Abortion Advocate in NYT: The Key to Victory is ‘Cultural Change.’ She’s Right
In the war to end abortion, the road to victory starts in your own backyard.
“Conventional understanding of pro-choice politics tends to fixate on Roe v. Wade as the center of the fight for abortion rights,” writes Lindy West in The New York Times this week. West is the founder of ShoutYourAbortion, a group that aims to make abortion seem as normal as getting your teeth cleaned.
West argues that the fight for abortion goes “beyond Roe.” She highlights the importance of state politics (“legality doesn’t mean much without access”), and changing the culture through local activism.
While West writes to her fellow abortion advocates, her words carry wisdom for pro-lifers as well. If we truly want to end abortion in the United States, we too must look beyond Roe.
State Victories Matter
First, local victories matter a lot. West laments how “abortion rights” have been restricted in certain states, despite the existence of Roe. Last month, for instance, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant passed a ban on abortions of children over 15 weeks old. Mississippi is among six states that have only one abortion facility. She notes that some other states lack major abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood. The only abortion facilities in such states are independent. And West reports that nearly 30 percent of such independent facilities closed between 2012 and 2017.
These are the kinds of victories that pro-lifers celebrate. Most of use hope and pray for Roe v. Wade to eventually be overturned. In the meantime, we fight in court and campaign in politics for victories like this — which should not be undervalued. The state victories matter, a lot.
Poverty and Abortion
Second, West raises an important point about middle class women and women in poverty. Using Mississippi as an example, she claims women in Gov. Bryant’s wage bracket may not feel the effects of having just one abortion facility in their state. If they want an abortion, they can easily travel to obtain one. It’s not so easy for working class women making low-to-median wages. That’s true.
On the flip side, women with more means are also better able to provide for a baby. Those most vulnerable to the abortion industry are women in poverty, often minority women — the same ones unable to travel far for an abortion.
A 2016 Guttmacher Institute study found a disproportionate number of poor women in the U.S. have abortions. Finances are a major determining factor in whether they will abort. In 2005, the Guttmacher Institute found that among post-abortive women surveyed, 73 percent said they aborted because they couldn’t afford a baby.
Standing in the Gap
Third, abortionists pride themselves on telling vulnerable women they’re there for them in times of crisis. When abortionists are booted out, will pro-life pregnancy resource centers step in? Will they prove themselves the rightful place for vulnerable pregnant mothers to turn?
We already know that pro-life centers outnumber abortion facilities. But what kind of services are the centers in our communities providing? To really fill the gap, they must not only provide life-affirming counseling, but practical help. Help finding jobs, for instance. Free skills training, such as how to budget and care for a child. Assistance applying for government benefits. A place to stay.
Fourth, we need to work for real change in the culture that makes abortion unthinkable. West hits the nail on the head toward the end of her column: “The real political long game is culture change.”
As multiple pro-choicers have pointed out, abortion will still take place even if it isn’t legal. That’s why the overturning of Roe v. Wade can’t be our endgame. We need to eliminate the demand for abortion.
People like West and her organization ShoutYourAbortion are fighting to make abortion seem more palatable, even good, so that fewer people oppose it. In response, we should strive to make abortion, as the pro-life group New Wave Feminists proclaims on its website, “unthinkable and unnecessary.” We accomplish this by teaching people about the intrinsic value of human life, starting in the womb. That covers the “unthinkable” part. We can also accomplish this by loving, empowering and assisting women in need. That covers the “unnecessary” part.
How to Get Involved
West includes ideas for how abortion advocates can make a difference on a local level. The same tips are useful for pro-lifers.
- “Donate money to clinics and abortion funds.” Is there a pro-life pregnancy care center in your town? Give them money.
- “Donate time as a clinic escort.” See if your local pregnancy resource center needs volunteers for counseling, teaching, sorting donations, or any other service.
- “Fight to dismantle abortion stigma in your family and community.” Engage with your family and friends about the value of human life and why it matters. Encourage women in doubt that they can have a baby and still accomplish their goals!
- “Can you build a website? Unclog a pipe? Reach out and ask what providers in your community need.” How about you? Can you build a website or unclog a pipe? Ask your local pregnancy resource center what practical help they need to stay up and running, and do it.
- “Vote in every primary and every general election.” Ditto.
Pro-choicers like West understand that the road to long term victory starts in our own backyards. Pro-lifers, do we understand?