an After abortion

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004


On MSNBC/Newsweek: Anxiety over abortion: pro-choice Democrats eye a more restrictive approach to abortion as one way to gain ground at the polls.

I'd give myself a pat on the back for picking up on a trend except that I'm sure I'm only one of thousands who has noticed this.

This is what the Newsweek article says in part about a meeting after the election:

When Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice political network EMILY's List, asked about the future direction of the party, Kerry tackled one of the Democrats' core tenets: abortion rights. He told the group they needed new ways to make people understand they didn't like abortion. Democrats also needed to welcome more pro-life candidates into the party, he said. "There was a gasp in the room," says Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
A gasp? What was the surprise about? Is it because the political ground shifted or because of the attack on abortion itself?


Democratic lawmakers have found themselves boxed in by a pro-choice orthodoxy that fears the slippery slope—the idea that allowing even the smallest limitation on abortion only paves the way for outlawing it altogether.
I'm not so sure that abortion rights advocates are primarily concerned about the political consequences. My sense is that those abortion rights advocates who are post-abortive are primarily upset because of the implicit moral judgment on their past choices. 43% of American women have had one or more abortions by the time their reproductive years end. I would guess that the percentage is higher among abortion rights activists. If I were in those shoes, and I heard a leading Democrat say "we don't like abortion", I'd take this personally.

If "we don't like abortion", that's probably because of an implicit sense that abortion is morally unsavory, and a woman who chose an abortion has, therefore, participated in a morally unsavory act.

Furthermore, if abortion is morally unsavory, it's morally unsavory because of something to do with ending/terminating the life of one's own child. If it, indeed, is morally unsavory. If "we don't like it."

Lots of the energy behind hardline abortion rights political activism comes from the impossible wish to make it the case that one's own abortion was a moral act.

I wrote about this phenomenon here with respect to Kate Michelman. She experienced Roe v. Wade as "a benediction", as she says, with respect to her own earlier choice to abort.

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