I finished Kristin Luker’s 1984 book, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood.
In my latest reading, Luker discussed a variety of issues. She detailed her methodology, as she specified what criteria she used in selecting the pro-life and pro-choice activists to interview. Pro-choicers were required to spend less time on their cause than pro-lifers to qualify for participation in her interviews because many pro-choice women did not have as much time to devote to their cause as pro-lifers, since pro-choice women were busy at their professions. Moreover, pro-lifers were more passionate about their cause because they were seeking to change the status quo, whereas pro-choicers felt that they had already attained a significant victory in Roe vs. Wade. Luker said, however, that pro-choicers were becoming a little more passionate, on account of the United States having an anti-abortion President at the time, namely, Ronald Reagan. I’d say that pro-choicers were also passionate in 2012, on account of Republican politicians’ comments and proposed legislation about abortion.
I was disappointed that Luker did not talk much about the role of evangelicals in the pro-life movement, and how abortion became an issue of the religious right. But, the way Luker told it, Catholicism has played a significant role in the pro-life movement. In its early days, it was largely Catholic. And even later, there were a number of people in the pro-life movement who were converts to Catholicism. Catholicism should not be downplayed when it comes to the pro-life movement, but I think that the evangelical presence in it should also be extensively discussed.
Another point that Luker made was that many women who choose abortion do not make their decision lightly. I think that even pro-lifers should recognize this, because that would sensitize them more to the need to help the women who are considering abortion, so that the women could have their babies without great cost to themselves. I applaud pro-lifers who actually do reach out to the women who are struggling with the implications of having the baby.
I thought that Luker’s comments on pages 242-243 were especially noteworthy. She’s discussing what would happen if pro-lifers succeeded in banning most abortions, which she thinks could very well happen on account of pro-lifers’ passionate commitment to their cause:
“In a Prohibition-type situation, abortions would be nominally illegal, but those with the right combination of money and information would be able to get them. (And the combination would be important: a rich person in the heartland of Iowa would probably have a harder time than a middle-income person in New York with feminist connections.) Well-to-do people in general would get better abortions, and the poor would get worse ones. Every physician would have to interpret the law individually, and great variation would result. States like California would almost surely be liberal in interpreting the new law, and states like Mississippi almost surely would not. Occasionally, some hapless woman and her partner at the wrong place and the wrong time would be caught, tried, and given the maximum allowable sentence as a way of maintaining boundaries. Such cases would make the national headlines. After several years of this, public opposition to the law would increase to massive proportions, and the law would be repealed.”
I’ve heard or had conversations with pro-choicers who believe that a law against abortion would be unfeasible. They don’t think that such a law would stop abortion because unexpected pregnancies and the cost of bringing new children into the world would continue to exist. Plus, they ask what the penalty for abortion would be. If the embryo is a person, should there be a death penalty for those who take its life? My impression is that many pro-lifers don’t go that far. I can sympathize with pro-lifers who want the government to make a statement that life is sacred, for, if one human life is not considered sacred, what assurance do we have that another human life would be valued? But, even if abortion were outlawed, problems would still exist.