Because life is a miracle…

Sikivu Hutchinson writes at The New Humanism:

There has been very little national discussion of how women of color will specifically be affected by draconian restrictions on abortion in the health care bills’ mandated insurance exchanges. At approximately 6% of the U.S. population, African American women have a disproportionate number of abortions.

However, skyrocketing numbers of black children who are homeless, in foster care and/or Child Protective Services illustrate the gravity of caregiving issues facing many African American families. And black abortion foes offer no viable program for addressing this moral and social crisis. They offer no viable program for the dilemma of an 18 year-old who had her first child at age 12. They’re MIA when it comes to concrete assessment of how this 18 year-old (multiplied by 10,000) raising her second child by an incarcerated older man, develops parenting skills, deals with anger management, gets an education, gets a job, finds health care resources, puts food on the table and grapples with the probability of being a single mother for the rest of her life.

These are necessary points, but at the risk of sounding callous, they shouldn’t come as a surprise. The discrepancy comes down to a fundamental difference in how pro-choicers vs. pro-lifers approach the issue of abortion rights.

For all our fixating on the topic, pro-choicers only see legalized abortion as a means to an end. In general terms, it is the means to reproductive freedom, the ability to have a child because you genuinely want one–or not. Specifically, it is the means to prevent situations like the 18-year-old raising two children without the benefits of a decent education, healthcare, job skills, or a reliable partner. If our system of family planning through contraception were good enough to prevent hundreds of thousands of lives from having to start in those circumstances, then we wouldn’t need abortion rights, but this is the world in which we have to live. If statistics come in and show that abortion rates decreased the previous year, pro-choicers might see that as a good thing, depending on the factors behind the decrease.

The pro-life movement treats prevention of abortions as an end in itself. Crisis Pregnancy Centers offer no help to an unprepared young mother faced with an unplanned child except to bully her out of terminating the pregnancy. After that’s done, what else is there? The “culture of life” isn’t concerned with the quality of life for the children it wants brought into the world, by willing mothers or not. We’re often told of the great lives that would have been if not for abortion: this baby could have been President, that baby could have cured cancer, you just killed Beethoven. We don’t hear so much about the way many children’s lives do unfold when they’re born to mothers who had no choice in the matter and fathers who may or may not be able to stay out of prison. We don’t hear about how many of those children are homeless, abused, neglected or spending their entire childhoods in a rapid succession of foster homes. We don’t hear about how many of those children will spend much of their adulthoods in prison or continuing the cycle of raising children in abject poverty. All that matters is that they weren’t aborted. Smile! Your mom chose life!

In this rather old post, Andrew Sullivan quotes Michael New reacting to a study by the Guttmacher Institute:

[T]he media’s analysis [of the study] is faulty. Most of the countries where abortion is prohibited are in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. These countries have low per capita income and a higher incidence of social pathologies that may increase the perceived need for abortion. This nuance is not picked up in any of the media coverage of the AGI report.

Interestingly, AGI has also released research that demonstrates the effectiveness of pro-life laws. This summer it released a literature review showing that 20 of 24 studies found that public funding of abortion increased abortion rates. Other AGI research has demonstrated that parental-involvement laws and well-designed informed-consent laws also reduce the incidence of abortion. Unfortunately, research like that typically receives scant attention from the mainstream media.

(emphasis is so mine)

Here we see New’s respect for women’s reproductive decision-making, if nothing else. Social pathologies increase the perceived need for abortion, and of course the perceptions of the women procuring the abortions are nothing compared to the effectiveness of laws designed to force motherhood on them. If public funding increases abortion rates, then banning public funding will decrease them, and there’s no need to worry about how a woman who can’t pay for an abortion is going to provide for a baby. There’s no point in wondering what’s ahead for a child born to a teenager whose parents forced her to maintain her pregnancy to term. This is about stopping abortion. What more do you want, contraception?

Hutchinson’s post demonstrates that you don’t need to be white to skate over the cradle-to-prison pipeline facing disproportionately brown children born to families ill-prepared to raise them. Racism has long gone hand-in-hand with sexism, and women (of all colors) have long been treated as breeding animals for their race, rather than autonomous, self-determined individuals. However, it’s no secret that some women get more face time in the national discourse than others. If there has been little national discussion on how the draconion abortion restriction in the health care bills will affect women of color, perhaps the question answers itself: problems affecting women of color are invisible to the people who get elected to public office. I mean, everyone knows white is the Default State of Humanity and that white people aren’t actually a race, so if we just talk about what we have to deal with, then we’ve got everyone covered!

2 thoughts on “Because life is a miracle…

  1. ‘The “culture of life” isn’t concerned with the quality of life for the children it wants brought into the world, by willing mothers or not.’

    Trenchant response Alyson. I would also add that the religious right has perpetrated one of the greatest rhetorical thefts in contemporary American political discourse by hijacking the term “pro-life.” The “life begins at conception” propaganda effectively evacuates the meaning of the life, right to self-determination, control and individual propriety of all women of childbearing age, rendering them vessels subject to the vagaries of the state–an argument that the rabid anti-big govt. types are immune to.

    • Thank you! Ever notice how the “get the government out of the way” rhetoric tends to mean making the government just big enough to fit in your uterus?

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