Some people may not know that Margaret Sanger, champion of a woman’s right to choose in the early 20th century, was opposed to abortion. She felt the procedure too much endangered the life of the woman so she promoted contraception instead. (“Women Before Fetuses” by Rebecca Traister, The New Republic, Nov/Dec 2014 pg. 27.) Sanger was right, of course. In those days, having an abortions was dangerous because it was illegal. In 1967, out of concern for the growing number of women maimed and killed in back allies, Ronald Regan signed into California law a bill that made abortions legal and brought it into the medical clinics where it belonged. (Ibid pg. 27).
Later, in 1973, the Supreme Court in Roe v Wade guaranteed all women in the United States, the right to choose. It seemed like a monumental victory until abortion opponents began to characterize women, previously seen as victims, as the murderers of helpless babies. In promulgating the idea that a woman had an obligation to bear an unwanted child, the movement reduced females to little more than portable fetus carriers, having no rights of their own, even if the pregnancy was the consequence of a rape or if the woman’s life was in jeopardy. Instead, women were made to feel guilty for seeking an abortion and the strategy was so effective that many pro-choice defenders began to sound apologetic. Hillary Clinton, for example, proclaimed she recognized that an abortion was a “sad, even tragic choice.“ (Ibid pg. 27) No politician on either side of the debate bothered to point out that equally sad and tragic were the consequences of denying a woman the ability to control her body — subjecting her to serial pregnancies, the pain of early infant deaths, and a life likely to end is a debilitating disease like cervical cancer or tuberculosis. (Ibid 27)
Traister is right to point out that women who support the right to choose need to regain the moral ground. A woman is a person, not a receptacle, and the pro-lifers’ concern about a women’s risks during an abortion should be weighed against the consequences of being denied one. As for the dangers of a legal abortion, they are practically nonexistent. Abortions aren’t painful nor do they prevent a woman from having a child when and if she feels ready. Three women I know have had an abortion. All of them eventually raised a family with two or more children. None of them regret their earlier decision.
Let’s not allow pro-lifers to wrap a woman’s right to choose in feelings of guilt and shame. A fetus is a fetus is a fetus…not a person. To speak of it as being defenseless or innocent is silly. Most people know the difference between an apple seed and a tree.