succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I was reminded of Margaret Olivia Little's brilliant writing on abortion (and went and looked up my old post about it) by Ta-Nehisi Coates' moving post about the labor involved in bringing a person into the world. First, a highlight from Little - "What we need in thinking about abortion is a moral approach that does justice to the ethics of intimacy; what we have is a moral approach that rarely uses the word." And now Coates:

Like most people, I have deep problems with the termination of life--and that is what I believe abortion to be. Still a decade ago, I learned that those problems were abstract, and could not stand against something as tangible and imposing as death.

My embrace of a pro-choice stance is not built on analogizing Rick Santorum with Hitler. It is not built on what the pro-life movement is "like." It's built on set of disturbing and inelidable truths: My son is the joy of my life. But the work of ushering him into this world nearly killed his mother. The literalism of that last point can not be escaped.

Every day women choose to do the hard labor of a difficult pregnancy. Its courageous work, which inspires in me a degree of admiration exceeded only by my horror at the notion of the state turning that courage, that hard labor, into a mandate. Women die performing that labor in smaller numbers as we advance, but they die all the same. Men do not. That is a privilege.

As I've said before, the rhetoric underlying my pro-choice stance has evolved, and crystallized somewhat unproductively following a friend's tragedy, but thankfully Little and Coates (and others) keep articulating that abortion is so much more complicated than the false dichotomy that keeps getting presented by our politicians and our media.

I wish we lived in a society where it was safe to challenge our own thinking a little more and yell at each other a little less. But as family planning and women's health keeps coming under attack, there seems to be little room for complexity, subtlety, or thoughtfulness.