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Are some women's abortions are less acceptable than others? [View All]

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uppityperson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-07-11 06:28 PM
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Are some women's abortions are less acceptable than others?
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We pushed back against Republicans' attempt to create a hierarchy of rape. So why are we OK with a hierarchy of abortion?

This extremely narrow definition nearly became law. After a concerted digital effort by pro-choice activists -- and some ribbing from The Daily Show -- the GOP announced Thursday it would strip the term "forcible rape" from HR3, the so-called No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The purpose of the bill is to prevent taxpayer subsidies from funding health-care plans that offer abortion, and while it will now make exceptions for "rape, incest, and the life of the mother," it still codifies the Hyde Amendment, which has denied abortion access to poor women almost as long as Roe has granted the right to everyone else.

I agree with Digby that the rape language was far from the only problem with this bill, but I disagree that this attempt to change the definition of rape is merely a distraction. Rape -- and its definition -- have long played a role in society's judgment of what is an "acceptable" abortion. Thanks, in part, to the Hyde Amendment, we already have a hierarchy of legal abortion -- one that goes beyond the gestational restrictions set by the Roe v. Wade decision and limits abortions based on much more arbitrary and moralistic criteria. Sure, those of us who are pro-choice are happy when draconian anti-abortion laws make exceptions for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, but that doesn't change our underlying opposition to restrictions on this right. All women should be able to choose abortion, for any reason, under any circumstances, within the boundaries set by Roe.

It's also tempting -- even for people who are nominally pro-choice -- to divide legal abortion into a million categories based on circumstances. I'm not talking about abortion at various stages of pregnancy. I'm talking about how we decide which Roe-sanctioned abortions we support and which we don't. A few weeks ago, a pro-choice friend of mine was appalled to learn that an acquaintance had gotten three abortions in one year. He questioned whether the woman was "using abortion as birth control." My answer? I don't know the circumstances, I don't pretend to know them, and frankly, I don't care. I support her choice. All three of them. Once you start passing judgment in such specific incidences, the slope gets pretty slippery.

There is a long-running debate among pro-choice activists about whether it's a savvy political move to highlight the most sympathetic cases. The truth of the matter is that we are more likely to describe the plight of the couple who really wanted a child but for medical reasons chose to have a second-trimester abortion than we are to talk about the 14-year-old who was simply unable to come to terms with the fact that she was pregnant until she was well out of the first trimester and needed a similar procedure. We make an example of our friend who needed an abortion after she was raped but not of our friend who needed an abortion because she was drunk and didn't make her partner wear a condom. We might bring up the fact that low-income women have a hard time paying for abortions, but how often do we come right out and say that the solution is taxpayer funding?

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