posted at 5:21 pm on May 9, 2017 by John Sexton
The NY Times published an op-ed Tuesday by Lori Szala, the national director of client services at Human Coalition. The Human Coalition is a pro-life group which hopes “abortion will become unthinkable and unavailable in our lifetime.” Obviously, that’s not the sort of thing you see published in the NY Times very often:
“Abortion rights are a key pillar of income equality,” writes Ellen Shaffer at the Center for Policy Analysis. “Opposition to abortion rights is a key factor keeping women and kids in poverty.” Another commentator asserts that lack of abortion access is “one of the biggest contributors to the gender wage gap.”
Activists see a lot of appeal in this argument, a way to bridge the gap between liberal women and economic populists. But it comes with enormous baggage.
Above all, it’s a profoundly dehumanizing argument. It reduces mothers and their children to mere economic objects, and amounts to saying we are justified in killing those who impede our economic progress. Parenting presents undeniable challenges, but no one argues that those challenges give parents the right to kill their children.
This last statement is undeniably true. No one (well, almost no one) argues women should have the right to kill newborns based on economic circumstances. Infanticide is simply not an acceptable or appropriate solution to income inequality.
Despite this rejection of the argument which views abortion in economic terms, the author of the piece quotes Frederica Mathewes-Green saying “an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.” In other words, women who feel trapped (economically) are likely to see abortion as a way out. But the author argues there’s a better solution:
There are better solutions; they just require more creativity and more effort. Organizations like mine can help women find jobs, enter substance abuse treatment programs, regain their children from foster care, find housing, pay utility bills and sign up for government benefits.
I see a bit of self-contradiction here. On the one hand, the author is saying that there’s something dehumanizing about viewing abortion in economic terms. On the other hand, she’s suggesting jobs, housing, help with bills, and government benefits are a way to resolve the problem of an unplanned pregnancy. Those are obviously all economic solutions. In other words, the author seems to be reinforcing the idea that economics and abortion really are linked, though she doesn’t see her own use of that argument as dehumanizing.
Here’s what I think the author meant: Yes, there is a link between economics and abortion but we’re addressing the problem in the least humane way. Rather than seeing abortion as a quick solution for a woman who feels trapped, we should instead be looking for practical ways to un-trap her. To their credit, that does seem to be part of what the Human Coalition is trying to do.
Update: Good catch by James Taranto:
— James Taranto (@jamestaranto) May 9, 2017