an After abortion

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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Sappho at Noli Irritare Leones has posted two nice long discussions about the status of women after Roe v. Wade.

It's true that because of Roe v Wade, women no longer have to endure the social stigma of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Nor do they have to endure the many objective difficulties of raising a child as a young, single mother. They also don't have to endure what I think would be the enormous psychological pain of giving up a child for adoption.

Safe, legal abortion was thought to be a handy solution to the difficulties caused by these unwanted, unanticipated, very troublesome pregnancies. Sixties feminists really did believe that safe, legal abortion would make it possible to do an end-run around all of this, so that young women could be springboarded onto a much more level playing field.

If an abortion was a non-event--a fast, inexpensive, benign medical procedure--what a wonderful thing it would be to be able to substitute a non-event for the scary, risky, lifechanging, momentous event of bringing a child into the world. What a brave new world this would be.

Has it worked out that way? In the lives of many women I know, it hasn't. Our abortions were not simple, benign, non-events. As we realized later, as facts about very small babies intruded on our minds, our abortions were the event in which we paid a man money to kill our child. Our abortions were the event in which we became the mother of a dead child.

I'm enough of a utilitarian to think, "That's the way it is for me and for other women I know, but maybe the grand sixties feminist dream of a world made better by safe, legal abortion has come true for enough women that the experience of those whose individual lives were made worse by abortion can and should be ignored."

Where's the evidence that has happened? American women have made tremendous material gains since the 1970s. These gains, however, simply track the economic trendline, so they can't be attributed to abortion.

We should be looking at other measures to decide whether the grand utopian experiment of abortion has yielded a positive dividend.

Are marriages stronger? Have suicide rates declined? Do fewer people suffer from depression and anxiety disorders? Has substance abuse declined? Are women expressing high rates of satisfaction with their careers and family life? Has sexual harrassment declined? Domestic violence? Stalking?

With a whole generation of wanted children--have the rates of emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children declined? Are these children receiving superb educations--better than the educations available in the 60s and 70s? Do their parents stay together, protect them, and provide for their mental, emotional and physical needs?

Where is our Brave New World?

Update: See Sappho for more discussion of the status of women after Roe.

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