As advocates of reproductive rights scramble to defend the reputation of a key women's healthcare provider amid an ongoing conservative assault, author and Nation columnist Katha Pollit is calling on those who support a women's right to choose to come forth and say, 'Abortion is a part of life.'
Addressing the Planned Parenthood controversy in a New York Times opinion piece published on Wednesday, the reproductive rights advocate lays down the hammer and asks: "Why does the pro-choice movement so often find itself in a defensive crouch?"
The pro-choice majority, Pollit argues, is letting "let anti-abortion extremists control the discourse," despite the fact that nearly one in three women in the U.S. will have had an abortion by age 45.
Abortion rights activists, she charges, fall into the trap of being "reactive rather than proactive," which effectively though "unconsciously encodes the vision of the other side."
She writes: "Abortion opponents say women seek abortions in haste and confusion. Pro-choicers reply: Abortion is the most difficult, agonizing decision a woman ever makes. Opponents say: Women have abortions because they have irresponsible sex. We say: rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, life-risking pregnancies."
"We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives," Pollit writes. "We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary. When we gloss over these truths we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat."
Further, according to Gallup, a majority of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice," including 46 percent of men. Pollit wants to know where these voices are amid the vitriol and threats of government shutdown.
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Though she concedes that it is "understandable" that women who have ended pregnancies may want to "move on," she argues that those who have first hand experience with the reality of abortion must come forward amid the widespread assault on women's reproductive freedom.
"Without the voices and support of millions of ordinary women behind them, providers and advocates can be too easily dismissed as ideologues out of touch with the American people," she writes.
Nor should women be the only ones to stand up. "Where are the men grateful not to be forced into fatherhood?" Pollit asks. "Where are the doctors who object to the way anti-abortion lawmakers are interfering with the practice of medicine? "Anti-abortion activists are calling for a ban on this research, which ironically is used primarily to find treatments for sick babies. Will scientists let that happen?" she adds.
Underscoring that point, Erin Matson and Pamela Merritt, who recently launched a reproductive rights direct action group Reproaction, noted in a Rolling Stone column on Thursday that even pro-choice, female lawmakers showed a "lack of spine" when addressing the uproar over Planned Parenthood.
"Our movement is losing because we act like losers who are truly, deeply sorry," they wrote. "We reinforce the lie that abortion, birth control and sexuality are matters of naughty behavior that can be corrected, and we fail to stand up for the dignity of women and all people."
In an effort to bring these stories and opinions to the forefront of the debate, Pollit on Thursday proposed a hashtag #abortionisapartoflife to provide a platform for such a discussion.