by Max Brantley
Abortion opponents say women seek abortions in haste and confusion. Pro-choicers reply: Abortion is the most difficult, agonizing decision a woman ever makes. Opponents say: Women have abortions because they have irresponsible sex. We say: rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, life-risking pregnancies.
These responses aren’t false exactly. Some women are genuinely ambivalent; some pregnancies are particularly dangerous. But they leave out a large majority of women seeking abortions, who had sex willingly, made a decision to end the pregnancy and faced no special threatening medical conditions.
We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives. We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary. When we gloss over these truths we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat. What, you didn’t agonize? You forgot your pill? You just didn’t want to have a baby now? You should be ashamed of yourself.
A recent study published in the journal Psychological Medicine finds that more than 95 percent of women felt the abortion was the right decision, both immediately after the procedure and three years later. They’ve been shamed into silence by stigma. Abortion opponents are delighted to fill that silence with testimony from their own ranks: the tiny minority of women who say they’re plagued by regret, rape victims glad they chose to continue their pregnancies, women who rejected their doctor’s advice to end a pregnancy and — look at these adorable baby pictures! — everything turned out fine.
It is understandable that women who have ended pregnancies just wanted to move on. Why should they define themselves publicly by one private decision, perhaps made long ago? I’ll tell you why: because the pro-choice movement cannot flourish if the mass of women it serves — that one in three — look on as if the struggle has nothing to do with them. Without the voices and support of millions of ordinary women behind them, providers and advocates can be too easily dismissed as ideologues out of touch with the American people.
Planned Parenthood is big. It estimates that one in five women have visited its clinics for health care. But the implications of the video sting, and the congressional scrutiny Planned Parenthood now faces, are even bigger. They’re about whether Americans will let anti-abortion extremists control the discourse and dictate the agenda around reproductive rights, medicine and scientific research. Silence, fear, shame, stigma. That’s what they’re counting on. Will enough of us come forward to win back the ground we’ve been losing?
“I come to the Senate floor today to ask my Republican colleagues a question,” she began. “Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s? Or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”
“Because I simply cannot believe that in the year 2015, the United States Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women’s healthcare centers. On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. The Republicans have had a plan for years to strip away women’s rights to make choices over our own bodies.”
Warren explained that in 2013, the GOP threatened to shut down the government if they couldn’t change the Affordable Care Act in a way that would allow employers to deny access to birth control. In March 2015, they stopped a bill that would’ve curtailed human trafficking because it could have allowed for the private funding of abortions. In June, Republicans passed a budget that eliminated Title X.
Moreover, she said, “over the past few years, Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times, including the portions that require insurers to cover contraception.”
“Just to be clear,” Warren continued, “even though the abortions performed at Planned Parenthood are safe and legal, the federal government is not paying for any of them. Not — one — dime.”
Warren noted that it’s not just the House and Senate that are involved in this effort, but state legislatures too. “This year alone,” she said, “Republican state legislators have passed more than 50 new restrictions on women’s access to legal healthcare.”