Sunday, May 05, 2013

Just Her Imagination Running Away With Her

Think Progress blogger Aviva Shen has a post up today eviscerating comments (program transcript, here) about reproductive freedom made Sunday morning by Fox News contributor and panelist Sheena Easton, who argued

I do think there’s a case to be made for conservatives or anybody who cares about the rate of abortions in this country to deregulate birth control more, although I also understand a need for parents to be involved. One of the things out of all of this news, including the president’s speech to Planned Parenthood and this Gosnell case of murdering babies, is we’re looking at a culture that produces 1.2 million abortions a year. We’re losing sight of that fact. I would say that in addition to deregulating birth control, another thing we need to do is celebrate young women who bring a baby to term and find an adoptive parent. There’s such a stigma today to being an adoptive birth mom that you’re more willing to admit that you’ve had an abortion than that you are delivering a healthy newborn to a loving family.What’s wrong with our culture that that’s where we are today?

Shen notes

While it’s true that only 1 percent of single pregnant women choose adoption, Easton glosses over the difficulty involved in maintaining a normal life for 9 months as a pregnant teenager. Moreover, birth mothers under 17 are more likely to change their minds about the adoption and keep the baby, making them vulnerable to dropping out of high school and a permanent cycle of poverty that entraps the majority of teen moms. While adoption can be a good option for many pregnant women, Easton’s suggestion that teen pregnancy should be celebrated while abortion should be stigmatized is playing with fire.

Meanwhile, teen pregnancies are at their lowest rate in 40 years, thanks to expanded birth control and abortion access.

But Shen was unnecessarily generous to Easton.  Following the last line ("What's wrong with our....) quoted by Shen, Easton added

So, I would encourage viewers, there's a new campaign out by the National Council for Adoption, it's called And I would say, on the eve of Mother's Day next week, that we should all check that out and start celebrating these young women who choose life for their babies.

As selfless an act that giving up one's baby for adoption is, the phrase "choose life for their babies" is straight out of the anti-abortion rights playbook and implies displeasure with women who choose to end their pregnancy early.   Easton claims concern that there is "such a stigma today to being an adoptive birth mom."  But she doesn't specify who is responsible for the stigma nor how it is manifested (evidence optional in the conservative world).  Not only does Easton not document this alleged stigmatization, she apparently wishes to substitute for it the stigmatization of women who choose to abort.

Shen's observation that the "suggestion that teen pregnancy should be celebrated while abortion should be stigmatized is playing with fire" is figurative but hardly hyperbolic.  Celebration of "young women who become pregnant and find an adoptive parent" may encourage young, unmarried females to become pregnant as they find acceptance or even prestige in that status.  But it is far less likely to persuade anyone to give the baby up for adoption, a decision dependent upon many variables differing from mother to mother and family to family.  Easton's celebration of pregnancy + adoption for young, unmarried women becomes celebration of motherhood for young, unmarried women.  And that is usually not good for them, nor for the community.

Most perplexing, however, is Easton's claim that one is "more willing to admit that you’ve had an abortion than that you are delivering a healthy newborn to a loving family."   In what parallel universe is she living?   Imagine women more willing to admit to an abortion than to deliver a healthy newborn to a loving family.    Just imagine, if you can.  (Then put down that bottle of whiskey.) Not in this society, not now, not previously.

Imagine (unrelated Temptations video, below) a nation in which there is little stigma for a woman to assert that she has exercised choice in childbirth; you have imagined a nation  in which support for reproductive freedom soars as has support for same-sex marriage.   If gay people, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, had not in recent years emerged from the metaphorical closet, support for same-sex marriage would be mired in the low double-digits as it once was.   But while gay individuals have stated loudly and proudly that their sexual preferences are unconventional, women cannot boldly proclaim that they have chosen abortion over childbirth.   When they can, the power to exercise control over their own lives will have been transformed and with it, society.

When loads of women (not the occasional celebrity but our friends, neighbors, and relatives) are able to stand up, state they have had an abortion and that it was a choice made carefully, thoughtfully, and rationally, Easton will have a case.   Until then, she is right about "deregulating" birth control but minimizes by a factor of a gazillion the stigma faced by women who would admit publicly even considering ending a pregnancy.

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