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Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:16 AM

Abortion Safe and Legal? Yes. Make it Rare? Not. The. Point.

Last edited Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:43 AM - Edit history (1)

I know a lot of people are 'personally' opposed to abortion and claim that they would never have one or encourage a loved one to. I hear and see a lot of Democrats using the "safe, legal, rare" phrase and, honestly, it bugs the SHIT out of me. Why? Because the "safe, legal and rare" language still stigmatizes women's health care choices. We don't owe anybody an explanation when we need abortions any more than we do when we need breast exams or pap smears, and their frequency is a medical matter, not a legal one.

I see Democrats reference party icons like Kennedy, Clinton and the party itself using this phrase. Thankfully the Democratic Party dropped that seriously antiquated language in 2008: http://thecoathangerproject.blogspot.com/2008/08/reclaiming-morality-of-abortion-and.html

And here is a good piece summarizing my feelings on this matter: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/04/26/safe-legal-rare-another-perspective

A common narrative in the political and cultural discussions of reproductive health focuses on reducing the number of abortions taking place every year. It’s supposed to be one thing that those who support abortion rights and those who oppose abortion can agree on, the so-called common ground. The assumption is that we can all agree that abortion itself is a bad thing, perhaps necessary, but definitely not a good thing. Even President Clinton declared (and many others have embraced) that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost half of all pregnancies among American women in 2005 were unplanned or unintended. And of those, four in 10 ended in abortion. (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html#1) In other words, between one-fifth and one-quarter of all pregnancies ended in abortion. Without any other information, those statistics can sound scary and paint a picture of women as irresponsible or poor decision-makers. Therefore reducing the number of abortions is a goal that reproductive health, rights and justice activists should work toward, right?

Wrong. Those numbers mean nothing without context. If the 1.21 million abortions that took place in 2005 (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html#1) represent the number of women who needed abortions (and in my opinion, if a woman decides she needs an abortion, then she does), as well as the many women who chose to terminate pregnancies that they very much wanted but could not afford to carry to term, then that number is too high. The work of reducing the number of abortions, therefore, would entail creating an authentically family-friendly society, where women would have the support they need to raise their families, whatever forms they took. That could include eliminating the family caps in TANF, encouraging unionization of low-wage workers, reforming immigration policies and making vocational and higher education more accessible.

On the other hand, if those 1.21 million abortions represent only the women who could access abortion financially, geographically or otherwise, then that number is too low. Yes, too low. If that’s the case, then what is an appropriate response? How do we best support women and their reproductive health? Do we dare admit that increasing the number of abortions might be not only good for women’s health, but also moral and just?

What if we stopped focusing on the number of abortions and instead focused on the women themselves? Much of the work of the reproductive health, rights and justice movements would remain the same. We would still advocate for legislation that helps our families. We would still fight to protect abortion providers and their staffs from verbal harassment and physical violence. What would change, however, is the stigma and shame. By focusing on supporting women’s agency and self-determination, rather than judging the outcomes of that agency, we send a powerful message. We say that we trust women. We say we will not use them and their experiences as pawns in a political game. We say we care about women and want them to have access to all the information, services and resources necessary to make the best decisions they can for themselves and their families. That is at the core of reproductive justice. Not reducing the number of abortions. Safe – yes. Legal– absolutely. Rare – not the point.



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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply Abortion Safe and Legal? Yes. Make it Rare? Not. The. Point. (Original post)
PeaceNikki Jan 2013 OP
MADem Jan 2013 #1
PeaceNikki Jan 2013 #2
Arkansas Granny Jan 2013 #5
PeaceNikki Jan 2013 #6
Arkansas Granny Jan 2013 #7
PeaceNikki Jan 2013 #8
zazen Jan 2013 #3
PeaceNikki Jan 2013 #4
MotherPetrie Jan 2013 #9
DreamGypsy Jan 2013 #10
libodem Jan 2013 #11
Kath1 Jan 2013 #12
dembotoz Jan 2013 #13

Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:23 AM

1. I think "rare"--in the context used in the phrase--suggests that if women have access to

a full panoply of contraceptive choices, without limitations that include financial ones (as Ms. Fluke tried to tell Congress) or "emergency" ones (that politicians like to argue over, and pharmacists like to get shirty about) then they won't have a need to choose abortion.

It may not be 'the point,' but if the 'politics of access to contraception' were not at issue, as it has been for far too long, the quite natural result would be that abortion would be rare, because it would not be needed.

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Response to MADem (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:27 AM

2. It's a cop-out that stigmatizes women and continues to imply it's a morally inferior act.

And I call bullshit.


Thankfully, the party platform has evolved away from this as well.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:09 AM

5. Where's a cop out? Preventing unintended pregnancies

would be less expensive than termination, for one thing. There is also the consideration of avoiding unnecessary medical procedures from an overall health aspect.

Then there is the emotional issue. Many of the women I know who have had abortions have some feelings of regret even when they know it was the best decision at the time.

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Response to Arkansas Granny (Reply #5)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:13 AM

6. We all want to reduce unwanted pregnancies, that's not the issue.

This thread is about use of the argument/statement that abortions should be "rare".

By saying that you want abortion to be “rare,” you’re passing a negative judgement on the people who perform abortions and the women who have them. This judgement is harmful to people who have abortions and clinicians who perform them.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Reply #6)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:21 AM

7. I don't see it that way.

Making it rare means that you've dealt with the underlying problem instead of reacting to that problem at a later date.

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Response to Arkansas Granny (Reply #7)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:24 AM

8. Well, we differ, as does the party platform. That's why the antiquated verbiage was removed.

And replaced with:

"Protecting A Woman's Right to Choose. The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman's decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs."


The 2008 Democratic Party platform dropped “rare,” and it’s stayed gone in 2012. And with good reason–”rare” practically invites antis to derail and reframe. “Well, if abortion is so great, why do you want it to be rare?” It’s a stupid question for anyone bright enough to also wonder why we might want to see fewer tonsillectomies or ACL repairs. It’s also not a sincere question; it’s a “gotcha.” And there is no good answer to that that fits on a bumper sticker or in a video soundbite. Let that question–that stupid, stupid, insincere question–out of its cage, and the antis have a handy weapon. “Abortion is so bad, even the baby-killers don’t like it!” The only safe thing to do is avoid the question, avoid diluting the argument, and focus on the other equally crucial aspects of reproductive rights. Safe and legal. Access without exception. Health safety rights agency choice choice choice.

If you fail to see the harm in using that verbiage after reading through the articles linked throughout this thread...well, that's on you.

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Response to MADem (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:43 AM

3. very well said n/t

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:57 AM

4. I'm adding an additional paper on this topic to the thread.

http://www.ansirh.org/_documents/library/weitz_jwh10-2010.pdf

The opening paragraph:

Abortion is the most contested social issue of our time. 1 Recent events, including the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas, and the fight over health care reform, demonstrate the intense polarization of the ongoing debate over abortion. 2 This article examines how the desire to find an end to the abortion wars led to the widespread adoption of the rhetorical mantra that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” By tracing the history and consequences of this paradoxical position, this paper provides insight into the intractability of the abortion conflict in the United States. The paper begins with a review of the transition from libratory to consolatory language regarding the role of abortion in society. I then argue that women’s health and well-being are harmed when desires to resolve the social conflict over abortion are prioritized over women’s need for abortion. Additionally, the adoption of the mantra that abortion should be rare increases the stigma associated with abortion. I demonstrate how focusing on making abortion rare reduces access to care and sets up unrealistic goals related to the number of abortions that should occur in the United States.

For those who don’t have time to read it, the main points are:

- By saying that you want abortion to be “rare,” you’re passing a negative judgement on the people who perform abortions and the women who have them. This judgement is harmful to people who have abortions and clinicians who perform them.
- Saying that you want abortion to be rare implies that there is something wrong with abortion, that abortion is somehow different from other parts of health care.
- Wanting abortion to be rare suggests that training clinicians to provide abortions is unnecessary. In reality, we need more abortion providers to increase access to safe abortion care.
- The “rare” framework legitimizes the need for abortion restrictions, and these anti-abortion laws have the most dire consequences for people with the least resources.
- The “rare” framing sets up the unrealistic expectation that there’s a magic number of abortions that are acceptable, and once we reach that number, abortion will cease to be a divisive issue in American culture.

As Dr. Weitz puts it, saying that we want abortion to be rare “does not achieve the underlying goal of reducing the social conflict over abortion and has real consequences for women’s health and well-being, including reducing access to care, increasing stigma, justifying restrictions, and establishing unattainable goals.”

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:42 AM

9. K&R

 

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 03:47 PM

10. Heart surgery - rare? Lung cancer treatment - rare? Treatment of accidental injuries - rare?

I very much agree with your comments, PeaceNikki, and have to disagree with ArkansasGranny (sorry, AG).

Many, many people knowingly make life styles choices that put their health and longevity at risk. Obesity is often correlated with eating and exercise habits and increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc. Similarly, for smoking and lung cancer, alcohol abuse (my personal favorite) and drug abuse and their physical and mental consequences, and even reckless behavior, eg. driving, that can lead to accidents.

As a society we try to inform people about the risks and health consequences associated with decisions and patterns of behavior. We may stigmatize people with the resulting conditions - either socially 'appropriately' or, if the condition results from, for example, a genetic predisposition, inappropriately. In my experience, however, there has not been a broad suggestion that treatments like heart surgery, insulin, blood pressure medication, radiation or surgery for cancer, drug abuse therapies, or treatment of traumatic injuries should be 'rare'.

Obviously, the vast majority of women have a genetic predisposition for the condition of pregnancy (I am not trying to be cute or flippant with this analogy - I think it is important in the discussion). In some cultures, a clear right and responsibility of being a woman is to make choices about if, when, how, and with whom, she will or will not become pregnant. In some countries knowledge and mechanisms for contraception are available to enable women to implement their choices and prevent undesired pregnancies. However, in the United States. our history is to stigmatize all women who make the decision to terminate a pregnancy with a medical procedure - whether that pregnancy was the result of unintended behavior, failure of contraception, or rape, or, as is a key point in your post, the woman's health, economic conditions, or social status lead to a decision that a much desired child or children would not have the care, benefits, and opportunity the every person deserves.

As you conclude, rare is not the point.

Thanks for your thoughtful post.



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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 03:52 PM

11. It would be nice to never need one

But if the need should occur, I would hope it could be a straight forward decision, without any guilt or shame attached. One would not feel personally responsible for a miscarriage. Many fertilized eggs never implant and are washed away in a regular menstrual cycle. We would be in perpetual mourning over our periods.

Light a candle and grab some tissues. I've got the cramps.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Mon Jan 7, 2013, 08:49 AM

12. Thank you.

That "rare" BS has always annoyed the hell out of me, also. It is passing judgment. I agree that if a woman decides she needs an abortion, then she needs an abortion. It is nobody's business but her own.

I think the goal should be for abortion to be safe, legal and AVAILABLE. Yes, and affordable, also. The same goes for all forms of contraception.

It sounds like a bumper sticker slogan but I think there is a lot of truth in it - Abortion is health care and health care is a right.

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Response to Kath1 (Reply #12)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 07:40 PM

13. yep

could not say it better

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