The Next Big Fight

« February 2013 »


First, the good news. We're winning the gay marriage thing. It'll still be a while before you can get gay-married in Alabama, but we have clearly reached a tipping point that four years ago I would have said we were about six years away from. Obviously we need to keep fighting, and by "we", I mean "mostly you", but clearly, we're on our way there.

So as we collectively have to spend less and less progressive energy on this cultural issue, I'd like to propose we put that energy into a long-neglected cultural issue: abortion. Because we're losing on abortion just as surely as we're winning on gay marriage, and we really, really don't want to lose on this one.

And the main way we're losing? Republican new-found love of regulation. Conservatives go on and on about "job-killing regulations", and there's an aspect truth to that. You can in fact over-regulate a business out of existence, and so a number of southern states have imposed or are trying to impose epic, onerous regulations to try to close down their states' few remaining abortion clinics.

Alabama is the latest to try this. There are five whole places to get an abortion in Alabama, which, for the Bible Belt, is a lot. If my research is right, that's as many as we have in Minnesota. The same type of regulation may well close the only abortion clinic in all of Mississippi.

Basically, the trick is to require a board-licensed physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital present for every abortion. Neither precaution is necessary, especially the latter one. Getting admitting privileges is complicated and costly, and there's nothing stopping hospitals from denying those privileges just because they don't like abortion. But the regulations SOUND helpful, and that's the sneaky part.

Like many things in the world, this is largely the fault of weak-ass Democrats from the last two decades. It's long past time we stopped being ashamed of abortion and started embracing it. The "legal, safe and rare" line sounds good on paper, but it maintains the stigma on abortion that keeps doctors from learning to perform them, medical facilities from wanting to provide them, and women from being able to have them.

Abortion is a method of birth control. It's an effective method of birth control. It's a perfectly valid method of determining when and if you will have children. That's a message you never hear, and should, because it's true.

It's also true that abortion is an incredibly inefficient form of birth control. It's resource-intensive, which is why conservatives have been able to attack it by attacking the resources required to perform it. So abortions should be rare in the sense that it should be used when other, more efficient, more available methods of birth control fail, but that's a purely pragmatic argument, not an emotional, ick-factor, trying-to-find-a-middle-ground-with-religious-nuts argument.

The emotional argument shouldn't be "Enh, abortion, I guess." It should be "FUCKING YES, ABORTION." We should be working to make abortion less resource intensive. More research on abortifacient medicines. RU-486 is TWENTY THREE YEARS OLD. Twenty three years ago we were using Commodore Amigas, but now, in the age of the iPad, we're still using a 16-bit abortion drug? You know why? Because of the stigma.

The stigma is cultural. Cultural stigmas can be reversed. And it needs to be reversed, because otherwise, Roe V Wade will continue to become irrelevant. I'm sure private dodo ownership is legal too, but it doesn't matter how legal it is if you can't actually get one. And when you can't actually get an abortion, women become slaves to their reproductive cycles, second class citizens relegated to womb duty in deference to the all-important fetus.

It's a battle we can and should win, but only if we actually fight it.