Thursday in the Los Angeles Times, Staff Writer Stephanie Simon writes that Democratic efforts to reduce the number of abortions are a sign of the growing conservatism among the left. Because these measures could "encourage women who... conceive to carry to term," she argues, they "have a ring of conservatism."
Simon is wrong to conflate anti-abortion measures with anti-woman measures. What are these measures?
First, make sure women know that they can get pre-natal care, home visits from nurses after birth, and parenting classes. Offer day care at job-training sites and on college campuses so women can be both mothers and workers or students. And make sure that women who give birth to children with special needs receive extra help from the government.
To call these measures conservative or associate them with the political (and religious) right, as Simon does, is absurd. Spending on social services for poor women is, if anything is, a partisan issue that sits squarely with the Democratic party. But Simon is caught up in a feminist discourse about abortion that equates women's liberation with abortion rights. This is largely because of the historically middle- and upper-class character of the American feminist movement.
Middle- and upper-class women rarely have to sacrifice a desire for children because they cannot afford to have them. For these women, abortion rights are empowering because they have the option to not have children if they so choose.
In contrast, poor women often cannot afford a child, even if it is wanted. For these women, the most empowering measures are those that enable them to have and raise a child with dignity. In this sense, measures that support women's childbearing are decidedly feminist.
The measures being proposed by the Democratic Party are good for poor and non-poor women alike because they expands all women's options. Further, they will help poor women who get pregnant on purpose, as well as those who did not, by ensuring that being a parent is not a class privilege.
We do not have to choose between pro-abortion and pro-life stances. The most useful thing for American women is to have both options: abortion and motherhood. And this should be the pro-choice agenda.