The question of abortion, or reproductive health as the Left calls it, is one of the most hotly debated issues in America today. Now, I don’t agree with the "pro-life" view that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder. But I respect that point of view. And I’m ok with people having different opinions from me. I’m even ok with staunch pro-lifers who want to spend their time and money and energy opposing abortion, just as I want to spend my time and money and energy advocating for access to it. That’s what our system in America is designed to do. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.
The problem is that the pro-life movement is not just about getting the rest of our society and legal system to agree that abortion is murder. If it were, I’d be happy to try to find a way to compromise and see what we can come up with. Instead, the pro-life movement has gone beyond defining the beginning of life and expanded to controlling women’s bodies and enforcing a sexist, second-class stereotype that women are stupid and our sexuality is a moral travesty. I offer just two examples to illustrate my point.
Exhibit A: Ultrasounds. Currently, 18 states regulate the provision of ultrasounds by abortion providers. My favorite one is in Oklahoma, H.B.2780 (passed in 2010), which requires women to not only have an ultrasound before an abortion, but also to listen to the provider verbally describe the picture including the presence of organs, extremities, and a heartbeat. Translation: women are stupid. That’s really what these laws say. If women "knew what was at stake," if they understood that they were "killing life" and if they just were "forced to confront the evidence," then they would never choose to have an abortion. These "informed consent" laws, as they are called, are now picking up steam in pro-life-controlled Georgia and Texas.
Exhibit B: Access to contraception and comprehensive sex education. If the pro-life movement was really concerned about decreasing the number of abortions in this country, it would work hand-in-hand with the pro-choice movement to provide contraception and family-planning services to women (particularly low-income women). However, hard-core conservatives are convinced (bizarrely) that anything other than abstinence-only education encourages teenagers to have more sex (although let’s be honest – their real concern is teenage girls having more sex). And so in the end, they need to pick one, right? Either the girls will be taught abstinence, have sex anyway, and need abortions, or they will be taught to have safe sex but not end up needing to commit murder (have an abortion). Basically, which is the greater evil – sexually active young girls, or “murder?" If you guessed the first option, you were right.
These are not pro-lifers I can work with, and that’s because they aren’t just pro-life – they’re anti-women. Frankly, I’m not just a little bit shocked that there isn’t a women’s group out there that is pro-life, but is also dismayed and embarrassed at the additional lengths the so-called pro-life movement is going to in order to "put us in our place" and further destroy women’s lives. Politicians have found ways to reach across the aisle to support nuclear treaties, trade agreements, consumer protection measures, and other critically important public policies. Is it possible to find pro-lifers we can work with? Ones who believe life begins at conception but who aren’t looking to completely roll back women’s reproductive rights? Should we even bother trying?