There are no winners when abortion is criminalized — unless you count conservative politicians and embryos. But there are losers.
Local public radio station KQED broadcasted an interesting hour of commentary on abortion rights August 7, one of its regular morning Forum shows. This one was hosted by Scott Shafer, and included Amy Everitt, state director for NARAL Pro-Choice CA speaking for choice and lawyer Jennifer Popick for the anti view.
The show included most of the usual arguments pro and con abortion rights, but one caller raised the issue that ought to be prominent in every news report: it’s poor women who suffer and die when abortion rights are denied. The caller pointed out that well-off women can simply go somewhere else for a safe procedure; women without money or resources have no option but to make desperate and often dangerous attempts to end an unintended, unwanted pregnancy.
I wanted to call in to read a few stories, put a few faces (like my own) on women yesterday and today without reproductive choice, but think it would be hard to do in just an hour.
Retired Presbyterian minister and former theological seminary president Laird Stuart, put it this way after reading Perilous Times: “If you doubt there is a war on women or a war on the poor, listen to the men and women, the boys and girls in this book.”
There’s a women-for-guns photo floating around Facebook that should get an award for creepy-scary picture of the year. It features a pretty young blond with a baby in one arm and a rifle in the other. It praises all the brave women currently bearing arms (there are a lot of them, and we’re not talking military,) touts the second amendment and winds up with “…you could call it a woman’s right to choose.” For those of us already distressed about the growing infringements on women’s reproductive rights (not to mention the co-opting of the term “pro-life,”) that’s a low blow.
I’m fine with women packing heat if they feel the need. And if they recognize that the simple fact of having a gun around vastly increases the chance of violence to themselves and their loved ones. But baby on one arm and gun in the other?
When we were young, my oldest sister (there were four of us) awoke one night to find a man lying beside her on her bed. After a great deal of shouting and confusion the intruder, who had come in the side door, dashed down the stairs and out the front. Nobody locked their doors in Ashland, Virginia in those days, though I’ll admit that for a while after that we did. The town sheriff was called, but no one was ever arrested.
The next day — after a night that began with six people in five beds but finished with three sisters in one and the frightened oldest in between her parents — my father bought a gun. It was theoretically locked, and appropriately set far back on a shelf. But we all knew about it. My father talked a lot about his cowboy childhood in dirt-poor rural Texas, about shooting rats down at the barn, even about being briefly in the Army; we were not reassured.
Within a few weeks the presence of the gun became too much. My sisters and I explained that we were not afraid of future intruders, but we were afraid of the potential damage to them, us or innocent others represented in that ugly piece of machinery on the shelf. Finally, my mother chimed in.
“I want my children to be safe,” she said. “That gun simply endangers their safety.” The gun went off to wherever unwanted guns go.
So I wonder about the young woman with the baby on her hip. My sisters and I ranged in age from 8 to 16, and our mother still just wanted us to be safe. I wonder if that gunslinging mother really wants her baby to be safe?
Words matter. When the folks who seek to deny a woman’s right to control her own body co-opted that “pro-life” phrase, a disingenuous but highly successful sound bite was born. You support reproductive rights? You’re anti-life. Pro-death. It was a brilliant PR move, if not entirely accurate. “Pro-lifers” choose to ignore the millions of women who will suffer if abortion restrictions force them into unsafe, often life-threatening choices. You’re pro-choice? You want to save those lives.
Now, perhaps, a new clarification of terms by NPR Managing Director David Sweeney may nudge us toward more honest dialogue:
Last week, I wrote a post about how NPR identifies people who support or oppose abortion. It engendered a lively debate inside and outside NPR. Today, some top editors got together to review the 2005 policy and decided to no longer use “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”
Here’s the memo that was just distributed to all NPR staff:
“NPR News is revising the terms we use to describe people and groups involved in the abortion debate.
This updated policy is aimed at ensuring the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible. This is important given that written text is such an integral part of our work.
On the air, we should use “abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)” and “abortion rights opponent(s)” or derivations thereof (for example: “advocates of abortion rights”). It is acceptable to use the phrase “anti-abortion”, but do not use the term “pro-abortion rights”.
Digital News will continue to use the AP style book for online content, which mirrors the revised NPR policy.
Do not use “pro-life” and “pro-choice” in copy except when used in the name of a group. Of course, when the terms are used in an actuality they should remain.” [An actuality is a clip of tape of someone talking. So if a source uses those terms, NPR will not edit them out.]
It’s a small step in the right direction, and this space would like to offer three cheers to NPR. Thanks for acknowledging my right to be fiercely in support of women’s rights and reproductive rights — while I am also, equally, pro-life.