“Yes! I’ve had an abortion and I’m glad I did. I am a happy person as a result.”
That is the message that Amelia Bonow, aged 30, has trumpeted on Twitter at #ShoutYourAbortion the past couple of weeks. Reacting to the assault on Planned Parenthood, Bonow is encouraging other women to tell about their own positive abortion experiences. The idea is to get away from the idea that a woman’s decision for an abortion is something to be defensive, much less apologetic, about.
Brava Bonow. She wants women to get out of the “defensive crouch” about abortion that Katha Pollitt has decried. It is understandable that many women who’ve had abortions want to keep that decision to themselves: it is a private decision and one that is still widely stigmatized. No one is obliged to be a martyr. But it’s great to see women who feel comfortable enough to openly proclaim that abortion is a positive good and that they have been its beneficiaries. It’s important, I think, because even a lot of people who support choice exhibit some ambivalence about abortion: they view it as morally problematic. It isn’t. It needs to be said again and again: there is nothing morally wrong with abortion. That is not to say that an abortion decision is easy. The possibility of becoming a parent is a wonderful opportunity. To forego that opportunity is a major life choice; such a decision may well be a difficult one. But that is not the same as saying that it presents a moral issue. It’s simply (or, perhaps, not so simply!) a decision about choosing the kind of life you want to live at a given time in your life.
As I have argued repeatedly, it’s the “pro-lifers” whose morality is screwed up. They would attribute rights to an inert, non-conscious being—starting with the microscopic blob of protoplasm that is a day-old fertilized egg—and claim that those “rights” trump the right of a woman to control her body for nine months and to live the life she chooses thereafter. That is morally perverse.
But there are lots of people who fervently adhere to the twisted morality that they call “pro-life.” In some cases, they hate abortion vociferously enough to swamp Bonow with death threats. She has felt compelled to temporarily leave her home as a result. Ostensibly, the anti-abortion zealots are motivated by outrage at what they believe is murder. I won’t re-hash the arguments for why that belief doesn’t make sense. But I think it’s worth asking: what leads people to believe that? The anti-abortion movement isn’t monolithic, and different people surely have different mixtures of motivations, but in general I think the anti-abortion persuasion springs from one or more of several motivations that “pro-lifers” themselves may not be entirely conscious of.
Maybe this is all pretty obvious, and I’m probably missing something in any case, but I think that defenders of women’s right to choose should be willing to say (even to shout) that their adversaries’ claim to be advocating for “life” should not be taken at face value. It’s not just about protecting fetuses.