The same night I submitted "Five anecdotes" I watched a Frontline Story on "The Last Abortion Clinic" in Mississippi. It did a good job describing how the pro life movement is strangling access to clinics state by state through legislation. It also pointed out that these states are doing very little for the children that are born as a result. Jane Galt would not be moved by this.
Then, just after I watched Frontline someone sent me a link to this pro-life column by Galt. It's tough but candid. If pro choice advocates hope to keep abortion legal they would benefit by considering Galt's reasoning and challenging it with a similar pragmatism.
From the desk of Jane Galt:
Predictably, most pro-choice bloggers have taken Alito's dissent in Casey as proof that he's Satan's minion.
Is George Bush trying to pack the court with anti-Roe judges? I'd guess so. Nor do I think that, tactically, this is illegitimate. Roe left the sizable minority in this country that vehemently opposes abortion with no recourse except to pack the court with judges. And if as a result we get a court so composed as to uphold a pretty clearly unconstitutional federal ban on abortions, why then we'll have no one to thank but the folks who decided that the path to freedom lies in ramming their opinions down the nation's throat with a one-vote majority.
But whether Alito is likely to overturn Roe is, in my mind, a separate question from whether his dissent in Casey is correct. That question, as I understand it, hinges on whether spousal notification is, or is not, an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.
And this is where I part company with my pro-choice compatriots: while I think that we need keep abortion available, I see no reason to make it easy.
Objections to spousal notification are not that she'll be abused (there are overrides for just that sort of thing in the law). The objection is that, well, she doesn't want to tell him, because he'll get mad. And that's mostly the objection to parental notification laws too, although in the case of those laws I sense an underlying assumption that of course all children conceived by women under the age of 21 should be aborted, and therefore anything that makes it more likely a teenager will carry her pregnancy to term is a bad idea.
What are we, three? If you're old enough to have sex, you're old enough to tell Mom, Pop, or Hubby that you got pregnant. I have no doubt that if I'd gotten pregnant in high school, I'd have had an abortion immediately in order to avoid telling my parents. And I have no doubt that if I'd gotten arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, I'd have done my darndest to keep them from finding out about that. But now that I am no longer fifteen, I can see that it is not a good idea for teenagers to have secret lives with serious repercussions, which is why the government tells your parents if you get arrested for doing drugs, whether you want them to or not.
There's a belief among more radical pro-choicers which I truly do not emotionally understand: that anything that makes women feel bad about having an abortion, from telling an unwilling spouse to having protesters shout that she should reconsider, should be discouraged By Any Means Necessary. Intertwined with this is an assumption that we shouldn't try in any way to discourage women from having an abortion once they've gotten pregnant.
That's pretty repellant to me. I think that abortion should be legal, but I also think that it should be a last resort, and I'm all for the government using any non-coercive methods it can to encourage women to carry their pregnancy to term, including things that will make them feel bad about aborting. I think, for example, that sonograms should be mandatory before termination, I'm in favor of waiting periods and parental notification laws, and I'm agnostic on spousal notification.
I get the sense that there's an underlying belief among a lot of people that it's somehow better if those babies aren't born. All too often, in my more radically pro-choice days, I heard people actually arguing that the babies themselves would be better off not being born, since their mother didn't want them. Say what? Even if my mother hadn't wanted me, I'd damn well rather be alive than dead, and so would pretty much everyone still walking the earth. Abortion is something done for the benefit of the mother, for which the child who will not be born pays the ultimate price. Trying to elide, sugarcoat, or invert this is morally bankrupt. It seems to me not only reasonable, but fundamentally right that society should force women to confront the tragic cost they are asking someone else (even if only a legally hypothetical someone) to pay for their freedom, and evaluate whether the benefit they are gaining is really worth that cost.
If you really want abortion to be "safe, legal and rare", then there are two approaches, both of which have merit. First, you educate children about birth control, so that they know exactly how not to get pregnant when the time comes. I'd say that at least in my neck of the woods, we're doing about as well at this as we can reasonably expect the government to achieve. Condoms are cheap, and reliable oral contraceptives can be had from Planned Parenthood for the price of dinner for four at McDonalds (not even that if you can prove you're poor).
On the other side, the way you keep abortion "rare" is to discourage it as much as possible. That not only reduces the number of abortions; it reduces the number of pregnancies (and, as a nice side benefit, things like STD's), because as much as teenagers (and others) say that they were just swept away by passion, it's a lot easier to be swept away when you know that if you catch, there's a surgical out. Raise the "cost" of abortion, and a lot more girls will insist that he run down to the drugstore for a pack of Trojans.