01/29/2013 07:18 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2013

Don't Women Deserve Better?

At least two of my pro-life friends recently posted this video on Facebook in honor of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. One of them commented wryly that the 1973 Supreme Court decision was the "best thing that ever happened to men." The video features a wealthy-looking young man (not even 40 -- the actor was not born until 1980) sitting in a highly masculine setting -- leather chair, fireplace, scotch on the rocks at his fingertips. While fondling a single red rose, he wishes the presumably female viewer a "Happy anniversary, baby," and then proceeds to grunt repeatedly with thoughts of what he's going to do her tonight in celebration.

The theme of the video could not have been more obvious: Roe v. Wade means sex without consequences for at least one very happy man. (I'm not even going to get into the racist stereotypes at work here.) So you'll forgive me if I was utterly shocked to find out that the ostensibly satirical video was produced, not by a pro-life organization -- which would have been entirely effective -- but by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-choice group with spokespersons that include Meryl Streep, Sarah Silverman, and Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon. As a parody of the pro-choice movement, The Onion itself could not have done a better job of trivializing reproductive justice!

I, for one, found the video utterly embarrassing, since it highlighted the already-most-embarrassing aspect of identifying as pro-choice, which I do with some trepidation. I support reproductive rights because I believe societies are better, on the whole, when women have all the same rights as men, including the same right to bodily self-determination. I also fear that governments that are powerful enough to force women not to have abortions can, given slightly different circumstances, turn around and coerce them into having abortions. It is possible for me to say such things because I give higher priority to the lives of living women than to zygotes, embryos, and early-term fetuses, though I confess to being more judgmental about late-term abortions. For me, being pro-choice is very much on a continuum of being anti-rape, anti-slavery, anti-discrimination, and anti-abuse.

I realize, however, that every "Baptist" has her "Bootlegger" -- every virtue-driven cause has people who will support it for vicious reasons. Those of us who support reproductive rights for principled reasons of justice for women must live with the unhappy fact that our stance also makes it possible for women and men to choose abortion for what we consider "bad" reasons of carelessness, capitalist utility, chauvinism, or even full-out misogyny. Such realities are what make anti-abortion campaigns like Women Deserve Better so compelling. (Of course, the principled Feminists for Life have their bootleggers too -- legislators and voters who have no problem letting millions of children go without food, health care, or decent education once they leave the womb, perhaps as a way of punishing their impecunious parents; and those who simply hate the idea of women enjoying sex without having babies.)

The most unfortunate thing about this silly video is that the organization has other, more substantive agendas concerned with very real human rights violations against women (among them imprisonment and child endangerment) that are not "pro-life" in any robust sense of the word. I might never have known about the organization, however, had the obnoxious video not caught the attention of my pro-life friends who posted it on Facebook. So perhaps the marketing experts know what they're doing after all. But really, don't women deserve better than to have their sexuality trivialized, particularly when they are being asked to make such important decisions about fertility? For that matter, don't men, children, and the whole human race deserve better?