Here’s a guest post by Euchalon Grandy, swiped from my comments section, offered here with no commentary from me just yet except that I agree with almost everything he says. (Bonus points if you can pick the one spot where I have some qualms.) The first half of his comment is also worth a read. Everything that follows is his; I skipped the “indent quote” feature for better readability.
OK, so here’s my issue — Not necessarily in your post, but underlying this whole discussion [of withdrawal as birth control] I sense an assumption that unwanted pregnancy is so incredibly awful that it must be avoided at all cost. Thus the ‘wear three condoms, use a diaphram, and you *are* on the pill, right?’ tone.
Now, I understand that for many women, including a sizable portion of American women, abortion is not safe, legal, or available. For those women, extraordinary caution is justified. However, for a good portion of American women, safe, legal abortions are still available. Absent personal religious or moral objections, isn’t abortion OK as a backstop once contraception is used to bring the odds of pregnancy down to a reasonably low level?
What disturbs me is that this extraordinarily cautious approach to contraception implies that abortion is off the table as an acceptable way to end an unwanted pregnancy. It makes me wonder if, after decades of exposure to the abortion prohibition movement, that movement has on some level won our hearts and minds about abortion, if not the right to it. (When I say “we”, I mean feminist and feminist-oriented men and women who have no explicit personal moral objection to abortion).
After all, if we don’t subscribe to the idea that a human being is created at the moment of conception, and if we acknowledge that legal abortions are a relatively safe procedure, why do we give ending a pregnancy through abortion such weight? For a number of practical reasons abortion is lousy as a first-line method of contraception. But as a backup isn’t it similar in function to other methods of contraception? Why do we treat it as an evil to be avoided if we don’t believe it to be evil? When we treat something as an absolute last resort, we strongly imply that there’s something very bad about it.
People like Obama talk about this common ground where ‘we’d all like to see fewer abortions’. I’m not sure I agree. When children enter the world unwanted, I’d rather see more abortions. When women go through pregnancy and labor for no other reason than avoiding having an abortion, I’d rather see more abortions. When young men and women for years deny themselves the joyfulness of a good sex life, I’d rather see more abortions.
For those of us who support the right to an abortion, aren’t we losing ground here? Don’t things get a little worse every year? Gay folks didn’t make much progress until the slogan ‘gay and proud’ came into common usage. When will we come out of the closet? What’s our slogan? I’d suggest, if not ‘pro-abortion and proud’ at least ‘pro-choice and I just don’t think an abortion is a big deal’. Those of us who identify as pro-choice are strong on the political right to an abortion. It seems, however, like we’re conflicted and afraid when it comes to abortion itself. The prohibitionists are very clear on both.
I would like to see a life-affirming narrative that supports abortion rights and abortion. Life-affirming as in the better life the pregnant woman (and often her male partner) can have without the burden of an unwanted pregnancy/child. Life-affirming as in pro-sex, taking a practical but not fearful approach to contraception.
If we take our cue from the prohibitionists and frame this issue as something that takes place only inside the uterus then it’s just an argument about death or not-death and we can’t win. If we expand our vision to outside the uterus then we are pro-better-life, pro-freedom, and pro-sex. With these values on our side, we will prevail over the narrative of death which the prohibitionists have used so effectively, but only if we have the courage to embrace not only the right to an abortion but abortion itself. And it seems to me we ignore this at our peril when discussing contraception.