Last week, I read a series of articles, starting with a secular pro-life “argument” against abortion (and yes, I stand by the quotes around “argument”), a rebuttal, and a really interesting follow-up by Libby Anne about how the supposedly secular arguments aren’t that different from the religious ones.
I recommend reading at least the initial argument and the rebuttal to get good context for this post, which I wrote in the aftermath of my own reading. I’ll disclaim briefly here that this is a rant post. I’m not suggesting that middle and upper class Americans shouldn’t ever weigh in on the debate over abortion and abortion access, but I am very strongly suggesting that before doing so, we pay closer attention to the stories of those who have had abortions and especially those who have been turned away.
There’s a great deal of overlap in the abortion debate between classism, racism, and sexism that goes largely unacknowledged by middle and upper class liberals and certainly by middle and upper class conservatives. Conservatives especially want to separate abortion into its own “evil” little bubble, seriously restrict access to it, and simultaneously complain about heavy reliance on government assistance (especially by single parents and families of color), without listening to the voices screaming to explain that these things are powerfully linked to each other.
The so-called secular argument against abortion linked to above falls victim to this tendency to ignore where abortion fits into the lives of those who seek it, their possible reasons for doing so, and the consequences they face when they are denied it. It assumes many luxuries of time, money, and overall security that could afford a pregnant person the ability to philosophize about humanity and cell development, and which many of those seeking abortions simply do not have.
In short, it infuriated me, because it is a quintessential example of someone arguing from privilege while turning a blind eye to other narratives that are just as if not more important to this particular debate. Hence, my blog post’s title.
We now return to the untempered rant post:
The rebuttal, by a Freethought Blogs user named Avicenna, rightly criticized the removed “academic” nature of the secular argument for the ways in which it does not acknowledge the real-life factors contributing to the decision to have an abortion–chief among them being poverty.
Middle class America, get the fuck out of the abortion debate.
Seriously. It’s not about us. Middle class and above, just stop. Because as Avicenna says, access to safe and affordable abortion is a big fucking deal for families on the poverty line in a way that we just can’t seem to get through our heads.
Look, “pro-life humanist” Kristine. Yeah, in a perfect world, family planning would be easy. Everyone would have access to contraception and it would never fail and no one would need abortion ever. Yes, we should push for universal health care and better sex education and all of that. Agreed. Forever. But those are all things we’re working on, as in, not happening now, and so abortion access remains CRUCIAL to women’s immediate reproductive health. And we shouldn’t be fighting to end abortion instead of or even alongside of those other goals, especially not with some freaking touchy-feely, every-cell-is-special moralistic bullshit.
Guess what? The struggling single mom of two who just found out she’s pregnant again does not give a flying fuck that you think her blastocyst matters as much as the two hungry kids she already has. Neither does the college student or the high schooler or the twenty-something who just found out they’re pregnant. If a pregnant person is considering abortion, odds are they’re not philosophizing about what it means to be human, they’re panicking because they don’t have the money or the time or the support or the emotional fortitude to be completely responsible for the well-being of another creature for eighteen plus years.
Avicenna talked about potential. It’s also about quality of life. Like she says, “What magic planet do you live on that thinks [sic] that poverty and starvation are a great future?”
The women who need access to abortion the most–the ones who can’t afford a child and/or aren’t in a position to give the child a good life, whatever that might entail–do not care about personhood. And they are the ones who should be ending the abortion debate, not old male politicians, not philosopher Kristine Kruszelnicki–
Not even me, because even though I’m near the poverty line, I’m a white cis woman about to get married, with an IUD, health insurance, and a strong support system of people in a position in their own lives to help me if I need it. I live in a city that has safe, legal abortion clinics (plural!), and even if I didn’t, I have a car, am currently childless, and I work from home, so I have the ability to drive several hours to get to such a clinic. I can afford an abortion, and if I couldn’t, I have people who could and would help.
Many abortion seekers have some or all of those things. But many don’t, and for a lot of them it means that they have no way to get the abortion care they need. Literally, no way. We should help them get that care, because it helps them (and the country!) in so many ways. We should NOT be talking over them with a load of ignorant appeal-to-emotion fallacy.
The debate about abortion access is not about me, and it’s not about people more privileged than me. So we need to STFU and let the people who needed abortions yesterday, need them today, tomorrow, handle this.
Health insurance might be expensive and it might be tenuous for a lot of us right now, but from the middle class on up we tend to have a hell of a lot more access to everything we need for family planning than do our sisters at the bottom of the American class system, and our sisters across the globe.
We can only debate personhood–I honestly can’t even type that without feeling disgust right now–because we’re taking our fucking privileges for granted. There is no secular argument against abortion–there’s no argument against abortion, period–that does not erase the voices of billions of women for whom this is a really. big. fucking. deal.