What Continues to Motivate the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement 40 Years After Roe?

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The Washington Post (op-ed): Why pro-lifers keep fighting abortion, by Helen Alvaré & Meg T. McDonnell:

Pro-choice Americans must wonder from time to time what keeps pro-lifers going. Why don’t we lay down our signs, cease our marching and admit that we’ve been good and beaten for these 40 years since Roe v. Wade? One of us is a baby boomer, the other a millennial; our views may help others understand these things and, along the way, think about some rarely considered aspects of the U.S. experience with legal abortion. . . .

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Two points in particular jumped out at me upon reading this op-ed. First, Alvaré and McDonnell describe abortion as “the destruction of a human life, at its most vulnerable stage, with the consent of the mother.” Seeing the pregnant woman as complicit in “the destruction of human life” (although it is interesting that they shy from the word “murder”) is certainly consistent with seeing a fertilized human egg as morally equivalent to a fully developed person. However, the anti-choice movement typically disavows any desire to punish women for abortions, despite this complicity, preferring to cast women as helpless victims of predatory abortion doctors. This undermines any claim that embryos are persons, for it is highly doubtful that they would view with compassion mothers who “consent” to the “destruction” of their children once they are born. It would be enlightening to know how Alvaré and McDonnell feel about this issue.

Second, Alvaré and McDonnell rightly point out that “poor and minority women and girls get the short end of the stick” when it comes to governmental support for child-rearing. To their credit, the authors blame Republicans as well as Democrats for this. But the fact is, Republican policies are particularly hostile to mothers who struggle financially. Yet the anti-choice movement chooses to direct its fervor toward preventing abortion rather than promoting policies to help low-income mothers. Indeed, the states that enforce the most vehemently anti-abortion policies spend the least to educate children, facilitate adoption, and provide assistance to poor children.

For more on the inconsistencies between the anti-abortion-rights movement’s rhetoric and its positions, see my article, The Meaning of ‘Life’: Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate. For my assessment of the anti-abortion-rights movement forty years after Roe, see Roe v. Wade’s 40th Anniversary: A Moment of Truth for the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement?

-Caitlin Borgmann (cross-posted at Reproductive Rights Prof Blog)

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