“Why Haven’t We Ended Abortion?”
by Rachel MacNair
Part 1 of 2 posts responding to Ward Ricker’s essay, “Prolife – Not”
Ward Ricker has been active in opposing abortion, but has recently written an essay expressing alienation from the pro-life movement. In Part 2, I’ll address that feeling of alienation more directly, but first I was challenged by his complaint that when he googled the question – Why Haven’t We Ended Abortion? – his own previous essay on the topic was the only one that came up. He thought the question deserved more attention.
As seen with my outpouring of reasons below, I’ve certainly thought about it. But first, I want to make the question more specific and realistic: “Why haven’t we ended abortion being legal, socially approved, and practiced widely and openly?”
First, a reminder that the CLN blog welcomes diverse views, so the reasons I offer below are my opinion and not officially that of the organization.
Some Suggestions on Why
1) Courts in those countries with a court-imposed “right” to abortion are, for the most part, engaged in bizarre reasoning from which they either refuse to budge or they budge only slightly.
2) Mainstream media too often cover negative stereotypes of abortion opponents rather than giving an honest view of the debate. Most mass media tend to avoid covering those of us that don’t fit the stereotypes. As Ward has pointed out, they also only cover the debate – they rarely cover abortion itself, nor the gory details of how it’s practiced. And mainly they don’t even do much to cover the debate.
3) In the U.S., the Republicans have talked smoothly on the topic, but many politicians don’t have behavior showing they mean it. Pro-lifers spend so much of their time working for them, only to be betrayed. Over and over. A prime example is President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
4) In the U.S., Democrats have become bigoted on this topic. The intolerance of pro-life views is truly astonishing. Even simple efforts to have a “big tent” philosophy of allowing people to be pro-life Democrats has met with massive resistance and in most places isn’t the current policy.
5) Because of this Republican/Democrat divide in the U.S. and similar rifts in other countries, and because of the courts, and also the media, abortion has been presented as a right-wing/left-wing divide. So people move to the wing they agree with on other topics rather than thinking about it.
6) We have the same problem with societal apathy that absolutely every social movement that has ever existed has had.
7) Abortion promoters have way more money. They make money from abortions themselves. They also have more rich people and foundations donating, plus government grants.
8) The lead-up to Roe v. Wade arose during the cauldron of the American war in Vietnam and when Cold War anxiety over having a nuclear holocaust was high. The negative vortex of violent energy fed off the horrific violence of the era.
9) The Abortion Distortion Factor – when abortion is the topic at hand, many people dispense with the moral principles they normally abide by. I explain this as cognitive-dissonance-induced belligerency.
10) Human society has a long-standing habit of using killing as a problem-solver. We’re struggling against millennia of massive slaughter.
And Yet . . .
Abortion numbers in the U.S. are falling and have been for years, and there’s an even more dramatic downturn in first-time abortions. The repeat abortions are keeping the numbers up, but they’ll fall by attrition eventually as women hit menopause, so we’ve got a more dramatic downturn coming. I’ve written about how we can use psychology to our advantage with this observation.
But this also means that our work all these years has in fact been highly effective.
It’s of course heart-wrenching that it isn’t more effective – half of a huge number is still a huge number, and just one is one too many – but we are in fact making progress, and it’s absolutely crucial that we continue.
Final Question: Why this Question?
Ward was taken aback that he seemed to be the only one posing this question, and wondered why. My quick answer is that pro-lifers are very well acquainted with the many obstacles we face and are more likely to complain about those obstacles than to ask the question in this way. These are longstanding frustrations, after all.
But being inclined to connect issues of violence, I’ll also ask:
Why haven’t we ended war? Though we’ve made progress in that people generally only think it allowable for defense and not aggression, they’re nevertheless awfully easily convinced a given war is defensive when that’s highly questionable or just plain silly. Or they’re unconvinced but apathetic.
Why haven’t we ended the death penalty? It’s a mere shadow of what it used to be in numbers of executions and numbers of places it’s used, but why is it still happening at all?
Why haven’t we ended poverty? There’s a far smaller proportion of human society mired in it than used to be, but we have the resources to end it entirely, and stop the many deaths it causes. So why haven’t we?
Why haven’t we ended racism? Again, we’ve made more progress over the decades, but far too much of racism is still rearing its ugly head.
And why haven’t we ended nuclear weapons? Unlike all these others, we’re not dealing with centuries of human practice. While nukes were prevalent when I was born, my own parents were born into a world without them. There are far fewer than there used to be, and we now have an international treaty to ban them (signed by nations that don’t possess them). Given the demise of the Cold War and the clear danger of having so many and actually “modernizing” them, why is there so much apathy?
The answer to all these questions is: all social movements to stop violence have obstacles of the kinds I mentioned above.
Also, all of them aren’t working as effectively as they could, what with being run by human beings.
Additionally, these are some of the forms of socially-approved killing that we still have left, out of a once far greater number. We pretty much ended duels, gladiator games, witch-burnings, crucifixions lining the roads for public display, and various other forms of killings that used to be quite legal. We can learn lessons from those successes.
To my mind, the practical question isn’t why the killing of various kinds hasn’t ended. The practical question is: What are we going to do, or what will we keep doing, to end them?
All hands on deck.