In my previous post, I wrote about the protests being staged against Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a self-claimed abortionist who’s one of the few doing late-term procedures. Now the anti-abortion forces are met by an equally passionate and committed pro-choice group, led by the National Organization for Women. The two sides converged in an angry Tower of Babel reenactment in front of Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s clinic. While Operation Rescue presents the pornography of dismembered fetuses, a counterprotester reminds us that “women are not an incubator….They’re not little vessels for men to plant their seeds in.”
My position is that abortion must be safe and legal, and that, morally, the cases range across a spectrum that I’m loathe to second-guess without the facts that I don’t (and shouldn’t) have access to. But I continue to despair at the miserable level of discourse and the lack of nuance that seems endemic to the abortion issue.
We know that abortion is a chilling, fraught act. Showing dismembered bodies does nothing but sensationalize and, in its way, trivialize the issue. On the other side, reducing the anti-choice forces to women-clubbing cavemen who believe that women are “vessels” disrespects those for whom abortion is a terrible, and unjustified taking of a precious human life. To oppose the practice is not (necessarily, anyway) to equate women with incubators.
Consider the women coming to the clinic. The anti-choice crowd has made it their practice to cow these women into changing their position, whatever their circumstances. Heedless of the women’s mental and emotional health, their brow-beating tactics have inflicted substantial harm that they disregard. I’m more sympathetic to the counter-demonstrators, because they are in evidence to show support. But their presence, supported by whatever good intentions, feeds the circus atmosphere. I’d guess that these women want and need support from counselors, friends, and family; not from national, political organizations.
Please don’t lecture me about the First Amendment. Assuming that no one is blocking access or intimidating anyone (not always a valid assumption in the case of Operation Rescue), both sides can continue firing their angry salvos. But there’s more at stake here than legal rights, or even — yes — the honestly held and fervently defended views on both sides. There are also actual women coming to the clinic, looking for answers to questions that have none. What about them?