Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We Are All Ambidextrous Now!

That's what Eleanor Clift says, anyway:

EMILY's List: Confronting the Growing Ambivalence Over Abortion

One of the issues that arose in a recent e-mail chain among the writers who contribute to WomanUp was regret that an organization like Emily's List, which helps elect Democratic women, only supports candidates who are pro-choice: "I believe there are other issues that are very important to women. So let's say a woman happens to be not pro-choice, but is pro everything else. Why exclude her?" It's a good question, and the answer dates back to the founding of Emily's List in 1985. At the time very few women held public office, and attitudes toward abortion rights divided sharply along political lines. The Republican Party called for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, while Democrats fought against restrictions on reproductive rights and defended Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Twenty-five years later, attitudes about abortion are a lot more nuanced. Just about every woman has seen her own or someone else's sonogram, and it's not so easy to insist that no laws need apply. Younger women have a more complex view of abortion, and they don't view the issue as passionately as their mothers. "If you ask them if they support abortion rights, they say they don't know or they don't want to answer that question," says Jen Bluestein, Emily's List communications director. For an organization created around the core mission of promoting reproductive choice, that could be a problem, and that's why its new president, 36-year old Stephanie Schriock, a native of Montana with a strong libertarian streak, is forging a new way forward.

Except she doesn't seem to do that, much, if you read the rest of the piece. It's one of those eat-your-cake-and-don't-get-fat posts. EMILY's List will still require the candidates it supports to be committed to upholding Roe v. Wade. That, my sweeties, is extreme enough for this country as we all know.

I made several starts on this post, simply because there are so many possible paths to take, from a statistical analysis of opinions on reproductive choice over the last forty years, to asking how it was that women in the past didn't know it was an embryo they were aborting but now they do know (thanks to sonograms!) to wondering if one can have fully informed opinions on reproductive choice in a country which at least in theory still offers that choice to women (how does one imagine the alternative?). But you know all that.

Still, the question Eleanor Clift poses in that quote is too tempting to ignore, the one about why not support a woman who is for everything but reproductive choice.

The answer is that women's equality depends on reproductive choice. Read about women's history if you don't think that is true. Go and read the misogynist sites if you don't think that is true. Think about what it means not to have control over your fertility in a world where societal support structures for families with children are minimal and where hands-on child care and responsibility for children is still pretty much viewed as women's job.

Now, reproductive choice is not synonymous with abortions. If we had perfect and safe birth control which would automatically be on until one wants to have children the lack of abortion rights would be fine. But that's not the world we live in.