November 9, 2005

VALUELESS:

Player of Choice: How ex-NARAL head Kate Michelman learned to play by Washington's rules‚ÄĒand was taken down by them: a review of With Liberty and Justice For All by Kate Michelman (William Saletan, December 2005, Washington Monthly)

Michelman thinks the tide turned against her in the mid-1990s, when pro-lifers began running ads with the message, "Life, What a Beautiful Choice." NARAL's pollster found that the message worked. He pointed out that NARAL spoke to the public only when abortion rights were threatened; it had no everyday values message to counter the appeal of babies and motherhood. Michelman's answer was an ad campaign touting choice as a value. "I have a strong will to decide what's best for my body, my mind, and my life," said the female narrator. Michelman's favorite ad showed a woman preparing to dive into a pool. "The image cut to the heart of the issue: a strong, decisive woman fully in control of her life, taking risks and responsibility," she recalls. The heart of the issue? Diving? The change of subject betrayed weakness. On abortion, NARAL seemed mute. It didn't understand that choice wasn't a value. Choice was a framework within which values needed to be aired.

In Michelman's memoir, you can see hints of what NARAL could have said and might yet say. She was drawn to the issue by the idea of healthy families and children. Her most compelling arguments for the public funding of abortion involve women who might otherwise die and orphan their kids. The women who initially persuaded Clinton to veto the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act were those who had had unhealthy pregnancies but managed, thanks to that procedure, to have healthy children afterward. Parenthood is a powerful theme. Why not embrace it whole-heartedly?

Because that would require an admission that abortion is bad. In her closing pages, Michelman vows to protect abortion rights "without apology." Yet in the next sentence, she writes that "every woman would prefer to avoid this choice if she can." Which is it? Here and there, she notes that birth control and sex education could make abortion less necessary. She challenges pro-lifers to pursue that project but never quite says the same to pro-choicers. Nor does she mention the print ads NARAL once tried on that theme. Why not? Maybe they felt too preachy. "We never rendered value judgments on what the woman should do," Michelman says of her early days with Planned Parenthood. "That was her choice. That was Roe's ultimate promise." No. Roe's promise was freedom of choice, not freedom from judgment. You can't stop us from judging, any more than you can stop us from having sex. It's our nature.


God didn't give us Free Will so that we could choose, but so that we could choose good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 9, 2005 6:31 PM
Comments

--"The image cut to the heart of the issue: a strong, decisive woman fully in control of her life, taking risks and responsibility," she recalls. --

Then why would she get pregnant?

Posted by: Sandy P at November 9, 2005 6:59 PM

"We never rendered value judgments on what the woman should do," Michelman says of her early days with Planned Parenthood. "That was her choice. That was Roe's ultimate promise."

Ah, but if she chooses to have the baby, Planned Parenthood doesn't make any money aborting it, and the boyfriend is in for eighteen years of support payments (plus 2% "poundage" charged by CSEA), so we have to make sure she exercises her right to choose "correctly."

In China, there's no "right to choose" with respect to that second child, but Planned Parenthood and NARAL don't object because, after all, China has a "population problem."

Posted by: Mike Morley at November 9, 2005 9:13 PM

[Michelman's] most compelling arguments for the public funding of abortion involve women who might otherwise die and orphan their kids.

These people crack me up.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 9, 2005 10:12 PM

Margaret Sanger tried to pretend her position was 'compassionate', too (at least, sometimes).

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 9, 2005 10:33 PM

She's a humanist don'tja know....

Posted by: oj at November 10, 2005 8:05 AM

It boots little to indict the baby-murderers for inconsistency and irrationality. Their real agenda has been to sunder sexuality from reproduction and their actions and pronouncements can only be uderstood in that context.

But allow an observation on the use and misuse of the word "choice." A couple of years ago the National Rifle Association floated a trial balloon of using the word "choice" exactly the way the pro-death people used it when talking about right-to-carry.

It appears that they have repented of this unfortunate association: the word is still sometimes uttered concering carrying a gun, but lightly, not as a mantra.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 10, 2005 10:20 AM

The notion floated in the article about sex education and birth control preventing more unwanted pregnancies is also not true. My father was a relief worker in the 3rd World, and I still have friends who work for or have worked for CARE, Americares, Save the Children etc. Back in the day when everyone still thought overpopulation was going to be the problem, the relief organizations found that birth control and sex education programs did nothing at all to reduce population growth -- the only thing that worked was the education and economic advancement of women generally. (Women who have more choices and wealth in life usually have fewer children, and we see this in the West.) This is a pretty well-known fact among relief organizations, and Michelman had a golden opportunity to beat the drum for a true feminist goal, the general emancipation of women, which would lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies by a good path that didn't involve anyone being killed (and would be far more reflective of real reproductive choice than whatever combo of desperation, short-sightedness and boyfriend-pressure that mostly leads to abortion), but instead all she did was promote abortion itself. No root causes for her, I guess. All the abortion-rights groups are like that, so narrowly drawn are their interests and so unwilling to admit to the drawbacks. (Like, for example, the fact that the guy isn't usually trying to PREVENT you from having an abortion.) It's like they have something else on their minds besides the best interests of women.

Posted by: Lisa at November 10, 2005 10:37 AM

Quoted Sandy:

--"The image cut to the heart of the issue: a strong, decisive woman fully in control of her life, taking risks and responsibility," she recalls. --

Then why would she get pregnant?

I am not strictly a pro-lifer, but this has always bugged me about the pro-choice folks. It seems like a tremendous blind-spot on their part.

Were abortion to be banned or severly curtailed, it would certainly not strip a woman of her choice. It would instead place the time for making that choice and facing up to "risks and responsibilities" a little earlier in the reproductive cycle. It would raise the stakes of that choice quite a bit, but the choice would still be there. People understand that, but the pro-choice organizationa don't really address it.

Pro-choice advocates would respond to this in many ways: poor or undereducated women would not have the wherewithal to exercise that choice wisely; the same women might be in a position where dominating males force sex on them when they are likely to conceive, or where the males refuse to wear condoms, or perhaps the women cannot afford birth control pills. Further, young women are very likely to make foolish choices about who they sleep with, condoms can break, etc. There are many more arguments that can be made, but they all require abortion as a relief valve for unwanted pregnancies.

I'm not neccessarily denying the strength of these arguments. But many of them interpose abortion as a "responsible choice", a responsible answer, for a prior choice that, if the woman was not prepared to have a child, was fundamentally irresponsible. Abortion becomes anything but a responsible choice -- it becomes an irresponsible relief from having to face the consequences of risk-taking. NARAL, etc. are dodging the issue, and obviously so.

Further, for those cases where abortion may result from poverty, ignorance, or domineering males, abortion doesn't do anything to ameliorate those conditions. The thoroughgoing, scouring feminists of the late 19th and early 20th century would have understood this -- if freedom for women means being able to exercise one's own choice in one's own self-interest, then work to make sure they're able to do so. In this case, perhaps make the consequences for men who irresponsibly impregnate women so dire that they'll behave responsibly themselves, rather than leaving women in such a state of subjugation that abortion is the only answer for them.

Of course, returning the timing of the crucial choice to before sex might require tinkering with today's sexual mores, which bring up the other "choice" the pro-choice folks are interested in protecting, whether they say so or not: the freedom to have as much sex as possible without having to worry about about the consequences.

Fine. I am not going act as though I haven't taken full advantage of the day's relaxed sexual attitudes, especially in my 20's and early 30's. But I never acted with the expectation that a woman I might impregnate would de facto get an abortion.

As I said before, I am not strictly pro-life. But it really distracts me that the pro-choice folks can't quite be honest about "risks and responsibilities."

Posted by: Twn at November 10, 2005 11:29 AM

It's like they have something else on their minds besides the best interests of women.
Posted by: Lisa at November 10, 2005 10:37 AM

It's like that because they do have something else on their minds. They don't care about women anymore than PETA cares about animal rights or tree huggers care about the trees. Itís just their schtick to get the civilians to send them money. Like all the rest of the beautiful rainbow of leftwing moonbats, they only care about promoting leftwing politics, making the world safe for socialism, and defeating American individual freedom and economic opportunity.

Havenít you ever wondered why feminists havenít spoken up in support of Muslim womenís rights. Have they agitated or marched to stop them from being murdered at will by their fathers, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, nephews, sons or they guy who reads the meter.

Of course not. Because Islam shares their goals of destroying western civilization, you wonít see any lefties speaking out against the savage treatment of women by Islam.

Posted by: erp at November 10, 2005 1:28 PM

erp:

I think the feminists are just scared of the Muslims. In the West, they can sue men who abuse them (or they can suck up to them, like they did with Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy or Chris Dodd); but they won't march against Muslims because they might actually get hurt. Besides, with the left, it isn't any fun to do the right thing for the right reasons, now is it?

Posted by: ratbert at November 10, 2005 2:19 PM

ratbird, sorry no.

Feminists really don't care about women's rights. They only care about advancing the leftwing agenda. Haven't you noticed that they never support Republican/Conservative women?

Posted by: erp at November 10, 2005 6:10 PM

I agree with erp that the leadership is certainly only interested in pressing the leftwing agenda, bringing down capitalism and the West in general plus keeping contributions flowing in.

However, ratbert is right too. The Left offers bored upper middle class women with some very safe and easy ways of getting their feminist ticket punched plus venues for sitting around congratulating each other on how brave and "cutting edge" they are.

Posted by: L. Rogers at November 10, 2005 7:04 PM
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