Valerie Tarico does a wonderful job at Salon talking about why she’s not simply pro-choice, but pro-abortion:
I am pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-cataract surgery. As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing when all else fails, abortion is part of a set of tools that help women and men to form the families of their choosing. I believe that abortion care is a positive social good. I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing. And I think it’s time we said so.
Those who see abortion as an unmitigated evil often talk about the “millions of missing people” who were not born into this world because a pregnant woman decided, not now. But they never talk about the millions of children and adults who are here today only because their mothers had abortions — real people who exist in this version of the future, people who are living out their lives all around us — loving and laughing and suffering and struggling and dancing and dreaming, and having babies of their own.
It’s a compelling piece in large part because she flips the script on pro-lifers. In addition to mentioning studies and statistics, she tells powerful, effective stories that might give conservatives pause (at least for a moment). She offers something drastically different from the stereotype of pro-choicers as people who want a license for unprotected sex and are willing to “murder” fetuses in the process.
I don’t know if it’ll change minds, but maybe it can change the kind of discussions we have about the issue.
Since the piece went up a few days ago, I asked Tarico what sort of response she’s received and she told me this (via email):
Several women have written me to say, “I’m pro-abortion, too, but I never put it into words until you said it.” Maybe at some level my writing is an extension of my work as a therapist, because what I find most satisfying as a writer is when my words help people find their own voice.
When it comes to abortion, women are shamed and stigmatized for making the best decisions they know how under difficult circumstances, for trying to take care of their lives and families. If just one woman can read my writings and give herself a little more credit for the prudence, realism, honesty, wisdom and courage of her own choice — then the hours I spent trying to assemble my thoughts are time well spent.
When a woman chooses to end a pregnancy, she isn’t choosing the abortion, she is choosing her education, or to serve in the military, or to channel the best of her energy to the children she already has and loves. Her abortion is the end of something, yes; but it is also the beginning of something. Each of us gets one precious life, and she is choosing to embrace her one precious life intentionally, to live according to her dreams or values rather than simply letting it happen to her. In any other arena, we would find that kind of thoughtful, goal-oriented decision something admirable.
To me, the most ridiculous response to this article was a comment from someone who, obviously, has never been pregnant: “You have the opportunity to gift someone 100 years of life but you’ve prioritized avoiding the six weeks or so it takes to leave work or school and give birth, recover and arrange adoption.” My equally glib response: Any teenage boy could say this to a girl who is refusing to have unprotected sex with him. I wonder if it’s been tried.
There have been plenty of negative comments. A couple of people accused me of racism because black women in the U.S. have a higher per capita abortion rate than women of other ethnicities. But in reality they have a higher birth rate as well — both are consequences of a high rate of unintended pregnancy overall. Poverty and reproductive disempowerment are a two-way street.
Sometimes when I write a provocative article readers push back in ways that deepen or change my thinking in some way. But in this case, I haven’t heard anything new from the people who wrote to disagree. The biggest take away was that many simply couldn’t hear me — or maybe they responded to the title rather than the article.