general rule most of the old fossils NEVER bought into the change but instead continued to whine fretfully about ‘back in the day when I was a girl/boy things were better’.  In addition, every single instance in which an oppressed group attempted to gain equality was met with a surge in the violence which had been implicit in their oppression the entire time.

     

    Yes, the anti-abortion groups can indeed abolish abortion – all they need is the freedom to shame, punish, jail, assault and kill those who disagree with them.  That is how oppression is perpetuated, and that is precisely why members of the oppressed class who fear the shame, punishment, prison, harm and death BUY INTO and SUCK UP TO the oppressor.  You have no idea what ProLife women REALLY think of reproduction and its various facets  because NONE of them could feel safe telling someone like you the truth.  Some of them don’t even feel safe telling THEMSELVES the truth.

     

    Black leaders said that they never would have prevailed without having Sheriff Bull Connor giving vivid demonstrations of ‘knowing your place’ with fire hoses and police dogs on the evening news.  The Bishops of the Catholic Church are fulfilling precisely that role for abortion rights – so long as they continue to be smugly pious about death being a necessary side-effect of pregnancy because women should WANT to die together with the doomed fetus, Planned Parenthood will be flooded with donations and able to keep the doors open.

  • bei1052

    You see, this is what happens when you try to jump into the middle of an argument and correct someone. Even though you quoted it, I’m going to restate it:

     

    You cannot show me a system which is inherently oppressive to a certain class of people where a majority, or even plurality, of those people oppressed by that system willingly embrace it, and when offerred the chance to change it, don’t support that change.

     

    To which you flatly admitted that you couldn’t think of a case where those people oppressed by a system willingly embraced it (at least in the case of Blacks, though you won’t find this to be true anywhere). Therefore, I have no idea what the rest of your post had to do with anything, ‘cuz it most certainly had no bearing on what I typed out.

     

    At any rate, I’m just wondering whether or not you do realize the fact that feminism has minimal effect on people’s views towards abortion, and that feminism as a societal indicator hasn’t gained in strength over the last 40 or so years, correct? Because if not, which you should as I’ve pointed this out at least three or four times now, then I’m going to point out the fact that feminism has a minimal effect on people’s views towards abortion, and that feminism as a societal indicator hasn’t gained in strength over the last 40 or so years.

     

    Yes, the anti-abortion groups can indeed abolish abortion – all they need is the freedom to shame, punish, jail, assault and kill those who disagree with them.  That is how oppression is perpetuated, and that is precisely why members of the oppressed class who fear the shame, punishment, prison, harm and death BUY INTO and SUCK UP TO the oppressor.  You have no idea what ProLife women REALLY think of reproduction and its various facets  because NONE of them could feel safe telling someone like you the truth.  Some of them don’t even feel safe telling THEMSELVES the truth.

     

    And this made me lol. If you really believe this, then I have to wonder who the radical out of touch with reality really is?

     

    …And what about Silent No More? I guess all those women with the “I Regret My Abortion” signs don’t exist.

     

    (Also, could you explain to me again why PP needed about $350M in Federal funding in 2008 if they get flooded with donations to keep their doors open?)

  • bei1052

    Offered the chance, how? By turning their backs on the only way of life they’ve known, and with it the good graces of nearly all their social relations? Are you aware of how much scorn feminists receive in our society, and in general women who do not follow the script expected of them? Do you really believe that you can reject a social system that exists all around you without paying a heavy price?

     

    Okay. Two different issues here to address.

     

    1.) I see how you, unsurprisingly enough, still ignored the fact that, by following your logic, nothing would ever change socially, for that which is changed would always run contrary to the status quo and, as a result, no one would adopt that change, as they would be looked down upon for changing to that which runs contrary to what is the societal norm. Going back to one of your provided examples, explain to me why women turned out to vote even though, by doing so, they were inviting the scorn of society? Shouldn’t they have overwhelmingly fought against the right to vote, and overwhelmingly stayed at home when they were given the right to vote, as not to incur the scorn of society? Yes, they should have. Yet they didn’t. So how do you square that with your assertion?

     

    That’s right. You don’t. Please, try not to ignore the aforementioned this time.

     

    2.) Feminists do not receive the scorn of society because they are feminists, and people do not refuse to define themselves as feminists because feminism is a dirty word, but because feminism– or I should say mainstream feminism– scorns large segments of society, is overly hypocritical and like to play the “You’re not a true feminist!” card. For example, it’s frequently echoed that you can’t be a feminist if you’re pro-life, which alienates about half of all women (and men). Indeed, any women who calls herself a feminist and pro-life, or even speaks out against abortion, is instantly attacked by other feminists. Why would you join and support an organization/movement that doesn’t want you? You wouldn’t. And don’t even get me started on how feminism tends to fight against equal rights when it suits them to do as much (Which is quite often), especially when it comes to those “reproductive rights” they seem to believe are more important than any other issue.

     

    …But, of course, you probably won’t understand this, and will instead go on about something regarding misogyny and the like without realizing that whatever ills modern feminism faces is because of its own doing, and has nothing to do with misogyny.

     

    It’s actually quite funny, if nothing short of ironic, really.

     

    Of course. We only have multiple people here who have not only experienced internalized oppression firsthand, but also have decades of real-life experience beyond your time on this rock. Oh, but they’re women,  so I guess that invalidates everything they say.

     

    So when you decide you want to actually respond to what I actually type out, lemme’ know. I’ll be here.

     

    Exactly. Which is as silly as asking, “If Jim Crow laws were so bad, why are older people the least supportive of mixed-race marriage?” The question only serves to show that you don’t know what things were like back then, let alone why people acted or thought as they did (and do now).

     

    Funny. I didn’t know the argument behind bringing Jim Crow laws back were that because, without them, there would be hundreds of thousands of women dying. I didn’t know that the argument behind bringing Jim Crow laws back were stooped in the notion that, if they didn’t exist, some group of people would be worse off then they are currently. My mistake.

     

    …you don’t know jack squat about the history of forced sterilization, and who supported it, and why. Maybe you’ll want to read up on that.

     

    Oh, look. It’s the whole “You’re uneducated!” line. How I do so love that one. I really do.

  • bei1052

    Go away and stop wasting our time.

     

    I’m wasting your time by pointing out that both Ireland and Poland, where abortion is illegal, have abortion rates much lower then other countries where it’s legal, even when you take into account abortion obtained out-of-country by in-country residents? Mmmkay.

    • catseye71352

      In countries where abortion is illegal, THE ONLY STATISTICS AVAILABLE ARE OF THOSE ABORTIONS WHOSE COMPLICATIONS SENT WOMEN TO THE HOSPITAL. If maybe 25% (a high figure) of women who have abortions are hospitalized for complications and those are the only women counted as having abortions, do you see how you might be wrong?

       

      Oh; of course not.

  • crowepps

    Going back to one of your provided examples, explain to me why women turned out to vote even though, by doing so, they were inviting the scorn of society?

    Actually, in the first election in which women were ABLE to vote, the Fall election of 1920, the estimate is that about one-third of eligible women registered and showed up to vote, while 70% or over twice that many men voted.  As I understand the history of women’s suffrage, one way activists got women to vest in voting being appropriate to feminity was through the temperance movement, by arguing that women would vote ‘morally’ while men did not, and so women voters would ‘clean up society’.  Present day analysis shows that the spread between men and women on issues is atually pretty slim, although it was very clever propaganda as a way of proactively refutting any scorn society might inflict.

     

    http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=990DEED9103FE432A2575AC1A9649D946195D6CF

    • gopher

      “Mrs. Julia Ward Howe wrote to Mrs. Humpry Ward, “In America most woman are still indifferent on the question of suffrage. Julia Ward Howe was a significant believer in the woman’s movement but was upset at the four percent woman voter turnout in Massachusetts. The question the Remonstrance of 1909 asks “First, ought the wishes of the four per cent of American women who want the ballot, or those of the ninety-six per cent who are either opposed or indifferent to it, to control the decision?” “”

      http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/188268/womans_suffrage.html?cat=37

  • emma

    Countries don’t actually have opinions. But Polish and Irish women who travel to other countries for abortions might be inclined to disagree with you.

     

    I do think you deserve praise for writing a response that wasn’t completely dripping with sneering contempt.

  • invalid-0

    Totally!

    I don’t know about the rest of you pro-lifers, but I definitely can’t stand the environment and would personally like to see bigger tax breaks for the big oil companies.  Also, women (not men, just women) that have sex outside of marriage should be put in jail – how else will they learn that the government should control their sexual lives?

    While we’re at it, it has been far too long since we started a war overseas.  Let’s get on top of that.

    Get serious, deb r.  I couldn’t care less what women “do with their bodies” so long as nobody gets killed.  Either get to know what we’re really about or stop putting words in our mouths. 

  • colleen

    I couldn’t care less what women “do with their bodies” so long as nobody gets killed.

    On the contrary, your church actively seeks the deaths of women whose only crime is being unable to sustain a pregnancy and you applaud their efforts.

  • invalid-0

    Oh, grow up.  ”actively seeks the deaths of women”?  

  • julie-watkins
    in Catholic-Owned Hospitals” – Lori R. Freedman & Jody Steinauer, October 2008, Vol 98, No. 10 | American Journal of Public Health.

    from the article:

    …This woman is dying before our eyes. I went in to examine her, and I was able to find the umbilical cord through the membranes and just snapped the umbilical cord and so that I could put the ultrasound—‘‘Oh look. No heartbeat. Let’s go.’’ She was so sick she was in the [intensive care unit] for about 10 days and very nearly died. … That’s why I left.

    The doctor had to do that because the ethics committee said he couldn’t intervene until there was no heartbeat … even though there was no hope the fetus could survive. (It was 19 weeks and “the pregnancy was in the vagina.”)

  • colleen

    Many of us provided you with  evidence of the fact that it is the POLICY of Catholic hospitals and the Church in the US and elsewhere to deny women (and little girls) abortions even if that is the only way to save their lives. When the Catholic church works to make life saving abortions illegal and/or denies them to women or children when that is the only thing that will save their lives than they are actively and consciously seeking to kill women and little girls whose only fault is that they are too sick or too small and immature to carry a pregnancy to term.

     

    Perhaps it is you who needs to  grow up and learn to deal with reality.

  • crowepps

    A state senator Thursday denied he was trying to bribe a rape victim’s sister when he left her a message suggesting it could be “financially beneficial” if she told the truth. …

     

    The rape case involves Gordon Lawes, 28, who was convicted in 2008 of raping a girl four years earlier, when she was 16 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison with parole possible after 10 years. The case is under appeal.

     

    Nolan told the newspaper he believed the sister, who was Lawes’ wife at the time, would say the sex was consensual.

     

    Nolan, 48, testified as a character witness for Lawes at his trial. Lawes had been a campaign volunteer for Nolan, and the two played club hockey together.

     

    During the trial, a prosecutor said Lawes admitted to police that he walked naked down the stairs and had sex with the teen who was “passed out drunk,” according to published reports at the time. … http://www.salon.com/wires/us/2010/05/27/D9FVGOE00_us_nevada_senator_voice_mail/index.html

    Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, voted against the bill the first time it appeared in the Senate. Nolan changed his vote and says he received many calls that were ‘ugly, vulgar and threatening messages’ from people who opposed the bill. Nolan tells the Review-Journal: “Those kinds of calls do not mesh with ‘the Christian beliefs I was brought up with.”

     

    http://rodonline.typepad.com/rodonline/nevada/

    Apparently getting drunk and raping your wife’s kid sister passed out drunk does mesh with ‘the Christian beliefs I was brought up with’.

  • crowepps

    Well, considering how both men and women are similiar regarding their views on abortion, you’re going to have a hell of a time playing the misogyny card. Unless, of course, you’re telling me that a plurality of women are self-hating.

    Since the majority of women don’t want Roe v Wade overturned and believe abortion should continue to be legal, and that is the present state of the law, I find it a little hard to understand your use of the term “plurality” as persuasive. Nobody said that women who ‘don’t think abortion should be used as birth control’ are misogynistic. Some of them are just moralistic.

     

    It’s a small percentage of women who want ALL abortion for ANY reason to be illegal. Many of those women reveal a pervasive ignorance about the facts of pregnancy complications and why late-term abortion is necessary and when given those facts agree that in this or that ‘special case’ abortion is okay. Shoot, some of them don’t even realize that the operation that followed their own miscarriage WAS ‘abortion’.

     

    In addition, you seem to be discounting the OTHER motivations which might underlie a belief in ‘no abortions ever’, such as sentimentalism (it’s a eensy teensy adorable little BABY!), and egotism (what if my Mom had aborted ME? It is inconceivable that I might not have existed) or the belief in moral retribution (God says bad women who have sex carelessly should suffer).

     

    Considering the massive ProLife propaganda push over many years to promote myths and lies, it really is not a great argument to say that X% of the American public have been persuaded of X. There doesn’t seem to be any limit to the nonsense that propaganda campaigns can convince X% of the American public to believe. Why do you think our political system works the way it does?  WMD’s anyone?