The Pro-Choice Dilemma

What Women Really Think
Dec. 1 2009 12:04 PM

The Pro-Choice Dilemma

Jess, there's another dismaying element of the hand-wringing in the pro-choice movement over Stupak and declining suport among twentysomethings and the greying of the menopausal militia. It's that acknowledging the complicated emotions that some women have about their own abortions may be hurting the pro-choice side. I hate to make this point, because I've helped make the case for a while now that feminists need to own the regret and confusion that some (not all) women feel after the procedure. But Jennifer Senior does a great job talking to abortion counselors who are very much aware of all the emotional wrinkles. Then she poses "a very real and terrible dilemma for those of us who are pro-choice: Engage these questions and you play into the hands of the pro-life movement; refuse to engage in them and you risk living in a political vaccuum."

Exactly. The Clinton-Obama rhetoric of legal but rare leads to a similar conundrum: In casting abortion as the best choice in a bad situation, our Democratic leaders are running down the procedure even as they support it. I'd like to think that all this moral ambiguity and recognition of complexity is a good thing, because it reflects reality. But complexity and politics once again seem a bad match. As Senior points out, we now have more crisis pregnancy centers than we do abortion providers.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

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