The following was written as a response to David Brooks’ editorial, “The Abortion Memo”, which was published in The New York Times on February 1st.
I am The Director of Clinical Services at Whole Woman’s Health and support the management of our clinics in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Peoria and soon to be South Bend. As someone who has worked my whole career listening to the hearts and minds of women and families and ensuring they have to access safe, compassionate abortion care, I have some comments and questions for David Brooks and his “Abortion Memo.”
First, it’s always refreshing to have a man tell women how we should act and feel in regard to our rights, reproduction and fertility. And though women are always a favorite scapegoat, abortion (and by extension, women) are not to blame for the polarization of all of American politics.
You assert that Democratic donors “want to preserve a women’s right to choose through all nine months of pregnancy.” This is directly out of the anti-abortion handbook (and Donald Trump’s mouth) – and you are smart enough to know better. A woman doesn’t have the right to “choose” through all nine months. She has the right to obtain an abortion in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy only if the fetus has health issues incompatible with life, if the pregnancy threatens her life, if she was raped, etc. (you know, what it says in the Roe v. Wade decision). And there are a grand total of about 3 places in the entire country that she can go to have this procedure done. So guess how many women even have that “choice” in reality? Very few. Even in the 2nd trimester, most states have passed such restrictive laws that there is no reality to that choice. When was the last time you were pregnant with a desperately wanted pregnancy and the fetus had Trisomy 13 and would absolutely die and you didn’t have the money or resources to get to Colorado and stay for 4 days and take off work and find care for your kids and pay for a hotel room and buy a plane ticket and so instead you had to continue your doomed pregnancy, walking around for the next two months hearing people congratulate you while carrying a fetus that is dead or soon will be? STFU! If this is what you call us “having our way” then yes, we want it.
And the age old, “don’t worry about Roe because the issue will just go back to the states.” Who cares about the tens of thousands of women in more than half the states where abortion would be illegal (see travel concerns listed above) who are totally screwed? You assert that “…states would hammer out the sort of compromise the European nations have, legal in the first months, difficult after that.” Guess what, that is the system we have now except the “difficult” part exists in the first months too, especially for poor women or women in rural areas (see travel concerns listed above). Even for abortion in the “first months,” 87% of counties in the US have no abortion provider. If demanding access to basic health care in our own communities is “having our way” then yes, we want it.
Then here comes the argument about advances in medicine and “babies are now viable outside the womb at 22 weeks.” I would argue that is a huge overstatement which doesn’t address the fact that just because a fetus is potentially viable at that gestation that it will actually survive and survive to grow into a healthy child. It doesn’t address the disparities in health care and the fact that survival that early is unlikely unless you are white, live in an urban area with a trauma one hospital and have excellent health insurance. Even then the odds aren’t good. That is actually all beside the point. Even if a fetus is viable or “cognitively active” does that now mean women who are pregnant become human incubators who forfeit their human rights and bodily autonomy? Hello Handmaid’s Tale! If claiming basic rights that men have had since the dawn of time is “having our way” then yes, we want it.
Mr. Brooks’ argument is essentially that women should just take one for the team. As if we haven’t been thrown under the bus, scapegoated and subjugated for centuries…we should just keep doing that a little bit longer. Thanks for the thought, but no.