So much, it’s making me sneeze.
One of the points that is frequently raised by those who say they are opposed to abortion but who nonetheless give their support, advice and endorsement to candidates who are unequivocally and proudly supportive of unrestricted access to abortion (phew)…
…goes something like this:
You know, the anti-abortion movement just has to get over its fixation with overturning Roe. Instead of obsessing about criminalization, the anti-abortion movement should take the energy it puts into politics and work to find ways to decrease the number of abortion and improve the lives of women, children and families.
As I said, this is more than a straw man. It’s an entire straw movement.
1) Anyone who thinks that the anti-abortion movement is all or even mostly about politics and the law is obviously either a)unfamiliar with the anti-abortion movement or b)willfully distorting what he or she knows to be the truth about the movement in order to score points or promote a candidate. Deceitfully.
2) The anti-abortion (and I am using that term to head off the arguments about the definition of “pro-life.” Not in this post, please. We get it.) movement is like any other social movement. It is diverse, it is composed of different elements working at the defined problem from different directions. Some of these elements are even in conflict with each other, also normal for social movements.
3) The anti-abortion movement is composed of people involved in education. Others are working on the legal aspects of the issue. Others are involved in media. Others in supporting medical professionals. Others in lobbying. Others in direct support of women. Others in trying to build institutions that help women choose to carry their babies to term. Others in adoption work or work with the disabled. Others in post-abortion support. Others in prayer. And more.
4) Most of the energies of the anti-abortion movement in this country are absorbed in educational efforts (in schools, churches and the broader culture) and direct work with women in unexpected pregnancies. That is just a fact. For every individual whose energies go to working the political end of the issue, you have 10 volunteering at your local crisis pregnancy center.
5) Related to this is the “single issue” canard, which I’ll look at more closely in a later post from a couple of different angles. But in this argument, it usually goes, “Anti-abortionists are not working for health care reform with the fervor they give to trying to get abortion criminalized.” First, see #1-4. Anti-abortionists are mostly busy trying to set up women with medical care and social services and helping families work through a lot of surprise and pain. There are probably some in this movement that are, indeed, working for health care reform in various arenas. The rest are probably too busy making phone calls, filling out forms and holding hands. It is okay for people to focus on a specific purpose which involves helping the person who shows up at your door today. There are other, broader issues implicated, certainly. But not everyone can do everything, for then nothing gets done and the doorbell goes unanswered because everyone is so busy studying position papers.
Besides: You don’t want to start fixating on legislative solutions to problems at the expense of helping real women and children….do you?
Further, when it is political season, it is not really surprising that much of the public conversation turns to issues of the law and public policy. But that doesn’t mean the doorbell doesn’t stop ringing or that no one is there to answer it.
6) The implication is the Straw Movement assumption is the primary importance of abortion to the anti-abortion movement is as some abstract “wedge” issue, and nothing more. It is all about winning an argument, it seems, that someone started a long time ago for no good reason, the winning of which will…do what? Get someone a bit more power? It’s all pretty fuzzy to me. I can’t even figure out how that would work.
Years ago, I was riding in a car to a conference with Rosemary Bottcher of Feminists for Life, and at one point she said, “It’s about the babies. Never forget and keep reminding yourself – it’s about real babies.”
And that’s it.
Working to minimize, to stop abortion and abortions doesn’t win you friends and status in the United States in 2008. Not even, in more quarters than we’d care to admit, in the Catholic Church. There is no influence to be gained or riches to be made in the process. Certainly, politicians can and do use the issue to win votes and support from core constituencies (a subject addressed here many times), but politicians are not the subject of this post because the critics who wave the Straw Movement don’t specify “politicians.” They talk about the movement in general, opponents, workers in the vineyard who can’t ignore the call. The cry?
There is a lot more to be said about the arguments being flung about, feverishly, right now, but I’ve written this post with a very specific purpose related to this specific claim: that the anti-abortion movement spends most of its resources and energy on pursuing political paths at the expense of assistance and support of women, children and families.
That’s silly. It’s also dishonest and unfair and does nothing to advance the “dialogue” and “common ground” it is claimed is so necessary and important in regard to this issue.