Like most people, I have deep problems with the termination of life -- and that is what I believe abortion to be. Still a decade ago, I learned that those problems were abstract, and could not stand against something as tangible and imposing as death.He says that since writing this, his feelings have only become more one sided on this issue:
My embrace of a pro-choice stance is not built on analogizing Rick Santorum with Hitler. It is not built on what the pro-life movement is "like." It's built on set of disturbing and ineluctable truths: My son is the joy of my life. But the work of ushering him into this world nearly killed his mother. The literalism of that last point can not be escaped.
Every day women choose to do the hard labor of a difficult pregnancy. It's courageous work, which inspires in me a degree of admiration exceeded only by my horror at the notion of the state turning that courage, that hard labor, into a mandate. Women die performing that labor in smaller numbers as we advance, but they die all the same. Men do not. That is a privilege.
I no longer have "deep problems" with the termination of fetal life. I don't think it's my place. I don't think I have much right to any qualms. I will never be pregnant. I will never be subject to the many biological functions that precede pregnancy and the ones that follow. I cannot know what it is to subject my body to such a process for the benefit of another. I don't believe everyone's opinion should be weighed equally. Some people carry more than others.The thinking here seems to be that the work of being pregnant is so great that only those who have experienced it (or could) can really have an understanding of what it means. Now my first thought was: If one sees pregnancy as the big dividing line here, are women who have been pregnant more or less likely to support the "right to choose"? I consulted the General Social Survey to see if I could find out. Sure enough, all the data one needs is in there. I focused in on the question ABANY: "Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if: g. The woman wants it for any reason?" This is part of a series of questions in the survey which ask whether abortion should be legal for any reason (this question) and if it should be legal in certain specific situations (not able to afford another child, doesn't want more children, serious health problem for the mother, etc.) I filtered my data to look at women only and then I broke the data out by the number of children the woman had. The results are interesting, and basically what I expected:
|Bold numbers are percentages, regular text represents absolute numbers.|
But what about the most extreme "hard case" situations? I pulled similar data for two questions in the survey dealing with pregnancy in cases of rape and pregnancies that severely threaten the health of the mother. As in the population as a whole many more women support abortion being legal in these situations. This table shows support for abortion being legal in cases of rape:
While this doesn't mean that pregnancy isn't a unique and difficult experience, it seems to show that experiencing pregnancy does not make women more likely to support the "right" to "terminate a pregnancy". Indeed, it appears that pregnancy generally makes women less likely to support abortion. If, as Coates suggests, we left the question up to the veterans of pregnancy, abortion would be restricted more than it currently is.