Monday, January 03, 2011

Douthat abortion fail

Aside from the other critiques around the blogosphere today of Ross Douthat's head-bangingly frustrating column, I also found some glaring inconsistencies, and rather problematic themes he’s got going on. I appreciated his arguably (and rather surprisingly) compassionate response to the MTV special, but he goes on to discuss issues that are either wholly unrelated to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, or off-base in terms of quality of analysis. For example,

In every era, there’s been a tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted pregnancies and the burden of infertility. But this gap used to be bridged by adoption far more frequently than it is today. Prior to 1973, 20 percent of births to white, unmarried women (and 9 percent of unwed births over all) led to an adoption. Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted, and would-be adoptive parents face a waiting list that has lengthened beyond reason.

Some of this shift reflects the growing acceptance of single parenting. But some of it reflects the impact of Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, countless lives that might have been welcomed into families like Thernstrom’s — which looked into adoption, and gave it up as hopeless — have been cut short in utero instead.

Leaving aside for now the point that it’s no woman’s responsibility to provide children for infertile couples, he’s forgetting that giving up a baby for adoption — after the birth mother spent at least 9 months gestating it, feeling it move, kick, bond with it, etc. — is no easy feat.

He’s also neglecting the reality that “acceptance of single parenting” is hardly a celebration of it. What else should we do to single parents? Abuse them? Deny their existence? Blame them for their situation? Also forgetting that many single parents — primarily women — who are blamed for not giving their children an ideal household are not doing so by their own choice. Their husbands can abandon the family, die, or even just leave the vast majority of involved parenting up to the other parent, without their say. Or vice versa. It’s not always about a casual decision to get married and have kids, or an equally as casual decision to not make that work out as planned.

Supporting single parents and maintaining his stance that a dual-parent household is ideal for raising and nurturing a child don’t have to be mutually exclusive. He has shown time and time again that he believes the best way to discourage behaviors that are contrary to the common idea (or his idea) of what is ideal, like two-parent households, preventing unplanned pregnancies, "traditional" marriage, and now abortion, is to alienate, criminalize, or just outright ignore the existence of the people who are engaging in, or directly affected by these issues. Clearly, the state, or society at large, acting in this manner in the past caused such joys as women dying of botched illegal abortions, forced pregnancy, poverty, marginalization... I can go on.

There is a reason why people continue to fight ideologues like Douthat. It's not because we're hostile to the ideals they set forth, but because we want to avoid the consequences of forcing such ideals on unwilling -- or unable -- participants.

(...Nearly the entirety of this blog post was originally a comment over at The Innocent Smith Journal. InnocentSmith has also responded to Jill and Amanda's critiques here.)