Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Anniversary of Roe vs Wade and Abortion Under Attack

In light of upcoming anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I thought it was fitting that I had the pleasure and opportunity of interviewing Krista Jacob, the editor of Abortion Under Attack, a book which addresses the spectrum of personal and social influences, ranging from dealing with remorse to the impact that economics, race, and culture have on a woman's right to choose. Krista takes the stance that advocates of a woman’s right to choose are losing the battle—in part because those working to protect that right are ignoring a complicated truth: Many people who support legalized abortion do so with differing personal philosophies and varying levels of conviction. Today, young people are better able to grapple with the nuances of emotion and experience about this difficult issue because they’ve grown up in a post-Roe America. In her new book Abortion Under Attack: Women on the Challenges Facing Choice, Krista Jacob has compiled an impressive collection of essays by pro-choice advocates that addresses the spectrum of personal and social influences, ranging from dealing with remorse to the impact that economics, race, and culture have on a woman’s right to choose.

Here are some of the questions and answers from her interview:

Q. Society has been inundated with the abortion debate for the last few decades—hasn’t everything already been said? Don’t people already identify with one of the two camps, “pro-life” or “pro-choice”?

Krista: It’s true that a lot has been said (and said again) about abortion over the past few decades. Unfortunately the debate has become so vitriolic in both public and private spheres that many reasonable people shy away from this issue, that is until if affects them personally.

That said, regardless of a person’s personal experiences, there are millions of people who have feelings and opinions about abortion that fall under the rubric of “pro-choice,” yet shy away from identifying as such because they perceive the pro-choice position as dangerously simplistic and monolithic. Many have expressed to me that they have felt alienated in some pro-choice circles because they may have ambivalence or moral conflict with abortion itself, or they may even feel remorse or regret about their own abortion.

Q. There are so many books that address the topic of abortion—how is this one different? Why did you put this book together?

Krista: My vision for Abortion Under Attack was informed primarily by my work counseling women and couples coping with unplanned pregnancies. In this work, I found a significant disconnect between the realities of these people’s experience and the public discourse surrounding abortion. Abortion Under Attack is somewhat of a heretical pro-choice book. It tackles some of what have been treated as taboo subjects within the pro-choice movement, such as the question of fetal pain, grief or remorse after an abortion, late term abortion, and the problematics of “choice” rhetoric when placed within the context of race and poverty. I hope this wonderful collection will open minds and build bridges where they can be built.

Q. Where do you see that bridges can be built?

Krista: I think there are many opportunities to build bridges with people who are morally conflicted or ambivalent about abortion itself, yet still share our same vision of reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies through promoting comprehensive and accurate sexuality educational programs and through increasing access to birth control for all women and couples. I believe this is a significant percentage of people whose participation would greatly strengthen our movement.... There is an excellent essay in my book entitled, "The Rhetoric of Abortion: Reflections from a Former Pro-Life Activist," in which the author shares her experience as a member of the anti-choice movement and how she came to be a supporter of reproductive rights. It's an excellent essay and illuminates the importance of reaching out to this group of people.

Q. What is the “new dialogue” that contributors address in this book? What new ideas are brought to light?

Krista: What I refer to as the “new dialogue” in Abortion Under Attack includes the vast array of views and experiences surrounding abortion that I would still term “pro-choice,” yet haven’t always been welcome in traditional pro-choice circles. There are people who believe that abortion kills a life but still work actively to protect a woman’s right to choose what is right for her and her family. There are deeply religious and conservative women who have abortions. And there are women who grieve deeply for the pregnancy they aborted, and who desperately need supportive, non-politicized resources. This is the new dialogue I’m talking about, and I wanted to present it in a unified way in order to help change how abortion is talked about in the mainstream. Essentially this new dialogue is a movement within a movement, one that started at the grassroots level, in women’s health clinics, among women sharing stories about their abortions, and is slowly changing and broadening the vision and strategy of the larger pro-choice movement.

Q. If you could only elucidate three kernels of information that you discovered in researching your book, what would they be?

Krista: The personal is still political and the political must embrace the plurality of personal experience. I understand that political messages must be concise but they needn’t be overly simplistic and they mustn’t be developed at the cost of excluding marginalized people.

People are extremely ready for and open to a new dialogue about abortion, and now is the right time to cultivate this dialogue. Abortion is under serious attack and unless we can change the tone of our dialogue, on a large scale, we risk losing legal abortion completely.

Our movement must be responsive to a changing and evolving society. As I say in my Introduction, it is as much our right to have varying opinions about abortion as it is our right to have access to safe, legal, and dignified abortion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Conscious Conception (the idea that every pregnancy is intentional) should be the rallying cry to unify the warring pro-life and pro-choice camps. Eliminating unintentional pregnancy would go a long way toward reducing demand for abortions. Every woman should have access to the tools an technologies she needs to make conception a conscious choice.