Re­pro­duc­tive Rights Cor­ner

Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - DEPARTMENT OF EVERYTHING - —CARO­LINE REILLY

Over the past few months, the New York Times Opin­ion page has run not one but three an­tiabor­tion op-eds rid­dled with mis­in­for­ma­tion, pseu­do­science, and out­right false­hoods. On Fe­bru­ary 27, the Times pub­lished an ar­ti­cle by Lau­ren En­riquez, a pub­lic re­la­tions man­ager at Hu­man Coali­tion, a pro-life non­profit that calls abor­tion “the worst holo­caust in hu­man his­tory.” Ex­actly a month later, the Times pub­lished “To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Be­ing the Abor­tion Party,” in which Bos­ton Col­lege pro­fes­sor Thomas Groome claimed that Hil­lary Clin­ton’s al­le­giance to pro-choice val­ues con­trib­uted to her loss to Don­ald Trump. And in May, Lori Szala, the na­tional di­rec­tor of client ser­vices at Hu­man Coali­tion, ar­gued that as­sert­ing a link be­tween eco­nomics and abor­tion is “pa­tron­iz­ing, and patently dishonest” in “The Prob­lem with Link­ing Abor­tion and Eco­nomics.”

Such pieces co­in­cide with Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders, Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair Tom Perez, and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi ex­press­ing their open­ness to “pro-life” lib­er­als in the Demo­cratic Party.

In ac­cept­ing and pub­lish­ing an­tiabor­tion views, publi­ca­tions and politi­cians are not only nor­mal­iz­ing the pseu­do­science on which those views are based, but they are also feed­ing into the par­ti­san il­lu­sion that abor­tion is a con­tentious issue, rather than a pri­vate med­i­cal de­ci­sion. No­tice­ably ab­sent from ev­ery an­tiabor­tion op-ed are sources to back up the as­ser­tion that abor­tion is mur­der—or sci­en­tif­i­cally and morally ob­jec­tion­able. While politi­cians and publi­ca­tions would like to make abor­tion a two-sided issue, sci­ence and re­search align with only one.

Legally speak­ing, abor­tion is not mur­der, and us­ing words like “killing” to de­scribe it is in­ac­cu­rate and in­cen­di­ary. Abor­tion has been le­gal in the United States since the land­mark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade in 1973, and the Model Pe­nal Code, which serves as a kind of guide for stan­dard­iz­ing state crim­i­nal laws, does not rec­og­nize abor­tion as mur­der or man­slaugh­ter.

The Amer­i­can Col­lege of Ob­stet­rics and Gyne­col­o­gists (ACOG) sup­ports ac­cess to safe and le­gal abor­tion, and states clearly that abor­tion is a “nec­es­sary component of women’s health care.” It sup­ports over­turn­ing abor­tion re­stric­tions, in­clud­ing the Hyde Amend­ment, as well as bans on telemedicine, manda­tory coun­sel­ing, and Tar­geted Reg­u­la­tion of Abor­tion Providers (TRAP) laws. ACOG “af­firm[s] the le­gal right of a wo­man to ob­tain an abor­tion prior to fe­tal vi­a­bil­ity,” which it de­fines as “the capacity of the fe­tus for sus­tained sur­vival out­side the wo­man’s uterus”—a call it ar­gues should be left to the “judg­ment of a re­spon­si­ble health care provider.” The ACOG also ar­gues that abor­tion re­stric­tions not only in­hibit care and put peo­ple with un­wanted preg­nan­cies in dan­ger, but they also pre­vent sci­en­tific ad­vance­ments that may im­prove care in the fu­ture.

Other ma­jor med­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Physi­cians (ACP), the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (APA), and the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics (AAP), sup­port ac­cess to safe and le­gal abor­tion, and op­pose re­stric­tions on ac­cess, in­clud­ing TRAP laws and the Hyde Amend­ment. Of note, the APA has spo­ken out against the an­tiabor­tion be­lief in “post-abor­tion syn­drome,” a con­di­tion that anti-choice ad­vo­cates ar­gue is a kind of post-trau­matic stress that fol­lows abor­tion.

Plus, sta­tis­tics show not only that abor­tion is closely tied to eco­nomic is­sues, but also is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to is­sues of race and age. Ac­cord­ing to au­thor and ac­tivist Re­nee Bracey Sher­man, women de­nied ac­cess to abor­tion are “three times more likely to be liv­ing in poverty two years later” when com­pared with women who had ac­cess.

A 2007 Guttmacher In­sti­tute study found that one of the most com­mon rea­sons women gave for hav­ing an abor­tion was not be­ing able to af­ford a child. States where abor­tion ac­cess is the most fraught are states where rates of women liv­ing in poverty are the high­est—and also, of­ten, “where most African Amer­i­can women live.” An­other Guttmacher study, re­leased in May 2017, found that “at least 10 ma­jor cat­e­gories of abor­tion re­stric­tions are premised on as­ser­tions not sup­ported by rig­or­ous sci­en­tific ev­i­dence.”

Abor­tion, sta­tis­ti­cally speak­ing, is nor­mal. Twenty per­cent of all preg­nan­cies end in abor­tion. More than a mil­lion abor­tions are per­formed in the United States ev­ery year. Most Amer­i­cans sup­port Roe v. Wade and ac­cess to first-trimester abor­tions, which make up roughly 90 per­cent of all abor­tions in the United States.

In the golden age of al­ter­na­tive facts, we must not val­i­date the opin­ions of those who re­fute sci­ence and re­search. We have an ad­min­is­tra­tion ready to stack the Supreme Court with jus­tices ea­ger to over­turn Roe v. Wade and a Con­gress that’s happy to up­hold TRAP laws that make abor­tion all but il­le­gal. And in pub­lish­ing an­tiabor­tion pro­pa­ganda and wel­com­ing an­tiabor­tion vot­ers into the Demo­cratic Party, publi­ca­tions and politi­cians are bring­ing us one step closer to a world in which peo­ple who can be­come preg­nant are rel­e­gated to lives with­out bod­ily au­ton­omy. And that’s a fact.

This ar­ti­cle first ap­peared on­line. Read the full ver­sion at bitch­me­dia.org.

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