If I got pregnant today, I would have an abortion.
That’s not a popular thing for a woman to say in this country. But if it’s true for me, I’m sure it’s true for a lot of other women, too. In fact, I know it is. Because statistically, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion at some point in her reproductive life. The only question which remains is, will women be able to obtain those abortions legally in the future?
It’s no secret that abortion rights and access are being chipped away here in Texas. In the summer of 2013, HB2 was passed in a Legislative special session, despite Wendy Davis’ fillibuster and attempts by pro-choice activists to prevent conservatives from pushing the vote through in the Senate.
Last week, the Supreme Court put a temporary halt on some of the most detrimental provisions of the bill. Texans, however, still await the the 5th Circut Court of Appeals’ final decision on HB2’s overall constitutionality. If the 5th Circut Court moves in favor of the bill, all but 8 medical facilities in Texas able to provide abortion will remain closed.
It was because of bills like HB2, being put up for vote (if not passed) in states all across the US, that Katha Pollitt decided to write her new book, PRO: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.
In PRO, Pollitt outlines and then debunks in turn each of the major arguments against abortion put forth by anti-choice advocates.
“I was surprised it didn’t already exist,” Pollitt admitted. “I did a little research to see what was out there that was already published. There was not a book that laid out arguments in favor of legal abortion in a compelling way.”
Through PRO, Pollitt hopes to reach the middle-of-the-road pro-choice individuals who think women ought to be able to get an abortion, but that it’s not a very good thing, so it shouldn’t be too easy or too encouraged.
“The thing I tried to do in the book was to present abortion rights and abortion access as something that’s good not just for women but for everybody,” Pollitt explained. “It’s good for society when children are born in stable situations and when they’re born to parents who can take care of them and take care of them well.”
“It’s good for society when women can be all they can be,” Pollitt continued. “Abortion is really part of the story of women becoming more able to use all their talents and skills in the world. And it’s also meant that families can be better planned which is good for children. And it’s good for men, too.”
Pollitt said that part of the difficulty with the abortion debates as they stand is that pro-choice activists have been allowing anti-choice activists to delineate the terms of the debate in a lot of ways.
“Pro-choice people have – maybe even on an unconcsious level – bought into the framing of abortion opponents,” Pollitt said. “For example, that abortion is really a terrible thing. That it’s the hardest decision a woman ever makes.”
“I think then you start chasing other side’s framing,” Pollitt continued. “The other side says, for example, ‘Women are just confused and they don’t really think about what they’re doing. That’s why we need to have waiting periods and scripts doctors have to read about fetal development.’”
“So then our side says, ‘No, no, women take abortion very seriously. It’s the hardest decision they ever make.’ That is intended to underline the truth that women are morally serious and consider carefully what they’re going to do when they have an unwanted pregnancy. It also says that deciding not to have a baby when you have an unwanted pregnancy at some random moment in your life is something that’s very hard to do.”
“That’s saying motherhood is the default position for women,” Pollitt emphasized. “That any time a woman gets pregnant she thinks seriously about having this baby she can’t support, or has no partner for, or has many other imporant things she has to do before she’s ready to be a mother, or she has other children she needs to take care of…it goes from women are morally serious to women should seriously consider having a baby in about a minute. I think that framing on the part of pro-choicers over time almost increases the amount of stigma around abortion.”
“We have these ideas – a lot of stereotypes about women who have abortions,” Pollitt went on to say. “It’s the promiscuous careless teenager, it’s the child-hating cold-hearted career women, it’s women who just dont give a damn. But the truth is, 60% of women who have abortions are mothers. So the idea that the woman doesn’t know what it means to be pregnant, doesn’t know what it means to have a child, that she is shirking some parental responsibility, that she hates children – doesn’t fit reality at all.”
“At lot of women are having abortions because a lot of them are poor and have their hands full with kids they already have,” Pollitt argued. “Because they’re poor they have much less access to reliable, consistent birth control than wealthier women do. We’re still at beginning of being able to provide real reproductive health care to women.”
“Texas has a very bad record on all these issues,” Pollitt emphasized. “Because they’ve cut back on birth control and they’ve cut back on abortion and they’ve cut back on anything that would help women and children. They’re not saying, ‘Have a baby, we’ll help.’ It’s, ‘Have a baby, now heck with you, you’re on your own.’”
“We need to have a more honest conversation. We need to fight back against the stigma. We think of abortion as this very rare, strange thing that a few people do, but actually it is part of the fabric of American life. It’s a rational decision that women make so they can have some shot at a decent life. We need to reframe it like that.”
“I think people need to become more politically active,” Pollitt continued. “There is so much people can do. There are several abortion funds in Texas – the Lilith Fund, the TEAFund – that raise money to help low-income women pay for their procedures, and people can become supporters of those organizations. Get out there, get your friends to vote. Write your state legislators.”
“I think a lot of pro-choice people have been complacent,” Pollitt said. “The bad news is all these many terrible things are happening around abortion rights and access. But I think people are waking up. There is so much people can be doing. There are lots and lots of good, strong activists in Texas. I would suggest that people just go connect yourself with these people fighting for your rights.”
This article was originally published by The Horn on 10/22/2014.