Friday, November 12, 2010

Why the effort to de-stigmatize abortion will fail (redux)

RHReality Check has published a column explaining what the #ihadanabortion campaign is all about.

And they don't understand why this is bound to fail.

What will happen is that this effort will be successful inside feminist circles.

But will not affect the general climate about abortion.

Because they don't understand what abortion is and they won't examine it. Naomi Wolfe said as much in her famous 1995 article about facing the fetus. Feminists have not listened.

Steph Herold, the originator of this campaign, said that she was inspired by the 1970's movement for gay rights. Gays came out of the closet and now they are accepted members of society.

Well, there's a big difference between homosexuality and abortion.

First of all, social conservatives are more accepting of gays because they see homosexuality as the product of a psychological problem. In the social conservative mind, something happened to that gay person which fueled feelings of same-sex attraction. As that point of view spread in society, so did greater acceptance of gay people, even among people who disapprove of homosexual behaviour. So to a degree, homosexuality is viewed as an emotional problem, not just a moral problem. And as lots of people have emotional and psychological problems, in that sense, gay people are viewed as no different in that sense.

Secondly it comes to homosexual behaviour, the immediate consequence is not the death of an innocent human being. Sure, there are people who die of diseases brought about by homosexual behaviour. But those consequences are foreseeable, and the people who engage in those behaviours are to one degree or another responsible for those consequences. It's not like an innocent child is being foisted with an STD. Gay people understand that STD's abound; they probably know it better than anyone, but choose to engage in that kind of behaviour, in spite of the knowledge that condoms don't always protect (and the issues don't always arise from the exchange of fluids, either!)

The sexual acts between people of the same sex are viewed as disgusting and immoral. But the people who partake in them aren't necessarily, for the reasons I stated above. Precisely because these sexual acts do not involve non-consenting victims who DIE.

(And in spite of the acceptance of gay people in our society, homosexual behaviour still faces a certain amount of stigma. All that coming out has not stamped out opposition to the acceptance of homosexual behaviour, and it never will.)

Abortion is an entirely different matter. Because when women who had abortions talk about them without regret, they typically leave out one party involved in that act, and that's the fetus.

What will happen with this #ihadabortion campaign is that lots of women will come out of the closet about their abortions. And that will apparently dampen the spirit of shame surrounding it.

It's true that amongst people who deal with abortion and among those who accept it in a superficial sense, there will be a positive vibration about abortion. Because they don't examine what the act entails.

But to the rest of the world who do not have their blinders on when it comes to abortion, it's not going to work.

Because they understand that abortion kills a human being. And no amount of #ihadanabortion tweeting is going to change that.

Besides, how many women are really anxious to share their abortion experiences?

Yes, there are militants who are more than happy to do so.

But the fact of the matter is, abortion is typically undertaken in difficult circumstances that increase the stigma.

For instance, suppose you decide to have an abortion because you can't afford a child.

Why would that be?

Perhaps you're up to your eyeballs in consumer debt, i.e. dumb spending.

Perhaps you're a slacker and you screwed up your life partying instead of settling down and making something out of yourself.

Etc. You can think of your own examples.

Chances are, if you're having an abortion, you have problems in your life. Now, there are perfectly settled women who just don't want to have another kid and have no overriding reason to have an abortion. But they're a minority

Women don't necessarily want to go out on memory lane to share these abortion experiences because aside from the issue of killing a human being, abortion itself caps off a series of failure. Do people really want to share how their break-up, their marginal existence, their drug use, etc etc.?

And this is BESIDES the actual pain of abortion, which many women have.

Have past campaigns to make women come out of the closet been successful? The "I had an abortion" t-shirt campaign went over like a lead balloon. might seem to de-stigmatize abortion, but the fact, is, all these stories are anonymous. That's not much of a coming out. Okay, it might just be a safe place to give other women stories, but as far as de-stigmatizing abortion, it won't have much impact.