Real Choices

When Ann Friedman argued that the Stupak amendment throws 50% of the population under the bus, Conor Friedersdorf responded:

There are many women in the United States who oppose abortion, and if asked would agree that federal money shouldn't fund it, so the assertion that the amendment throws 50 percent of the population under the bus isn't accurate, unless one takes the position that these anti-abortion women are suffering from false consciousness.

To which Ann Friedman rejoindered:

Actually, no matter what their beliefs about abortion, every woman in this country is indeed screwed over by this amendment. Many, many women who are opposed abortion rights have exercised those rights themselves -- whether for health reasons or because, when it came right down to it, they simply found themselves making a different choice than they thought they would in that situation. They might not think they're under the bus, but they probably don't think they'll ever need an abortion, either. Doesn't mean either statement is true.

Actually, no, at this point a majority of women in this country are old enough that it would either be impossible, or extraordinarily unlikely, for them to conceive.  Some of the women of reproductive age are either infertile, or have had themselves sterilized.  Others are lesbians, or long-term virgins.  So in fact, at best you can argue that we've thrown a small minority of the population "under the bus". 

And as a response, this seems to trivialize the preferences of pro-life women in a way that I find pretty disturbing from feminists.  In what other area of life is it okay to pat the little lady on the head and tell her that she doesn't really want what she says she wants, because she might regret it later?  Feminists get righteously angry when pro-lifers attack abortion rights on the grounds that a significant minority of women later regret having one--or when doctors won't tie our tubes, or give us IUDs, or otherwise allow us to make permanent choices about sexuality.  We don't regard virtually everyone's preferences for laws against murder, rape, burglary, embezzlement, etc as somehow inauthentic because some minority of us will violate those laws.  And as it happens, the rate of abortion seems to be pretty strongly inversely correlated with having pro-life views, at least at the state-by-state level.

Obviously, since I'm pro-choice, I think you can argue against abortion control in many effective ways.  But this is not one of them--at least not if you hew to the feminist notion that women are entitled to their own choices and preferences as individuals, not lumped in with some vast undifferentiated mass of women who all want the same thing.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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