Talking About Abortion

Or, things my mother and I discuss after we’ve had a couple of glasses of odious “Christmas” wine and forget that it’s a futile argument.

After the election, The Poor Man suggested it was time to just chuck the entire abortion rights plank of the party platform overboard and focus on winning, citing Clinton’s DOMA as a way to triangulate and outflank the religious right. Commenters pointed out that we needed some sort of liberal equivalent to Godwin’s Law, i.e. Clinton’s law, which states that anyone who cites Clinton as a political genius who somehow overcame the strictures of being a Democrat must also mention Perot’s hand in getting him elected in the first place, or that person will be sentenced to a lifetime of fucking Mary Matalin and acting the part of a political drama queen opposite Tucker Carlson. I’m still not entirely sure the post wasn’t facetious in the first place, but it did accurately predict by several months the stance of prominent members of the actual Democratic Party.

Which leads me to conversations with my mom.

We don’t talk about abortion because nobody talks about abortion anymore, they just stand on opposite sides of the street and scream obscenities at each other. We don’t talk about abortion because my position dictates I think of her as a simpleminded self-satisfied middle-class prat who wants to punish poor women for things beyond their control, and her position dictates she think of me as an amoral decadent supporter of babykiillers who wishes my own birth had been averted by a medical procedure I believe to be devoid of either physical or emotional consequences. End of story.

Except that, as I tried to explain once fortified by the tasty beverage with Santa on the label, our goal is EXACTLY the same.

We both want abortion to cease.

She’s not a compassionless person. Most of the money and time she gives to her cause goes to organizations that support not only pregnant women but people who’ve already had abortions and need counseling (yes, counseling, not guilt, and she knows the difference). Operation Rescue’s solicitations get shredded. She doesn’t scream at clinics and she takes care of babies that relatives have had under less than desireable circumstances, giving them what is basically day care for free and encouraging them as they go through all kinds of child-rearing crises.

I personally would never choose abortion for myself. I can’t dump lousy boyfriends, people. I’ve driven friends to the doctor, though and held their hands and looked at their faces afterward and hated that they were in a place so dark and frightening. I couldn’t face what they’ve been through. I don’t have the strength.

There’s a way to please us both, and that’s to make abortion nonexistent. That’s the one thing outlawing it will never do. It’s the one thing a comprehensive plan to attack the causes of abortion can do. Honest to god sex education. Day care and housing subsidies. Available and effective contraception. Parenting classes and hotlines and resources for struggling newlyweds and single moms and dads and everybody who needs it.

Democrats want these things anyway. Why not ask for them under the guise of attempting to drastically reduce the number of abortions by the end of this decade? Pick a number, splash it up on the screen, bring up the fact that abortion rates rose under Bush and fell under Clinton. Talk about a goal of making sure no woman is so poor, so desperate, so ignorant that she has no other choice. Talk about the fact that after years of restrictions, the Republicans haven’t been able to reduce abortion rates. Laws to keep people away from something don’t do it. Their way isn’t working. It’s time for something else, so here’s our plan.

We’re rightly scared of losing the right to an abortion, so we started talking about it as a necessary thing that had to be there. It’s a little too easy for our opponents to conflate that into a “love” for abortion itself, especially when we don’t talk about the other things we care about in this context. We can fight back by showing our love for women and demanding compassion in action to prove it, and anybody who opposes us should be asked why they don’t want to support us in our goal to make this procedure, as Clinton himself put it once, “safe, legal, and rare.”