Sunday, September 07, 2014

What Seeking an Abortion Was Like Before Roe v. Wade

From AlterNet:

The four years since 2010 have brought us a resurgence of antiabortion legislation, with hundreds of restrictions enacted at the state level. The guiding theory of this renewed anti-abortion activism is that abortion is the source of social ills, and that the way to end abortion is to make it illegal. Yet we know from long experience that criminalizing abortion neither ends the practice nor alleviates social ills. That, at any rate, is the timely and provocative lesson to be drawn from Nancy Howell Lee’s 1969 book, The Search for an Abortionist: The Classic Study of How American Women Coped With Unwanted Pregnancy, which was originally published by University of Chicago Press and was recently reissued by Forbidden Bookshelf, a division of Open Road Media.

More here.

In addition, of course, to the privacy rights on which the Roe v Wade decision was based, there's a damned good reason we made abortion legal back in 1972: keeping it illegal caused far more problems than it solved.  Actually, being pro-choice, I don't think criminalizing abortion solves any problems at all, but I'm sure you get my drift.  Making abortion illegal is beyond problematic.

For starters, the rate of abortions in this country appears to be fairly constant, whether it's legal or not.  As the article observes, before Roe, there were anywhere between 200,000 and 1.2 million abortions per year in this country--it's impossible to know for sure because, obviously, it's difficult to obtain accurate statistics for a practice taking place in the shadows, but this is a widely accepted estimate.  In contrast, there were 1.2 million abortions in 2008, and that's with a much larger population than the one we had in 1972.  So maybe keeping abortion illegal would stop a million abortions.  Maybe not.  Probably not.  But it's definitely fair to argue that it is entirely possible that it makes no difference at all whether abortion is legal or not.  Women get abortions.  We cannot stop it.  And we probably can't even reduce the numbers.

And that essentially puts us into a "War on Drugs" situation when it comes to contemplating the concept of illegal abortions.  We're talking about laws that people don't obey, laws designed to accomplish something which they cannot accomplish, laws that we pay lots of money to enforce, but fail to enforce.  Wasted money, wasted effort, wasted lives caught up in the criminal justice system, a mockery of rule-of-law because society is trying to do something of which it is incapable.  So anti-abortion laws are just a big huge fat joke.

Of course, the problems created by illegal abortion go much deeper than simply those of the "War on Drugs" variety.  When abortion is illegal, there is a very good chance that it's also unsafe.  Needless to say, unsafe, when we're talking about a surgical procedure, is SIGNIFICANT.  That is, when we criminalize abortion, we force frightened and desperate women to take their lives into their own hands.  All so we can say that abortion is illegal, and for no other reason.  Pro-lifers would harm and kill women just so these moralists can say that they're saving lives, which they aren't because anti-abortion laws don't stop abortions.  It's vain, fanciful, blood-soaked narcissism with a body count.  Some "pro-life" attitude.

And there are also profound civil rights issues, too.  Because only women can get pregnant, anti-abortion laws apply only to women.  It's the state getting inside women's bodies in order to control their behavior.  And their bodies.  They reduce women, and only women, to government property status.  It is impossible for women to be equal and full citizens when abortion is illegal.  That is, you can't be a person in the eyes of the law, or society, when you are also considered to be property.

And the list of ills associated with anti-abortion laws just goes on and on and on.  It's a hopeless quagmire of stupid social shit.  It's all just too damned problematic.  Sure, for a lot of pro-lifers, it seems like a fine idea.  Save the babies.  Stop the murder.  But I seriously doubt most pro-lifers have really thought through the ramifications of what it is they support: a fractured societal existence breeding hypocrisy, incarceration, physical injury, death, humiliation, and contempt.  That's what "pro-life" must ultimately mean.  A worse society.  A joke civilization.

Roe v Wade is one of the best things that ever happened in this country.