This is an entry in the Pro-Abortion series.
(image modified from a wrongcards)
You will sometimes hear a talking head from some organization or clinic saying something like “well, no one is for abortion,” and trying to portray the “reasonable” position that abortion is undesirable, terrible, but that it’s a “necessary evil.” Even if they won’t say the words “necessary evil,” it always seems to be in the back of their minds, or at least the belief that it’s a “necessary undesirable.”
Here’s the question though, why is abortion undesirable and terrible? It is a surgical operation, and like all surgical operations, it carries with it some risk. In fact, abortions are amongst the safest surgical operations that can be performed. It also generates some amount of traumatism for the patient, but so do all surgical operations.
As for any other surgical operation, we accept the risk and traumatism, however big or small it is, because the operation brings about some greater good desired by the patient. The greater the good, the more risk and traumatism we are ready to accept. It’s really that simple. And abortion, while not usually a matter of life or death, does bring about a tremendous good: not having to bring to term a new life which will occupy the next twenty years of one’s life, not starting a new human life which will be the victim of harm and suffering. That’s a great benefit.
One may reply that abortion is like any other operation, that we don’t think the operation itself is a benefit, and that we would rather have the benefit without the operation. Following this logic, it is better to not be pregnant at all than to have to have an abortion. But I think that is the wrong way of looking at the situation (especially since some pregnancies are inevitable, as long as people will have PIV). We should rather ask, all other things being equal, is it better for abortion to be made more available or less available? Is it better for more abortions to be performed, or less abortions? Clearly it is better for there to be more abortions. I would rather have an abortion clinic in every neighborhood than daycare centers.
We absolutely do need abortions to be widespread. Even the most effective contraception methods used in a perfect manner (I am excluding surgical operations like vasectomies here) still yield a 2-6% unintended pregnancy rate per year. This means that over a period of five years, you have an average from 10% to 27% probability of experiencing an unintended pregnancy, again if the contraceptive is used in a perfect manner. Typical (non-perfect) condom use see a 56% probability of unintended pregnancy over five years. This is a gigantic risk to take without abortions being widely available to all. Even vasectomies, done perfectly, yield a 0.5% accidental pregnancies rate over five years, which means that for every thousand men who get perfect vasectomies, five will end up starting a pregnancy. This should be a scary scenario for anyone.
Even though she is pro-childbirth, which is ridiculous, Jill of Feministe (a funfem blog, not a radical feminist blog) understands why abortion is good in itself:
Abortion itself, though, can be a savior for women, and a positive choice. Abortion is a medical procedure and, like most medical procedures, is preempted by some sort of negative event. And yet the discourse around abortion is focused on how “tragic” it is. Is open-heart surgery “tragic”? Is an appendectomy “tragic”? Obviously the circumstances leading up to open-heart surgery and appendectomy are bad. But the procedures themselves, I would argue, are good responses to bad situations. As is abortion.
My real topic in this entry is not abortion but gatekeepers. The pro-choice spokespeople just happen to be a good example of what gatekeepers do. Their objective is to become part and parcel of a system which makes childbirth the default and abortion an aberration. Like everyone who seeks to integrate emselves within the dominant paradigm, they have to not only conform to the expectations of the public but also to suppress anyone who is on their side but fails to conform to those expectations as well.
This is the role of the gatekeeper, to keep “undesirable” elements out of a movement or ideology and ensure that only ideas and soundbites that are compatible with the goal of public relations are allowed in public discourse. Like all attempts at integrating within political discourse, their decisions are made on the basis of pragmatism, not about truth. Saying that abortion is positive has no political benefit and plenty of political downsides, so it must be suppressed. Even though they know it is the truth, and they know they are lying, they must keep pretending that the position doesn’t exist and is a straw man; to admit the opposite would open them to further accusations and would be pragmatically counter-productive.
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
(to which I would add: same for women, too)
Gatekeepers can be all sorts of people or organizations. Some include unions, political parties, interest groups, academics, self-styled activist elites, and basically anyone who plots at organizing any field that has any possibility of activism. Anyone who sniffs power for themselves may take on traits of gatekeepers (such as older atheists who try to stop younger atheists from expressing how much they hate religion).
The avowed aim of gatekeepers is to gain support from the public and from the power elite (especially politicians). Any form of radical activism necessarily goes counter to that intent, because it goes against the interest of the power elite and of the segments of the population that support it. Therefore it is always in their interest to suppress or co-opt radical activism. They become the equivalent of slave overseers, people who are part of the same “group” but whose job it is to keep everyone else in the “group” subservient.
The end result is that gatekeepers are part of the emergence of a movement but paradoxically keep a movement from growing, because they channel people’s energies into fruitless political pursuits and suppress creativity in the name of that channeling.
The saddest part is that some gatekeepers (not all, by far, but some) are good-intentioned and really truly believe that they are doing what’s best for their community or ideological group. They believe that some “tough love” is necessary to align “rebels” in their group with the “proper behaviour” necessary to mimic in order to be successful in the “marketplace of ideas” (hi db0!).
It can be hard to argue against such blindingly naive honesty. The best course of action, I think, is to ignore these self-appointed leaders and speak your mind, even if that means ostracism. Likewise, if anyone ever tries to establish themselves as leaders of any pro-abortion movement in the future, I will blithely tell them to fuck off.