Let’s talk about abortion

The tendency in America is to decompose all discussions into two contradictory positions. The dynamics of our media are such that they seek out and highlight people and movements that take the most extreme positions, as it makes it easier for them to construct their oppositional narrative. Whatever the intent, the result of this is to cartoonify everything and to reduce the discussion to some kind of football game — pick a side and root for one, or deride them both as lunatics — whichever you do, the only problems that get solved are how to fill the news hour and how to sell advertising space.

It’s hard to come up with a better example of this than the subject of abortion. Already the language is completely absurd — people who want to criminalize abortion aren’t anti-abortion, they’re “pro life”. People who think abortions should be legal aren’t pro abortion, they’re “pro choice”. Both of these are completely meaningless. I’m pro choice and pro life. That’s not an accident — everyone is pro choice. Who the hell would describe themselves as anti choice? There’s probably a deranged minority of people who might describe themselves as anti-life, but in general these won’t be people who are really anti life.

That’s one of the funny ironies in America’s retarded abortion politics. For the last 20 years there has been a strong alliance between the social/religious conservatives and the hawkish imperialists. The result of this has been that the “pro life” camp supports decidedly anti-life policies, in the hope that they succeed in criminalizing abortion. Thus they accept and support politicians who support military policies that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people abroad — young, old, children and unborn children. They support policies that result in America having the highest infant mortality and infant poverty rates in the developed world. They support these politicians because they support criminalizing abortion.

I’m old enough to remember when the term “pro life” was coined. The justification for this bit of nuspeak is the claim that pro-lifer’s are not against abortion, they are pro-life. If this is the case, pro-lifers should question their strategy — is supporting these bloodthirsty pro-war anti-social-justice politicians really consistent with a pro-life philosophy?

More importantly, is it good strategy? Consider myself — I consider abortions to be unethical, and I consider them to be harmful to the individuals getting the abortion. I am however against criminalizing abortions. I believe alternative policies will produce the best outcome.

Consider alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. In the case of alcohol, we have learned the hard way that prohibition simply does not work. Years of experience have taught us that education, support and control of access to minors is far more successful than prohibition. Prohibiting alcohol did not decrease alcohol consumption, it made alcohol consumption much more dangerous, and removed any mechanisms for regulating access to children. It further introduced a wide host of undesirable side-effects, including violence, criminality, and widespread disregard for the law. Modern policies of education and control have been much more successful in addressing the negative outcomes of alcohol consumption (alcoholism, drunken misbehavior, and health consequences). Our society is currently learning the same lessons regarding the use of illegal drugs. With tobacco we were able to bypass the entire foolishness of prohibition and go directly to reasonable regulations and information campaigns which have been highly successfull in reducing tobacco consumption.

We know historically that criminalizing abortion does not eliminate abortion. Thus, pro-lifers should understand that elimination of abortion is simply not a realistic goal. Instead, let us get together and consider the question: “how can we minimize the number of abortions performed?”. As soon as we switch the conversation from the artificially restrictive one of “should abortions be illegal?”, to one of “How can we minimize the number of abortions that happen?”, we might be able to make progress on an important issue, and we might be able to remove the harmful polarization effect of this issue on our country.

Once we get to this point, there does remain a hurdle. The pro-lifebbbv movement has a disturbing history of focusing on denial-of-access and punitive techniques in their attempts to reduce abortion occurence. I belive that this too is counter productive. How can we reduce the number of abortions taking place?
The first step is to stop pretending that abstinence education is an effective birth control policy. No doubt that abstinence is an effective method of birth control, but hoping your kids are abstinent is a terrible way to prevent you daughter from getting pregnant. It is possible to teach your children how to have safe sex without encouraging them to do so, so let’s provide free birth control everywhere. Lets subsidize condoms and give every kid access to them.

Lets provide young mothers free medical care and a loving, supporting environment for their children to grow up in — regardless of whther or not the mother is the one who will raise the child.

But that’s the big problem with the so-called pro-life movement. It’s been hijacked by people with an extremist agenda that seems to have more to do with forcing a fundamentalist religious agenda on an unwilling America. One in which punishing young, sexually active women is more important than preventing unwanted pregnancies. Where children are to remain ignorant about the realities of sex until they married.

So I would suggest that single-issue voters ask themselves: what is really their single issue? Is it forcing religious fundamentalism on America, or is it reducing abortion? If the sanctitity of life is really your concern, ditch these war mongering religious fundamentalists who are willing to exploit your well meaning goals to pursue a decidedly anti-life agenda.

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