an After abortion

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Tuesday, February 7, 2006

In the last year or two, there has been an increasing squeamishness about abortion in the ranks of those who are politically pro-choice. For example, Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Carter have had very furrowed brows about abortion. Abortion concerns them: it seems tragic and not very nice.

This squeamishness has been a source of concern to those in the pro-choice movement who believe that if you stigmatize abortion, or talk about it as being icky, then you run the risk of stigmatizing women who have abortions, and that would be, well, tragic and not very nice.

William Saletan wrote an op-ed in the New York Times recently that seems on some level to say that if we have to start throwing some stigma around in order to reduce the rate of abortion, well then, so be it. (He thinks we should start by looking down on our nose at women who are reckless or careless about using birth control.)

As we chronicled here, Katha Pollitt of The Nation objected to Saletan's views, and this eventually led to a three-day dialogue at Slate, where both Katha and Saletan say a number of interesting but very confused things.

It's confusing because it's awfully hard to throw some stigma into the equation without stigmatizing women who get abortions, and it's hard to insist that women must and do have full moral agency without ever being willing to suggest that a woman might make a morally poor choice.

Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice has responded at some length to Saletan/Pollitt and that's worth reading as well, because what she is saying is that although she supports the political decision to grant women full autonomy over reproductive choices, this comes with a cost that has been ignored by those who agree with her politically: it leads to a general de-valuation of life, and that's not a good thing.

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