Abortion is an intensely emotional and complex issue driven by social norms, personal liberties, notions of maternal-fetal conflict and expectations of women. We suggest that understanding each element of this entangled web is necessary to appreciate the entrenched political position of abortion. We further contend that some of the rhetorical strategies deployed in the resources provided by The Planned Parenthood Project during Wednesday’s demonstration illustrate blind spots in the contemporary abortion debate.
A card handed to passersby stated that in 2011, “(Planned Parenthood) committed 915 abortions every single day.” “Committed.” In addition to implying that abortion is a crime, this language further suggests that physicians at Planned Parenthood force their patients to have abortions. In fact, one fundamental tenant of the pro-choice movement is that women are capable of making their own decisions. Yes, 915 abortions occurred every day on average, but those abortions were —with the foggy exception of therapeutic procedures — chosen by women as their best available option. It’s a decision that these 915 women made with great contemplation and not in haste. This isn’t to say that some women never regret their abortions — some do, but a greater majority don’t. But that is the point we are making. Each woman has a different reason for choosing abortion, and each woman has a different experience with abortion and we’re not here to quantify or judge that lived experience.
This trend continues. The card mentions potential damaging data regarding taxpayer funding, contraceptive services and cancer screenings, some true, some false. Regardless, these statistics are totally decontextualized. These numbers ignore the lived experiences of Planned Parenthood patients and providers. If those stories are expunged, women’s decisions about family and motherhood are removed from their rightful position at the center of this issue.
It’s our hope that these hollow political tactics — on both sides of the issue — will subside and create space for honest and thoughtful consideration of this important issue and how it affects women’s lives.
Carly Manes is a Public Policy junior.