Pushing a narrative

Sandy Hingston writes in Philadelphia Magazine on two members of “Philly’s Young Advocates of Planned Parenthood,” a booster group.

This caught my attention for a few reasons. First, because I’m the same age as the women featured in the article, but I hold a different perspective about what America’s spectrum of choice should look like. Second, because the language I’m excerpting reads less like opinion informed by experience and more like PR-speak. At the risk of being a man who has an opinion on human sexuality and public policy, I thought I’d reflect on this.

“It’s an insidious attack,” [Joan Heider, 27] declares. “They insist they’re passing it to help women. That’s what Kathy Rapp” — the state representative who sponsored H.B. 1948 — “called her last bill in 2012, the one that pushed ultrasounds on women seeking abortion: ‘Women’s Right to Know.’” She’s getting even more worked up. “People pushing pro-life have a very simplistic understanding of women’s reproductive rights. Their activism doesn’t spring from a desire to protect the unborn; it’s to control women’s lives. They’re pro-no-sex-for-women. You can tell they’re hypocritical because they’re not in favor of birth control!”

That’s right, of course. It’s long been an ambition of people like Rep. Kathy Rapp that she get to live a sexless life.

Certainly, when I joined the board of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadephia four years ago, it was not to serve women—pregnant—who wanted to choose something other than abortion. If the mainstream Planned Parenthood narratives are to believed, how could people like me ever act in good faith, or really mean what they say? When you read excerpts like the one above, you’d think no one could ever identify as pro-life with an intent to serve women by providing things like a home or access to education, or simply loving support, in the face of parents or a boyfriend or someone else pressuring them to abort or face something like homelessness. No, everything is politics all of the time. We’re all worse off for that.

There are certainly many pro-lifers, like me, who personally reject birth control because they believe it introduces a corrosive, transactional character into relationships. Yet I know no pro-life person whose lack of “favor” for birth control in their own lives translates into a fantastical desire to prohibit the existence or access to birth control in the public square.

“I was always pro-choice,” says Heider, “but privately. Most people are. They’re not very vocal about it. The pro-life people are very vocal, and very willing to fight to restrict my rights. I want to take it back. I’ve worked to normalize discussions of abortion in my circle of friends.”

It’s among some of my most pro-life friends that discussions of abortion are most normal. I’m not talking about discussions of abortion in abstract, or in terms of policy, but actual discussion of abortions that pro-life friends had in the past, and how that decision led them to where they are today.


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