You Can Still Keep Your Laws off My Body

Suddenly a forest of anti-abortion posters have popped up on the BART (the Bay Area’s rail transit system). Although the website doesn’t identify itself, the physical posters have small print saying that the sponsors are the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, who have mounted this as a nationwide campaign.

First of all, both of us respect moral and ethical positions against abortions. Abortion is a decision that most women enter into with doubts, reservations, and serious consideration. The fabled “women who use abortion as birth control” are rare indeed and to the extent that they do exist, honestly, would you want one of them as your mother?

We do object to people legislating other people’s moral and ethical choices in this area. By basing their arguments on Roe v. Wade, these smarmy and manipulative posters are clearly saying that they want legislative change in this area. And the organization claims to want people to make decisions on facts rather than emotions!

The posters’ list of circumstances under which abortion is permitted is a disorganized laundry list of everything from first-trimester fetal heartbeat to the very end of the third trimester. In fact, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, as cited on Second Look’s site, 88% of abortions take place in the first trimester and only 1.4% happen after 21 weeks.

We say the people who designed, printed, and distributed this poster are sinning by omission, because they aren’t acknowledging either how rare the most upsetting items on the poster are, or the declining rate of abortions in the United States. They are claiming to want “a second look” when they actually want to gross us out in just the same way that protesters with pictures of bloody fetuses want to gross us out.

And, of course, they want to deny a woman’s right to choose. They can call it “second look” all year without disguising what they’re really trying to say.

<br /> abortion<br /> feminism<br /> Roman Catholic<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow">Body Impolitic</a><br />

5 thoughts on “You Can Still Keep Your Laws off My Body

  1. It blows my mind that this is still even an issue. I learned how to administer herbal abortion a long, long time ago because I didn’t want to go through what we go through here in Canada if we request an abortion from our General Practitioner. I don’t know if it’s changed, but to get an abortion here, you had to have an interview with several people about your reasons for wanting to do so. Same with sterilization before a certain age. Bizarre. MY body, man. Mine.


  2. Do all of the posters feature women of color? If so, there’s a disturbing racial undertone to the campaign as well. Also, if the posters are primarily on public transit, that indicates an economic bias to the campaign too. The subtext, if these things are true, is that if you are a poor minority, you should be forced to suffer the economic and social pressures of an unwanted pregnancy, but if you’re a rich, white woman who has an abortion, we just won’t talk about it.

  3. As always, I have to preface these comments by observing that I am against all attempts to re-outlaw abortion, overturn Roe, and so on. This has been my stand all my adult life and some time before, and remains so despite my recent conversion to Roman Catholicism.

    That said: I can’t quite accede to the logic that says, quote, We do object to people legislating other people’s moral and ethical choices in this area.

    Why this area specifically? I don’t see an inherent difference between this and (say) legislating the morality of murder; or of forcing a rich person [through taxes] to support poor people.

    I cite murder as a deliberate extreme: a reversal from laws that restrict putative rights within your own body, to laws that restrict me from violating another person’s putative rights in his/her body. The real problem is, I do not now and never have seen any sound basis for any “rights” at all. Rights are what you can get away with, either by dint of your own force or stealth, or by convincing the biggest kids on the block (e.g. the gummint) to enforce them for you.

    I’ve always questioned the Founders’ claim that men (meaning, of course, white property-owning males) are “endowed by their Creator with certain Rights.” Really? Then the Creator has done a remarkably poor job of either indicating His/Her/Its/Their will in the matter, or of enforcing same will.

    So straight up, when we talk about “rights” we’re really talking about “the kind of society I prefer to live in.” There is no inherent right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness (though this last nobody can actually prevent), property, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, bearing arms, voting, or power over one’s own body. None. And, of course, there is not one of these that has not been not-a-right at some point in recent history.

    The point of this side trip is that all “rights” granted by government — as well as all obligations toward one’s fellow-citizens defined in the negative by criminal codes — are exactly and precisely the legislating of morality in some are or other, whether the blatant morality of “murder is not permitted” to the subtle morality of the social responsibility of the well-off to the badly-off. And, of course, the “right to choose”/right to ownership of one’s body is somewhere in between these two on the blatant/subtle scale.

    As a side note, this is precisely what makes Mr. Hentges’s point so telling. Before the social movement of which Roe is merely the most visible symbol, a “rich, white woman” (of course, rich, non-white women were pretty rare, but this applied to them also) could in fact get an abortion without recourse to back alleys or the TJ Taxi; their doctors simply wrote a D&C up as a “hygienic” procedure or some such without any mention that the woman was pregnant before the procedure, and wasn’t afterwards.

    (Incidentally, the Web site depicts a white woman in a similarly-posed half-head photo on their homepage. For what little that’s worth.)

    I do not mean to suggest that the anti-abortion “movement” is racially motivated — but I do beleive very deeply that it is to a large extent pushed along by economic motivations, a part of the larger class warfare that our “classless” society never admits to.

    Which, of course, is why I brought up “forcing a rich person [through taxes] to support poor people” as my other specific example of legislated morality. You’ll generally — not always! — find that people who oppose the use of taxes to redistribute wealth are also “pro Life.” The reverse, of course, is not necessarily true. More to the point, this is a case where the Left generally does want to legislate morality, while the Right generally doesn’t.

    As so often, no real conclusions, just questions, because I think it’s important to think carefully about things like “rights” and then state the position accurately.

  4. I’ve heard that in Japan abortion is routinely used as birth control. Other birth control methods are distrusted or not available. So a lot of women who are mothers have used abortion that way.

    I don’t have a problem with it, personally, and have been at points in my life when it looked like the best method, though it never came to that. I’m uncomfortable with setting up reasons why an abortion is a good “enough” choice, rather than one done for the “wrong” reasons, even if the discussion is about keeping it legal.

  5. Since we answered everyone else a few days after we posted this, just a comment here to Lizzie.

    Abortion certainly has been routinely used as birth control in Japan; neither of us is sure what the status is now (though we know who to ask).

    Many temples in Japan have very moving shrines to unborn babies (both aborted and miscarried). We went to one in Japan in 1996; the shrine consisted of dozens of tiny figures, which people come in and dress and decorate individually.

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