Catching up on Amy Richards and The T-Shirt
While I was lounging by a lake, bloggers continued to try to make sense of the reaction to the mid-July story in The New York Times Magazine about Amy Richards, who selectively reduced (with a shot of potassium chloride to the heart) two of the three triplets with which she was pregnant.
realized early on that Amy Richards was not just a woman-on-the-street, and started to wonder whether her selective-reduction story was timed to coincide with the announcement by Planned Parenthood that they would be marketing "I Had An Abortion" t-shirts.
If it's true that this timing was less-than-coincidental, the pro-life movement doesn't have to worry that the pro-choice movement has developed a new generation of strategic geniuses.
The Amy Richards story offended pretty much everyone except hard-core reproductive rights activists. No one is ever going to wear the "I Had An Abortion" t-shirt to an event that is not overtly political. You won't see them at soccer games, backyard picnics, Staten Island, NASCAR races, or Costco. I especially predict that no participants in next year's Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure" will sport the "I Had An Abortion" t-shirt.
I also predict that Planned Parenthood will not start marketing versions of the t-shirt that say, "I Had Two Abortions", "I Had Three Abortions" and on up.
For pro-choice feminist reaction to Amy and the t-shirt, the Feministing thread here is well worth reading. It includes several comments from Katha Pollitt of The Nation.
Katha has written with enthusiasm about the website I'm Not Sorry since the beginning. As she has said, she knows many women who have had abortions, and none of them regret having had an abortion. (This puts one in mind of the New York socialite in 2000 who was positive that Al Gore would be elected president because everyone she knew was voting for Gore.)
In her comments at Feministing, Katha says that she thinks that counseling before obtaining an abortion is a good idea because it will make women less likely later on to "deny their agency". Her sense of post-abortion ministry is that it is all about talking the post-abortive woman into believing that she was an innocent victim of mean people, such as greedy abortion doctors.
There are, indeed, post-abortive women who "deny their agency" in exactly this sense. When the pro-life movement began to grasp that some women who have abortions live with intense regret or experience post-traumatic stress reactions, one of the ways they attempted to help these women feel better was to suggest that the abortion wasn't really their own choice--they were a victim, not a perpetrator. The idea was that it would be easier for these women to set aside their feelings of utter self-contempt if they only recognized that although they had had an abortion, they were essentially blameless.
And this is true of some percentage of abortions--the woman really did have very little agency in the decision that was made and carried out. That's where the term "post-aborted" came from.
As more post-abortive women became active in trying to find ways to help themselves and others recover from the pain and anguish of a prior abortion choice, they urged on other post-abortive women a much higher degree of brutual honesty about how the choice was made. Sure, the doctor at the abortion clinic may be an emotionally disturbed and creepy man motivated by greed and other even less-attractive impulses--but you're the one who drove to the clinic and slid the money across the counter.
Sometimes this goes too far. Many, many abortions do occur because of some degree of emotional manipulation by those close to the pregnant woman--her boyfriend, husband or parents. The degree of manipulation and dishonesty by abortion providers or those close to her is why some abortions can correctly be regarded as "coerced" abortions.
It's important for post-abortion ministries to allow the woman to come to an accurate sense of her own moral agency in the abortion, along with the moral agency of others who were involved in the decision and procedure. The balance is different in every abortion.
Back to interesting links. Feministe has More on the Amy Richards story.
Amanda at Mouse Words has been blogging a lot from a pro-choice feminist perspective in the last several weeks. One of her entries is about celebrity pregnancies:
The question this article tries to answer is, "Why is there a recent onslaught of pregnant women all over the gossip rags?" The answer seems clear to me--we're in the midst of a media backlash against women, and just as celebrities are used to make the rest of us feel not attractive enough, not rich enough, and not talented enough, they are now being used to make women feel not pregnant enough.
And The Fifth Column has a long thoughtful post about the Indian and Chinese women who are...missing.