What Does “Abortion Reduction” Really Mean?

Kathleen Reeves

A disturbing implication of “abortion reduction” is that our society should more closely monitor women who want abortions and the reasons they want abortions.

Anna North, on Jezebel, takes a look at the problems with “abortion reduction” as portrayed through an O’Reilly lens. She surveys some of the most offensive moments of Friday’s The O’Reilly Factor, on which Salon Editor-in-Chief Joan Walsh appeared.

Abortion reduction can mean different things, as North points out. It can mean reducing the need for abortion, as in reducing unintended pregnancies. But some people use the phrase to mean that we should more closely monitor women who want abortions and the reasons they want abortions.

For example, O’Reilly alleged on the show that Dr. Tiller performed late-term abortions frivolously:

He maintained that "Tiller was aborting late-term fetuses for casual reasons." He then called in Dr. Paul McHugh, head of the Psychiatric School at Johns Hopkins University …who made some vague claims about Tiller offering abortions so that women could "go to concerts" or "take part in sports."

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These claims are ludicrous, but they shed light on one of the primary tactics of the anti-abortion movement, which is to call into question the judgment of pregnant women. The clear implication is that women who want abortions are selfish, short-sighted, or stupid, and that by restricting abortion, we’re saving not only fetuses—we’re also saving these women from themselves.

The phrase “abortion reduction” makes me uncomfortable because it implies that we have perspective to offer women considering abortion. This is the abortion protestor (or “counselor”) outside the clinic door. The least aggressive of these might say something like, “Have you considered other options?” but even this, spoken politely, is offensive. Why would a stranger have considered options for my fetus that I haven’t? Can he/she be serious?

This, the necessity of deferring to one woman’s judgment, is what Anna North articulates so well:

If we truly want to preserve a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, we need to accept that sometimes women will abort for reasons we might not agree with. Really, being pro-choice doesn’t mean thinking every abortion is a good idea. It means realizing that the only person who should truly have the right to determine whether it’s a good idea is the mother, and protecting her rights means allowing her to make decisions we might not necessarily support.

This is the essence of abortion rights. Roe v. Wade came out of the knowledge that we can’t allow there to be gatekeepers to abortion, be they state legislators or parents or the public. These gatekeepers will fail, and O’Reilly’s (continued) rant about late-term abortions shows us why. We cannot understand, in every circumstance, a woman’s experience, and we cannot be the ones to decide which abortions are justifiable.

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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News Abortion

Iowa GOP Legislator: Ending Legal Abortion ‘Impossible’ Without ‘Personhood’ Laws

Teddy Wilson

GOP-backed "personhood" laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

An Iowa Republican plans to introduce a measure defining life as beginning at conception in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down an anti-choice Texas law, which has limited states’ ability to restrict abortion care access.

State Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) told IowaWatch that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt proves that the anti-choice movement’s attack on abortion rights is not working.

“The Supreme Court decision reinforced that incrementally ending abortion is impossible,” Schultz said. “You either have it or you don’t.”

So-called personhood laws seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as people, and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

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GOP-backed “personhood” laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

Personhood bills were introduced this year by Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Rhode Island.

Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told IowaWatch that personhood measures are routinely introduced in Iowa but have failed to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Although we have not yet seen the details of this impending effort, we are confident that it also will fail to advance,” Lopez said. “Personhood bills are a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars, as they have failed time and again in Iowa and other states.”

Iowa lawmakers this year introduced SJR 2001, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that the document does not secure or protect a fundamental right to abortion care.

SJR 2001 was referred to the senate rules and administration committee, but never received a hearing or a vote.

Schultz, who was elected to the state senate in 2014 after serving in the house, has sponsored or co-sponsored several anti-choice bills while in the state legislature, including personhood measures.

SF 478, sponsored by Schultz during the 2015 legislative session, would have defined “person” when referring to the victim of a murder, to mean “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told IowaWatch that Schultz’s proposal would not survive in the courts.

“He can try to pass that legislation but it certainly wouldn’t trump the federal Constitution,” Kende said. “Even if that language got into the state constitution it can’t defy three Supreme Court decisions in the last 40 years.”

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told IowaWatch that he could not support Schultz’s proposal.

“I’m pro-life and I want to do what I can to encourage things that can protect the lives of unborn children,” Branstad said. “Yet I also recognize that we have to live with the restrictions that have been placed on the states by the courts.”

Branstad signed many of the state’s laws restricting abortion access that came up during the latter part of his first term as governor.

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