January 29, 2015

Review: Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll start out by saying that I am unabashedly in favor of reproductive rights and against forced-birtherism, so naturally this book is right up my alley. Women's bodily autonomy and human rights should not even be up for discussion. Unfortunately, due to the 2010/2014 elections, and the spate of laws passed in the states chipping away at the basic constitutional rights established in Roe v. Wade, (usually offered under the disingenuous guise of "protecting women") they are, forty years after this should have been settled.

Most of what Katha Pollitt says here is familiar to me; I use it all the time to argue with people (on the Internet and in real life) who think I should be demoted to a second-class citizen because of a stray sperm. What I think is interesting is how she follows the line of anti-abortion thought to its end, and exposes the mental pretzel-twisting that plagues most people who oppose abortion. To name just a few (the chapters go into far greater detail than this, nailing down every twist of forced-birther illogic): Why should you have rape and incest exceptions at all? No matter how the baby got there, it's still a life, isn't it? Why do you support only prosecuting the people who perform abortions, and not the women who asked for them? For those who believe an abortion is murder, if an elective abortion isn't pre-meditated murder, then what is? How many years in prison should a woman get for an abortion? Also, if you really want to reduce the abortion rate, why don't you support contraception and comprehensive sex education, instead of bleating the usual refrain (and I have seen this so many times I've lost count) of "The slut should have kept her legs closed"? You do realize that makes you sound like an embittered puritan who wants to punish women for participating in a natural everyday human activity instead of protecting "life," don't you?

Throughout the chapters, the author pursues this "logic" to its inevitable end, which would mean reducing women to the status of reproductive chattel. If forced birthers would just show some intellectual honesty and admit it, they would say that they want a law just like Ireland's or El Salvador's. No abortion allowed from conception on, not even in the case of a fatally deformed fetus, and most reluctantly (see: Savita Halappanavar...except that, ooops, she died) to save the woman's life. Along with investigations into every miscarriage, and prison terms for women who have abortions, and lifestyle restrictions on every woman of reproductive age, since after all they might become pregnant at any moment. And also, very likely, restrictions on birth control (no "abortifacients," no matter that there isn't any such thing) and in-vitro fertilization (as every one of those embryos has to find a home somewhere), which would have the desired effect of driving women out of the workforce and back into the kitchen, since you can hardly be a doctor or a lawyer or a Senator or maybe even President if you're having a baby every one or two years.

Hmm. What happened to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"? That's for men only, I guess.

Sorry, I'm being facetious. A little. I know many of these people are sincere in their belief that abortion is murder, even if they're quite sincerely wrong. But since it is my Constitutional right, it really doesn't matter what opponents think. (This is why we'll have to keep relying on the courts to strike down these ridiculous laws, TRAP and ultrasound laws and heartbeat bills and so forth.) I appreciate the author's suggestion to reframe abortion as part of women's health care, no more and no less, and not "safe, legal and rare" but right and good if the woman wants it. There isn't, and shouldn't be, anything shameful about having an abortion. It's my right and my life, and we need more books like these to remind people of that fact.

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