IN the most recent Gallup poll on abortion, as many Americans described themselves as pro-life as called themselves pro-choice. A combined 58 percent of Americans stated that abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances.” These results do not vary appreciably by gender: in the first Gallup poll to show a slight pro-life majority, conducted in May 2009, half of American women described themselves as pro-life.
But if you’ve followed the media frenzy surrounding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision — which it backpedaled from, with an apology, after a wave of frankly brutal coverage — to discontinue about $700,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood, you would think all these millions of anti-abortion Americans simply do not exist.
Conservative complaints about media bias are sometimes overdrawn. But on the abortion issue, the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable. In many newsrooms and television studios across the country, Planned Parenthood is regarded as the equivalent of, well, the Komen foundation: an apolitical, high-minded and humanitarian institution whose work no rational person — and certainly no self-respecting woman — could possibly question or oppose.
But of course millions of Americans — including, yes, millions of American women — do oppose Planned Parenthood. They oppose the 300,000-plus abortions it performs every year (making it the largest abortion provider in the country), and they oppose its tireless opposition to even modest limits on abortion.
An anniversary of sorts quietly slipped by a couple weeks ago. January 22, 1973 was the day Roe v. Wade was decided. That was 39 years ago. I was 12 years old, in the seventh grade and hadn’t even discovered the joys of self-abuse yet. I was also still a member of one of those fundiegelical churches.
Abortion has been a political issue since the founding of Planned Parenthood in 1921. Some people thought Roe would resolve the issue. Some people are idiots. The issue of abortion is no closer to resolution now than it was in 1973.
Let me make clear that I am pro-choice. If you’re reading this chances are you are too. But I think that pro-lifers get a bad rap. Not all of them – anyone who would blow up a clinic or shoot a doctor deserves all the condemnation we can heap upon them.
But there are millions of pro-lifers in this country. Most of them are good, well-intentioned people. At least half of them are women. They are not caricatures.
The problem is apples and oranges.
The pro-choice argument centers around a woman’s right to control her own body. I agree with that position. We sometimes see it asserted that the pro-life position is the opposite of bodily autonomy – that pro-lifers (men) want to control women’s bodies.
While that may be true in some cases it is a fundamental (pun intended) misunderstanding of the pro-life position. The pro-life position is that human life begins at conception and that abortion is the killing of a human being.
I don’t agree with that position, but I know many people who sincerely do believe it. That’s where the apples and oranges thing comes in. The two sides are arguing totally different things.
Both sides are guilty of misrepresenting the others’ positions and motives. If we are ever going to resolve this issue we need to quit demonizing each other. I know, easier said than done.
We may never resolve this, at least not until medical science makes it possible to terminate a pregnancy without terminating the zygote/fetus. Even if they do, the moralizing and sexual prudery attached to the issue will probably still be around for a while longer anyway.
My position is simple – if you think abortion is wrong then don’t have one.
BTW – Full disclosure: I was a client of Planned Parenthood. That’s where I got my vasectomy.