Originally posted on RHRealityCheck.org -- News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.
Or: Common Ground as a competitive team sport.
In a post on adoption today, Steve Waldman talks about adoption as a common ground position to which "pro-choice and pro-life" people can agree. He also says:
And I disagree with the apparent inclination of some on the pro-choice
side to minimize the adoption question entirely. "The real common
ground is preventing unintended pregnancy, and it is logically
incorrect not to start with that framework," writes Jodi Jacobson of RH
He then contests my assertion that the best way of preventing unintended pregnancy is through better access to reproductive health services, including contraception, by stating:
Actually, that would be called "our team winning," not "common ground."
And as I have said earlier, herein lies the problem.
Maybe Steve sees himself this way, but I am not on a "team" seeking to score points against "the other side." This is not a competition, and if there are those in this debate who see it as such, they ought to step aside. I find it really, deeply, troubling that there are people in organizations, in interest groups, and among the cult of male pontificators who see themselves as "winning" or "losing" because they are engaged in a discussion that will determine how real people now and in the future get to exercise basic human rights in their daily lives now and in the future.
Steve: It's not a competition. And we are not compromising on how much more one state might get to spend on road projects than another.
This is about people's lives. Real people. And their ability to exercise choices.
It is about women in a multitude of different life circumstances finding themselves facing a pregnancy they did not plan. Some will carry to term and bear and raise a child. Great. Some will want to terminate their pregnancy as early as possible. Great. Some will want to give their child up adopt for adoption. Great. All choices are up to the woman in question.
Pro-choice people support women in any and all of these choices (because....they are pro-choice -- the individual woman's individual choice in her individual circumstances). The pro-choice movement supports all options being available to women.
But by twisting my own argument, and avoiding the central argument, Waldman tries to take his foot out of his mouth regarding his "let's give them $1000.00 a piece if they can hold their breath for 9 months," statement on Blogging Heads by changing the subject or refusing to clarify what he sees as the end goal, and he has as yet still refused to state what the end goals are for all the proposals he throws out there.
So let me state mine:
End goals: Reducing the number of unintended (truly unintended) pregnancies and by extension reducing the need for abortion. Expanding prevention. Providing as many voluntary, non-directed options as possible to the individual women (and any partners, families, etc involved) facing unintended pregnancies and truly supporting women in their choices. Not predetermining their choices, not limiting their choices, not telling them what the best choice is, and not stigmatizing any of their choices.
Q: How do you reduce unintended pregnancies?
Fact: Two ways to avoid an unintended pregnancy. Never have sex. Have protected sex. The vast majority of people in the world, as evidence clearly shows, are not down with the "never have sex" option.
Fact: People like sex. Sex is natural. Sex should be conducted responsibly. Using prevention is responsible.
Fact: The highest rates of unintended or unplanned or unwanted pregnancies are among sexually active people who do not have secure access to contraceptive methods (and I have offered the evidence on this elsewhere) or among those who use it incorrectly or inconsistently (for whatever reasons, including those within violent relationships unable to control consistent contraceptive use or those who do not have access to consistent supplies). I am not including here those who do not use contraception at all as a matter of personal
philosophy or religious belief (in which case the term "unintended
pregnancy" is inapplicable).
Back to the goal. If our goal is to reduce unintended pregnancies and hence the need/demand for abortion and if our commitment is to truly voluntary means of doing so that do not coerce women into choices they would otherwise not make (by for example either directly through pressure or indirectly by making services so scarce they can not gain access to contraception or early, safe abortion services), then it is a simple fact that increased knowledge of and access to contraceptive services will do that.
A fact. Not a "belief," "theory," "ideology," or team strategy. Not a "reason for having a job so I can blog." But fact. Proven by data and evidence.
I argue and still maintain that if women have true choices, increased access to and support for adoption services will not -- especially given current evidence which I will offer in a subsequent article -- dramatically affect the rate of abortions. There may in fact be a higher number of women facing unintended pregnancies who give up children for adoption, but that is a different point. It will not reduce the need for or eventually the rate of abortion.
Again... trying to connect the strategy with the stated goal, so happy to hear your suggestions, Steve.
I maintain that adoption services and supports may marginally increase the number of children available for adoption -- though there are plenty now available awaitin' -- but will not affect the abortion rate.
This has nothing to do with my position on supporting women who choose adoption.
Memo # 25 to Steve: I do not need to "stomach" support for adoption.
I support making adoption available as an option for all women who need this option. (Is that clear enough????) I support high-quality non-stigmatized adoption services. I support giving what birth parents and adoptive families who choose this option need to ensure that the children in question have safe, secure homes. I think this option should be available to all women.
I think adoption efforts should be a focus irrespective of the issue of abortion.
I also think we should be paying attention to the needs of all the children now languishing in foster care right now. I think we should be making sure that child protective services agencies are fully funded and staff are fully trained so that no children are found dead in freezers. I think that post-partum depression ought to be something for which mothers are screened and that immediate support be available so that young children are not drowned in bathtubs by mothers who are left alone to suffer through devastating depression and with delusional thoughts.
I think we ought to be putting a huge amount more effort, as today's feature by Jane Fonda argues, in supporting parenting teens.
But the question on the table is: How to reduce, ultimately, the need for abortion.
I simply do not believe this is the way, and I think not engaging the issue of preventing unintended pregnancies is based on ideology, not fact and I think facts should govern public health policy and human rights practice.
Reducing unintended pregnancies? I repeat. Only one way to do that: Provide universal access to reproductive and sexual health education backed up by universal access to reproductive and sexual health services including contraceptive information, training and supplies. And get over ourselves with listening to ideologues about what women should do.
Pay attention to facts. They can be more powerful than beliefs.
So Steve: What is your end goal? Reducing the need for abortions?
Or ensuring fewer women have access to abortion so your team can win?
Please advise. I am confused.