I ran across an anti-abortion post that said prochoice politicians are never asked “hard” questions akin to those directed at anti-abortion politicians. They listed 10 questions, none of which I found that hard. So I thought I’d answer them:
1. You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraception. Are there any restrictions you would approve of?
I think a woman’s health and life should be paramount and that she should be able to make decisions regarding her own health and body regardless of pregnancy. That said, if a woman seeks a therapeutic abortion for a viable fetus, I would support the removal of the fetus from her body in a way that would produce the highest likelihood of a good outcome for both.
2. In 2010, The Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is female?
Forcing women to bear girls in situations in which they are punished for doing so is not a way to advance rights for women and girls. While the solutions to sex-selective abortions are slow processes, I believe the best ways to eliminate the demand for such abortions are to offer high quality schooling to girls and to offer opportunities for economic advancement to women. In conjunction, policies that encourage gender parity, such as equal pay legislation and family leave that includes a “use of lose” portion for fathers, are the best ways to assure that girls and boys are equally valued.
3. In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?
A teen should be able to take aspirin at school without parental permission. Any teenager can walk into a drug store, purchase aspirin legally, and use it at will outside of school. Parental permission laws have run amok, and I don’t think adding more will help. Teens who seek abortions and have not told their parents should be counseled extensively in order to screen for possible physical, sexual, or psychological abuse that may be preventing the teen from involving her parents. Abortion providers should adopt strategies/policies that would encourage (but not mandate) girls to involve parents in the decision to abort if there is no danger to the girl.
4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?
This question is irrelevant. No one who lives inside someone else’s body can have rights separate from that person’s. If a fetus can survive outside of a woman’s body, see my answer to #1.
5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?
I think it is sad that we do not offer sufficient support to those who care for children or other family members with disabilities. Children with disabilities are more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of their parents and other caregivers, and parents of children with disabilities are more likely not to remain together. A child with disabilities grows to be an adult with disabilities, and support for these adults is even weaker than it is for children. I think these are the issues that bring us shame. I do not believe that forcing a woman to remain pregnant and to give birth against her will, regardless of the reason, is an acceptable solution to any moral quandary.
6. Do you believe an employer should be forced to violate his or her religious conscience by providing access to abortifacient drugs and contraception to employees?
A non secular employer should be expected to provide standard health care and not to pick and choose what aspects of health care are acceptable according to her/his individual moral principles. This issue could be resolved if healthcare were universal and not tied to employment.
7. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. has said that “abortion is the white supremacist’s best friend,” pointing to the fact that Black and Latinos represent 25% of our population but account for 59% of all abortions. How do you respond to the charge that the majority of abortion clinics are found in inner-city areas with large numbers of minorities?
It is indeed a shame that women of color are more likely to experience unplanned pregnancy and financial hardships that make having a child untenable for them. If there were more supportive family policies and greater motivation to eliminate racism and promote social equality, there would be a vast decrease in race gaps in abortion statistics. In addition, providing universal, no-cost birth control has been shown to be highly effective in reducing abortion rates among all women, but especially low-income women. Forcing women of color to remain pregnant and give birth against their will simply creates further moral problems.
8. You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?
I have not personally described abortion as a “tragic choice.” Pregnancy is unique among medical conditions in that is is desired at least as often as it is undesired. It is nearly always tragic to have cancer or a burst appendix. Similarly, it can be tragic to have an unplanned pregnancy. The surgery itself is not the tragedy.
9. Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?
See #1. I think is important to add here that I also support the right of a woman to REMAIN pregnant with a viable fetus if she chooses, even if an outside entity thinks it would be in the fetus’ best interest to be born (and thus to forcibly induce labor or perform a cesarean section on a woman without her consent).
10. If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered, do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence?
No. The murder of a non-pregnant woman should be considered equally horrible to the murder of pregnant woman. I do believe extenuating circumstances could be considered if she was murdered BECAUSE she was pregnant, in the same way that we might consider the circumstances of a crime against a woman because of her sex.
Edited 09/19/13 to incorporate links in the text.