Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Abortion, Life, Choice, Birth

National Public Radio has adopted a new policy to identify on the air individuals and groups on each side of the abortion controversy. No longer will it use the terms "pro-life" and pro-choice," but instead employ

"abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)" and "abortion rights opponent(s)" or derivations thereof (for example: "advocates of abortion rights"). It is acceptable to use the phrase "anti-abortion", but do not use the term "pro-abortion rights".

NPR's ombudsman (ombudswoman? ombudsperson?) notes that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are not as cumbersome as other terms, but are loaded phrases advanced by partisans in the debate. She found that NBC, CBS, CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer do not use these terms.

What, then, to make of an abortion rights opponent like House Minority Leader John Boehner? His website, however dishonestly, slams "taxpayer funding of contraceptives and the abortion industry" and contends

all states are now free to offer Medicaid “family planning” services – even for those who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid – without receiving approval from the federal government. This will pave the way for more taxpayer dollars to go to clinics that undercut parents and promote abortions.

Dante Atkins at DailyKos argues

the fact that Leader Boehner is attacking birth control funding just goes to show that the forced birth cult wing of the Republican Party isn't really interested in snowflake babies. After all, it would stand to reason that making contraception readily available would make a significant dent in the number of unplanned pregnancies. Rather, they are far more concerned with making sure that women--especially poor women--suffer consequences for daring to have sex unless they make sure to do it with a strong, powerful man who they know can provide for them--in other words, the medieval model of gender relations.

Maintaining that "the forced birth cult wing of the Republican Party" is fostering "the medieval model of gender relations" is a little rough. That would be "the medieval model of gender relations" part, not recognition of a "forced birth" wing of the GOP.

Promptly after the surprise selection by Republican presumptive presidential nominee John McCain of then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, interest arose in the teen-aged, unmarried pregnancy of Palin's daughter Bristol. At the convention on September 3, The Daily Beast's Dana Goldstein wrote "The idea that the Christian right would have judged Sarah Palin a failure in imparting proper values to her sexually active daughter is silly, a typical liberal misreading of contemporary conservative ideology."

Silly us liberals, believing conservative rhetoric about "family values," including the merit in a married woman choosing family over career. But Goldstein was right- Christian conservatives have believed Palin "the very epitome of conservative professional motherhood" and far from a failure for not imparting traditional sexual values to her daughter. Goldstein notes

The underlying message is that pregnancy is a gift you should never turn down -- even when it's unexpected, even when you are 17, even when you haven't had the chance to get an education, or a job, or learn to live as an adult away from your parents. (And even if you're the victim of domestic violence or have been raped.) In other words, choice, schmoice.

Pregnancy is a gift you should never turn down. Further, though, Goldstein didn't say it: a gift which should be applauded and celebrated.

The Majority Leader's opposition to the use of Medicaid for family planning is consistent with this approach to birth. Subsidizing family planning for poor people who choose such assistance, thus discouraging unwanted conception and abortion, becomes not only of secondary concern but actually counter-productive.

That would not exactly be "pro-life." The Post ombudsman quotes a District of Columbia resident stating "I am a 'pro-life' voter. For instance, I would vote for someone opposed to the death penalty over someone in favor of it." "Life," like "choice," has plenty of ramifications.

Viewed in the light of the reaction to the Palin family and of Representative Boehner's hostility to family planning, the guiding principle of much of the abortion rights opposition may be pro-natalism, reasonably defined as "an attitude or policy that encourages childbearing." Or maybe it isn't, and I'll be proven as wrong as those of us who assumed conservatives actually once believed in what they termed "family values."

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