Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In which I probably should care more about abortion than I do.

I don't care about abortion.

I've been waiting a long time to get that off my chest. I kinda feel bad about it, because I know it really matters to a lot of people. It's just another medical procedure to me -- like assisted suicide, it's a right, but it feels abstract to me.

And it's weird that it should be abstract, because people close to me have had them, and their lives and my life would be very different if they hadn't. And I'm glad they were able to do so, and I don't believe those choices should be stigmatized -- but I can't bring myself to get up in arms about it.

Maybe I'm overstating this. I do certainly find common cause with abortion activists on a lot of issues: I'm totally down with clinic escorting, for example, because I really like the idea of escorting as a way of showing support to victims of harassment and violence. And I shared in the outrage and mourning over the death of George Tiller, because I'm opposed to political violence, and to the way it gets minimized when it's carried out by white Christians. But when people started expressing joy over the fact that Roeder's sentence doesn't offer the possibility of parole for fifty years (like, thank God for that, right? Can't leave open even the slightest possibility that at seventy-fucking-seven he might have ceased to be a danger to society...) they kinda lost me. Similarly when it started to seem like the only way health care became a feminist issue was when that health care related to the removal of fetuses.

It's stuff like this that has led to me getting bored by coverage of abortion.

Partly, I think this has to do with the fact that, in addition to an argument about misogyny, there's an argument being had about whether fetuses are lumps of cells or humans, and at what point that transition is made. I don't think that's the sort of question I'm equipped to answer, just like the question of whether chimps have souls or the question of the existence of God. I don't think the question makes sense (aren't humans lumps of cells?), it bores me, let's talk about something else.

So I don't like it when people's stance on abortion gets taken as a litmus test for whether they think women are people. Because, as it happens, I think women are people and that they should be able to have abortions, but I care a lot more about them being people than I do about what they do with their fetuses, and it doesn't seem impossible to be feminist and anti-choice, provided that you've got some other way to mitigate the unfair distribution of the consequences of unwanted pregnancies. (Of course, I understand that one of those consequences is birth, and it's hard to distribute that one -- so there's some 'splainin' to do, but I don't think it's necessarily impossible.)

Another piece of it is that I think the centrality of abortion to feminist conversations reflects the dominance of particular groups in feminist conversation: specifically, it's an issue that is especially salient to straight women, but it also seems to me to alienate a lot of mothers, especially religious mothers (and therefore, especially poor mothers and mothers of color).

On the other hand, I don't think it's up to me to decide whether it's possible to be feminist and anti-choice -- or to decide how much to prioritize it within the feminist movement. And, of course, it's probably also true that part of the reason I don't care about abortion is that I'm a dude, and don't have to deal with it if I don't want to -- there's a long tradition of dudes not caring about feminist issues, and I recognize that and am uncomfortable with participating in it.

I can't shake the feeling that saying, "I'm a feminist, but I don't care about abortion," is a little like saying, "I'm a feminist, but I don't care about feminism." There's a certain hubris in thinking that I can choose which aspects of feminism to care about.

But, y'know, it is what it is. I can't bring myself to get excited about abortion.

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