Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Part II of Life…at Conception

So, what do we do then with this information? How do we defeat the voices who hate life?

The ultimate goal here is to attack the illogical syllogism that underlies the “a woman’s right to choose” rhetoric. The thinking goes like this: “If I cannot choose to have an abortion, then I have no power over my own body. If I have no power over my own body, then I am a mere slave. Men want me to be a slave, so they want to ban abortion. Ergo, no abortions = slavery for women.” Vague notions about “the glass ceiling” and “women earn $0.62 for every $1 that a man earns” and “if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” usually get tossed in here, along with derisive references to “barefoot and pregnant and chained to the stove”.

At its root, abortion can thus be seen to be about a victim mentality. Just as so many other groups (indeed, nearly every group including straight, white males) seek to define themselves by victim status, so too do women collectively, even if individual pro-abortion women do not, or say they do not.

The easiest argument to defeat is the polemical “if men got pregnant…” remark. If “men got pregnant” they would not be men; they would be women, and we would be right back where we are, having learned absolutely nothing. If my grandmother had wheels, she would be a wagon. But if she were a wagon, she would not be my grandmother, and we would be in the same boat. Never, ever let this statement passed unchallenged, because it is foolish in the extreme, and while it plays nicely to the home crowd, it is ultimately proof that its reciter has not thought very clearly in quite some time.

Of the other arguments I have listed, some are easier to explode than others. But they need to be separated from the issue of abortion, to which they are not really germane. They are held to be proof that women are oppressed, and it is taken for granted that, if abortion is suppressed, then women will be right back…where?

Well, the first thing to note is that women have never really been quite so powerless as these rhetorical gibes suggest. We must note the contradiction inherent in much of the “feminist agenda.” Colleges are full of “Women’s Studies” programs, that teach special classes showing not that women have failed to contribute to history, but claiming to show that women’s contributions have been ignored. Well, which is it? Have women been put down to the point where they were so frail that they could not achieve anything, or have their contributions been minimized in favor of “the dominant paradigm”? If the former, then the women’s studies classes are all or at least substantially lies; if the latter, then things were not quite so dire as the bra burners would have had us believe. I agree that it would be a bad thing to show that male historians had suppressed, presumably in the name of their own self-esteem, the contributions of women to history. But it is not quite nearly so bad as suggesting that the women themselves had been suppressed. Too, if women were quite the victims Women’s Studies professors suggest—if the vast male conspiracy were as effective as alleged—we would have a much harder time calling to mind the names of women who overcame it: Cleopatra, Elizabeth, Victoria, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jeannette Rankin.

This hardly should suggest to you that I think it has all been wine and roses for women. Women only achieved full property rights very recently in history, and lack them still in some parts of the world. But note, they achieved them long before unfettered access to abortion, and achieved the right to vote seven decades before Roe v. Wade. Certainly, women have had to overcome things that men have not, and men certainly have stacked the deck in specific ways at specific times. I mean merely to point out that things aren’t quite as bad as the Women’s Studies professors would have it, nor are those professors any freer of an agenda than those they propose to correct.

Now, how about “the glass ceiling” and “women get paid less for the same work”? The $0.60-to-the-dollar figure has been floating around for a long time, and here again there is a contradiction. Every few years, some think tank of left or right will put out a study indicating that the so-called “wage gap” has or has not narrowed. (Some right-leaning think tanks have even in recent years suggested that is has largely evaporated, if it ever existed.) There are a couple of things to consider here. If abortion was supposed to lead to an improvement in the professional lot of women, one would expect pro-abortion advocates to extoll any narrowing of “the wage” gap. But what do we see in real life?

Well, here we see a straightforward comparison of median incomes over time, that doesn’t control for profession, education, work experience, or hours worked (“full-time” varies widely in actual amount of work done). It shows a pretty steady lack of change from 1963 to 1982, starting at 60.7% and ending at 61.7%, with a high of 61.7% and a low of 56.6% during that period. Curiously, the lowest number came in 1973, the year Roe v. Wade was decided. Starting in 1983, a generally upward trend began, ending in 2000 at 10.3% higher, or 73%. An accompanying press release complains that the changes were flat during the 1990s, hovering between 70% and 74%. One would expect these numbers to make it into the general conversation, and be offered as proof that “abortion is working.” Instead, the numbers most often thrown at me range from 60% to 65%, and often with the complaint that it really isn’t getting better.

Meanwhile, the National Center for Policy Analysis (the sort of think tank that the papers always feel compelled to describe as “right-wing”—though for some reason they always call Brooking “non-partisan”) publishes a policy analysis showing that the gap is largely gone when you make a meaningful comparison, and it is at best ignored and otherwise declared to be flawed, wrong, or agenda-driven.

Well, again, which is it? Is abortion a safeguard against sexism, and a tool for empowering women and increasing their earning power (and, presumably, the consequent political power), or is it a failure? If it is successful, why isn't "" relasing the study, and NCPA saying, "No, no, you've got it all wrong. Abortion is a failure!"

I have to stop here, in the middle of the argument, for want of time. More later.


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