In the months and years leading up to the Supreme Court’s recent decision on Roe v. Wade, I began to see a curious argument taking shape on social media, apparently pushed mostly by my fellow liberals, although also supported by some on the right.
It went like this: If you anti-choicers are supposedly so “pro-life,” why won’t you support spending for children? Why, for you, does “life” begin at the moment of conception and end at birth? And why won’t you even support spending for healthcare for pregnant women? Why won’t you open your homes to foster children and orphans, who would not have been born but for an abortion ban?
There are two problems with these arguments: first, our allies in the Pro-Choice movement say they make these statements because they are “committed to calling out this “pro-life” hypocrisy.” Politicians who pander to the pro-life movement are often hypocrites. Many people within the movement are not hypocrites; some are extremely sincere. It doesn’t matter that they are sincere. They are still wrong.
The second problem is that it sounds as though we Pro-Choicers would be perfectly happy to see abortion banned if the pro-life movement would simply join us in creating a generous social safety net. Jackie Calmes, for example, complained in the LA Times that MAGA Republicans have “done nothing to suggest they’ll actually put state money where their mouths are.”
But many sincere believers within the pro-life movement want that very thing, often through government support of religious institutions. Public spending, after all, is a pivotal element of authoritarian populism, which is the direction today’s MAGA party is headed, and public spending on religion is a pivotal element of the MAGA’s fundamentalist movement, who are likely to reply to these progressive taunts by saying, I’ll see your social safety net and raise you a welfare state.
“[A]bortion opponents,” writes anti-MAGA pro-lifer Ross Douthat, “need to show how abortion restrictions are compatible with the goods that abortion advocates accuse them of compromising — the health of the poorest women, the flourishing of their children, the dignity of motherhood even when it comes unexpectedly or amid great difficulty … making the G.O.P. more serious about family policy and public health. Well-governed conservative states like Utah could model new approaches to family policy; states in the Deep South could be prodded into more generous policy by pro-life activists[.]”
Another argument coming up more frequently these days: Post-Roe, writes Thomas Larsen, in the Times of San Diego, “the father — by court order — [should] have his wages garnished to pay for child-raising over the next eighteen years.”
This sentiment has gone viral on social media.
These arguments coming from the left distract from what our message should be. The government has no right to force a woman to carry a fetus to term if she chooses not to do so, for any reason or no reason. Period. End of story.
Even if America, and the MAGA states, become a fount of generosity to unwilling mothers and unwanted children, the government still has no right to force a woman to carry a fetus to term if she chooses not to do so.
Even if America and MAGA states pay generously for women’s and children’s health care, and for college, clothes and food.
Even if dads and rapists have to pay their fair share.
Even if pro-lifers are shown to be sincere and compassionate believers, rather than hypocrites.
Even if, even if, even if … the government still has no right to force a woman to carry a fetus to term if she chooses not to do so, for any reason or no reason.
The fact that many on the right, in the wake of Roe’s demise, support the very same argument made by the left should warn progressives that we risk falling into their cunning trap.
Separate all these issues. Linking them doesn’t help the Pro-Choice movement.
This column was written by Steven S. Drachman. He is the author of a science fiction trilogy, The Strange and Astounding Memoirs of Watt O’Hugh the Third, which is available in paperback from your local bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble; it is also available as a Kindle e-book.
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