Monday, July 25, 2005

Careful, Liberals

Okay, so Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' wife used to work for an organization called Feminists for Life, and now does pro bono legal work for them.

Despite the fact that politicians ranging along the political spectrum from Ted Kennedy to Rick Santorum have urged us not to draw conclusions about the nominee's stance on abortion based on his wife's activities, in the absence of information available on his opinions some abortion supporters will be tempted to do just that.

Though I concede it's likely a married couple has a shared outlook on such a controversial issue, it would be the height of hypocrisy for feminists or pro-choice advocates to make the assumption that Jane Roberts' work in the area of abortion rights is necessarily an indication of her husband's views.

Furthermore, a moral objection to abortion should not eliminate an otherwise qualified nominee from consideration.

Feminists for Life does, in fact, want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, which makes their mission statement "women deserve better choices" ring a little hollow, as banning abortion would eliminate choice altogether. But get yourself past that one major stumbling block, and look at the very radical, progressive pro-woman agenda this organization has.

One of the sad truths about abortion in America is that sometimes women are forced into this decision for economic reasons: given the skyrocketing costs of healthcare and insurance (and the fact that over 40 million Americans have no access to coverage), and the fact that families are only entitled to unpaid leave for childbirth or adoption, many women look at their lives and say they just can't afford to have a child. A progressive vision holds that women would never be forced into abortion by economic necessity.

Another reality is that many women on a professional career track risk warping their trajectory in the event of pregnancy. A woman should not have to choose between the life of her unborn child and the career she has worked to hard to have. A progressive agenda empowers people to balance career and family.

Lastly there remains a cultural taboo against conception outside of the traditional heterosexual marriage, even if it is unspoken among liberals. The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion, a celebration of human potential and the very miracle of life itself, regardless of the circumstances in which it was conceived. There is no such thing as an "illegitimate" human being. Women should not feel shamed into terminating a pregnancy to escape cultural prejudice.

Those who would fight to see Roe v. Wade kept on the books would do well to ensure that "pro-choice" means women have real choices available to them. Being forced to terminate a pregnancy for financial or other considerations is no choice at all. The best strategy for all Americans is to embrace our common respect for the sanctity of life and the value of families.


Courtney said...

You make some very astute points here. Must ponder.

Andy said...

I look forward most especially to your input!

As far as the nomination goes, my advice to Democrats is vote your conscience. If you don't think he'd make a good judge, vote no. But I don't think we should attempt a filibuster.

Anonymous said...

You make some good points. I would like to say that married couples share alot of the same beliefs but not necesarily on everything. I don't agree with my wife on several political issues. So what is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander.

Courtney said...

I think it's useful to have pro-life activists -- um, peaceful ones, that is -- out there, because (I hope) it makes people think seriously about complicated and serious issues. But, as you said, making abortion illegal is not exactly the way to guarantee women better choices.

But there's something to this group's argument. Our society tends to value motherhood very highly in rhetoric, but undervalue the hell out of it when it comes to reality. Yes, women's economic situation falls drastically with a pregnancy. Yes, her career will probably take a hit. I'm a state employee -- I know, I know, in Texas -- so I should be ok, right? No. I had to carve out a tricky arrangement with my employer when I got pregnant the first time, since I was not eligible for maternity leave. Many women have no health insurance or have some insurance that does not cover maternity care. They're the women out there hoping to get in and out of the hospital in 24 hours so they don't rack up huge bills. Economic factors shouldn't push a woman into abortion, but they do. And overturning the Roe decision would probably make it even more difficult for poor women -- the rich ones can afford to have the kids, or can afford to travel to another state or Canada to have the procedure.

But there are other reasons: pregnancy and childbirth are physically and emotionally very difficult experiences, requiring a major life change even if you decide to give the baby up for adoption. And then what do we do with the social stigmatism attached to women who give up babies? Are they considered unloving? Irresponsible?

And it all comes down, in my book at least, to a question of trust. If a woman is seeking an abortion, she's probably got a pretty good reason to do so. I agree with Feminists for Life that we should try to do away with as many of these problems and motivations for abortion as possible. But taking away the choice itself is counter to the cause of feminism. It shows a distinct lack of trust of women's self-determination.

Well, that's my two cents at this moment.

Andy said...

I'm going to violate my own caveat and speculate.

Yes, it's troubling that Jane Roberts apparently, given her association with this particular organization, wants to see Roe abolished. But as Courtney pointed out, there is a great deal to be said for someone who accurately acknowledges issues facing women in modern society, rather than, for example, having a knee-jerk conservative reaction, which basically amounts to shouting "Abstinence!" while steadfastly refusing to educate people about sex and sexuality and creating tax breaks for billionaires that unfairly burden the most vulnerable in our society.

This kind of pragmatic underpinning is a conservatism I could respect, if not support.

Courtney said...

So if Feminists for Life is all about better choices, do they advocate sex ed or contraception availability?

bohica said...

I am probably going to blog about this on my own but there is something about the whole abortion thing that bothers me greatly. It is seen as the woman's choice, and it is. But her choice should be before she has sex with someone, not after. Actions have consequences, and having unprotected sex can cause you to get pregnant. Do some women get pregnant even when having protected sex? I am sure. But there are 14 different ways to protect yourself, if you use 2 or 3 there is a pretty dang good chance you are not going to become with child. Terminating a life because of poor decision making is not the best idea.

And before anyone jumps down my throat cases of rape and incest are an exception, and the woman's right to terminate should be honored. As far as the nomination to the Supreme Court, old Bush boy has his eye on the ball, he is not going to let the best reason conservative christians to keep Republicans in office get overturned.

BTW I really enjoy your blog Andy it is one I read almost daily.

Andy said...

Courtney: to be honest, I'm not intimately familiar with all of Feminists for Life's policies. I mean, I'm a gay guy...they're kind of off my radar, LOL.

Bohica: thank you so much for your compliments! I always welcome intelligent dissent or other POV's.

I definitely agree with you, but I'll make two points briefly in reponse: one, the conservative trend in sexual education these days is promotion of ignorance, not abstinence. As Rep. Waxman's investigation revealed, not only are kids in conservative-promoted sex-ed classes not getting the full range of information necessary to make intelligent choices, they're getting false information. Parents have the right to help their kids navigate through the moral issues related to sexuality, but the motives of anyone who wants information kept from their children have to be seen as highly suspect. I think we'd see a decrease in unwanted pregnancies (and therefore in abortions) if everyone had full knowledge of the risks and resources out there.

Secondly, everyone makes mistakes. Some mistakes are bigger than others. When a mistake results in pregnancy, however, I believe the woman should have a choice about how to set that mistake aright. Sometimes it would also be a mistake to bring a child into a family that doesn't want it or can't afford it. Let's let that kind of awful, sensitive decision belong to the woman, her conscience and her God, not to the Government.

bohica said...


I do agree that people do make mistakes. I also agree that carrying a child to term is a huge physical and psychological burden. But adoption is a much better option, and I submit the emotional scars you recieve from terminating a pregnancy far outweigh the burden of having the child and giving it up for adoption.

Julia said...

Hi Andy,

I'm a member of Feminists for Life. You know how I feel about this issue. I am a life-long Democrat who believes the Democrats made a very wrong turn in the 1970s by championing abortion rights under the euphemism of "choice." Traditionally, we were the party that defended the rights of the most despised and marginalized elements of society. Now, we have let the rights of the most marginalized and the least enfranchised -- the unborn -- fall right into the laps of the Republican Party, and, as the Democratic Party is now coming to see as social opinion turns away from abortion rights, that was a big mistake. We have lost many, many voters on this issue; in the last election, Catholic voters went for Bush in the majority, which is a first. Do I believe the REAL Republican Party gives a damn about life? No. I believe they exploit the convictions of their socially conservative base, but that the real power-brokers certainly don't want their Mexican maids or -- gasp! -- poor black women to have more children. Look who they picked for their keynote speakers at their convention last year: Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, Pataki -- all of them pro-choice.

Feminists for Life is a truly radical group. When FFL says "Women Deserve Better" (correction: their slogan is not "women deserve better choices"), what they mean is that women should be able to carry pregnancies to term and keep their babies, even under emotional and financial duress. That means they work for a society with a strong social safety net, one that truly supports women and children, especially those who are poor. The Republican pro-lifers pretty much ignore the baby (and its mother -- well, to be honest, they like to continue to condemn her) after its birth. I really believe that the right of children to be born is a feminist issue, as did Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many other first-wave feminists.

By the way, as you know, I also am a woman who has had an abortion, which I will always regret, so I feel that gives me a "been-there" perspective. By the grace of God I'm now expecting my second child (my first to be born).

I'm writing my dissertation now, and I've done a lot of research into what was known as "The Great Social Evil" in 19th-century Britain, i.e. prostitution. I honestly believe that abortion, in our own time, has taken up that dubious mantle.

By the way, there's an interesting article in Glamour this month, "The Mysterious Disappearance of Pro-Choice Young Women," which details the shift in attitudes toward abortion rights among young, college-educated women. Women truly do deserve better than to make such a heartbreaking decision, which, as anyone who's every seen an ultrasound picture knows, costs a human life.

Julia (your old neighbor!)