Ross Douthat, I'm confused. Sure, a belief that a fetus is a baby is not necessarily inconsistent with the belief that a woman should be able to have a job (such as, for example, Anti-Abortion Activist). But isn't there an elephant in the room, namely the relationship between women's ability to control their fertility (thus "Planned Parenthood") and their ability to succeed professionally? And if you're going to say that abortion can't be a part of said planning, because abortion is murder (and while I don't believe abortion is murder, I believe in taking those who say they do at their word, i.e. respecting that they - unless they give some indication otherwise - believe this), don't you need to be somewhat vehemently in favor of contraception? Like, pill-plus-condom-every-time contraception for all women not prepared to bear (and likely raise) a child?
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Douthat (dropping the second-person pretense) doesn't mention contraception. If women are going to be equal to men in the workforce and not have abortions, maybe we want to name the brilliant set of devices that can make this possible. Is the ideal, then, that women will nobly pursue professional goals and never ever ever have sex with men, including the men they may well be married to? Which, while it no doubt describes some individual women's trajectories (there are women who can take or leave - or absolutely don't want - sex with men), sure isn't going to work for most. Nor, given the existence of effective contraception, is there any reason that those who don't follow a value system that demands near-total celibacy should be encouraged to do so.
Because this is why you get liberals claiming that "pro-life" is about controlling female sexuality (and, inferring from that, about keeping women in the kitchen).* If the anti-abortion movement really just opposed abortion, and favored a whatever-it-takes approach (i.e. if you're going to have heterosexual intercourse, which you almost certainly are, and don't want as many children as this could produce in your lifetime, which you almost certainly don't, you must use contraception when not looking to have a kid, or bear the consequences), then Douthat might have a case. Instead, the "pro-life" side is upset that sex has been separated from reproduction, which cuts against a culture-of-life or some such. It's not that everyone who opposes abortion also opposes contraception. It's that there's still a sense from those who are most vocally worked-up about abortion that contraception is suspect, squicky, something the other side supports, and at any rate not something to promote. Their shaming focuses not on irresponsible use of contraception (not that shaming would be the best approach, but anyway), but on the seeking out of contraception in the first place, the lurid announcement to everyone else at the Walgreens that you intend to have non-procreative sex.
*This isn't all of it. There's also the question of abortion in cases of rape, and of fetuses with severe abnormalities. And of what a woman should do who has taken every precaution and still gotten pregnant. But this is still an awful lot of it.