Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Where we're from the birds sing a pretty song and there's always music in the air

Amanda Marcotte has an interesting post up today regarding the portrayal of abortion on the NBC show "Friday Night Lights". She cites a review over in the New York Times in which the author points out that unlike most television shows, FNL does not give a ton of gravity to the anti-choice position:

What was striking about the exploration of Becky’s circumstance on “Friday Night Lights” was the extent to which the opposing view was depicted as obtuse and out of touch...When Luke’s mother learns what has happened, her response is to say that Mary and Joseph thought they were in a tough spot too, at first. Luke bluntly corrects her: “Becky and me are not Mary and Joseph.”

Marcotte (correctly) responds:

...[An] accurate portrayal of the anti-choice movement would result in one where they come across as obtuse and out-of-touch, because that’s what they are. It’s almost definitional---anyone who waves off the struggles of a pregnant 15-year-old and suggests that it will all work out in the end is someone who has deliberately made herself unable to relate to the problems of her fellow human beings, because her dedication to the patriarchy is so strong. Anyone who puts an embryo over a living, breathing human being but refuses to admit that’s what she’s doing and turns herself into pretzels trying to rationalize that is obtuse by definition. Anyone willing to promote anti-choice lie because that’s what they wish was true is obtuse and out-of-touch at best. That’s the generous interpretation---that they’re fuddy-duddies who don’t know any better. In many cases, it’s worse than that, and they’re just sadistic assholes.

My interpretation of this is similar to Marcotte's - in my experience those that are anti-choice tend to either not have a clue as to what they are talking about, or they lean towards misogyny*. And before I get a response saying that this is over-simplistic, let me state that I didn't come by this by a means of deciding that I'm pro-choice and feeling a need to stereotype my opponents. I come by this conclusion because I've been at the reproductive rights game for almost ten years now, and every time I poked, and prodded, and given a generous listen to the anti-choice side, this is what I come up with. It always ends the same way, it's either frustration at having conflicting information thrown their way (which is construed as an "attack" on their beliefs), an expression that women's lives are unimportant in the debate (many often refuse to acknowledge that the woman is a large part of the discussion at all), or a straight up declaration that women that have the audacity to fuck deserve what's coming to them.

Every time. I'm somewhat disappointed in the fact that it is so simplistic and predictable, because with the gravity that reproductive debates have, I expected something better. Something more concrete.

Reading through the comments on the Times review, the readers that are upset about the portrayal on the show seem to make the point. Many complaints are heard among the line of "Why wasn't adoption considered an option on the show?", which seems to be the anti-choice magical pony-fart trump card. Being that pregnancy is an investment of time, money, and health, it seems silly to throw adoption in one's face as the easiest way out of an unwanted pregnancy. It's as if these people either assume that humans gestate to completion and are birthed a few hours after conception, or that the effort put into pregnancy is no large deal, which would probably lead anyone in their eight month of gestation into a frothing rage, because seriously. Pregnancy is no cakewalk. Life for a pregnant teenager is not necessarily wondrous and amusing like it was portrayed in Juno (although those long gaps of time passed over in the narrative seems to make it a breeze, does it not?). Not everyone has an understanding family system (homicide is still one of the leading cause of death for pregnant women), a sympathetic employer (yes, they can fire you for being knocked up), or even the mental stability to complete a pregnancy to adoption (studies find that adoption is often more traumatizing for women then abortion is, which is why most birth mothers never follow through with it). I also find it interesting that those that plead adoption never really bring up the hundreds of thousands of children stuck in foster care for the crime of not being young enough, white enough, or healthy enough to adopt. Personally, as someone that actually gives a shit about children, this sort of thing makes me cry into my coffee on a regular morning. So you'll have to forgive me if I see the "But families don't want those throw-aways, they want perfectly healthy white infants! What about their needs? Show some compassion!" as a bit unsympathetic.

And this is what is meant when we say anti-choicers are out of touch.

If it were just a minor debate, it wouldn't be a problem. But this ignorant or hostile mindset manifests itself in policy in America time and time again. Conservative culture warriors are already gearing up for a fight over birth control coverage in our new health care system, because... that makes a lot of sense? If it does, I can't see where. Preventing pregnancy is a cheaper option then funding birth (and the ongoing health of the resulting child), less invasive health-wise then abortion, and the ability to control reproduction allows women to make better economic choices in rough times. Yet despite that the more logical choice would be to help women have access to these services, our old friends (from the health care debate) the Catholic Bishops, although not taking an official stance yet, have trotted out their spokesperson to state:

"I don't want to overstate or understate our level of concern," said McQuade, the Catholic bishops' spokesperson. "We consider [birth control] an elective drug. Married women can practice periodic abstinence. Other women can abstain altogether. Not having sex doesn't make you sick."

I really do love that the focus here is on women.

I'm not sure what they think a relationship and/or marriage entails. Leaving aside couples that do not wish for children in the first place or traditional relationships where the woman has little veto power, it appears your options here are (a) go back to the days when women died giving birth to their 13th child or (b) stop having sex once you are done having children. The former is irresponsible, the latter is unreasonable. Intimacy through sexuality is pretty damn important to our romantic partnerships, the majority of people that enter into a sexual relationship don't do so because of a desire to procreate. The entire history of human behavior shows what a failure the ideal of abstinence is, it's about as useful as declaring that if everyone just got along, war would cease to exist. Oh, and Mr. Spokesperson? Sex does have health benefits.

And this is what is meant when we say anti-choicers are out of touch.

Also in the news, the spit-on-it-it-and-shine-it-up advice from Nevada's senate hopeful Sharron Angle encourages pregnant rape and incest victims to carry their pregnancy to term, because this one time? She met someone? That had an "at risk" pregnancy? And counseled them? And she totally watched them make "[W]hat was really a lemon situation into lemonade." See, in this situation, the adoptive parents of the baby chose to not only adopt the baby, but adopted the pregnant mother too! Someone did it once, so it must be the norm. Ignore the foster care statistics, and everything comes up roses.

And this is what is meant when we say anti-choicers are out of touch.

And as far as actual policy and how damaging it can be? Let's re-visit the 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Act. This bill, which has probably my favorite (and in favorite, I mean most likely to make me weep) picture of it's signing, outlawed a specific method of abortion called the D&E (Intact Dilation and Extraction). Anti-choicers claimed this as a victory for the unborn, and for (what the uninformed saw as) good reason; what political speak labels as "partial-birth" abortion is horrifying to most everyone, the public is on their side!

Except, it's usually not partial birth. Most late-term abortions, and the abortion examples that feature predominantly in the argument against it are performed at about 20 weeks (pregnancy takes 40 weeks). And as common sense would dictate, the women (That weren't stuck in the legal barriers anti-choicers are constantly pushing to delay them to get what they originally wanted, an earlier trimester abortion) that have these types of abortions usually have very good reasons for doing so, as it affects either their own health or the health of the fetus they are carrying.

The ban on "Partial-Birth Abortion" does not save any fetuses. In reality, all it does is require that a woman that is getting a later term abortion will have to undergo a more risky procedure (D&C) to do so, or will be forced to hear the congratulations of well-meaning acquaintances as she carries out the pregnancy of her now dead child. Because apparently, giving birth to a baby that will suffer for a good hour before finally expiring, or giving birth to a dead fetus, who was a wanted, loved child is somehow less traumatic then an abortion.

And this is what is meant when we say anti-choicers are out of touch.

Anti-choicers have been able to make their viewpoints known in the mainstream media by relying on the hope that the public is ignorant about reproductive issues. And in their favor, their attempts have been a success. They play on emotional knee-jerk responses, and the public follows along willingly, because they are always talking about those other people, not you, never you. That real-life situations come into play is not convenient for them, and they hope dearly that it's not convenient for you as well. Because if you are unable to emphasize with your fellow citizens, it makes their job much easier. But we are not a nation completely composed of sociopaths just yet. Women need to keep telling their stories, in the hopes that women of a future generation will hear them, and learn from them, and continue fighting for what seems to obviously be the most basic of our rights.

*I'm not slamming those morally opposed to abortion. To their credit - The most rational pro-lifers I know are just that: Pro-lifers. I have heard tons of interesting philosophical and moral arguments against abortion, some convincing, some not, but those that offer them tend to differ from your forced birth crowd in the sense that although they abhor the practice, they don't feel comfortable with legislating it.

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