The “Shout Your Abortion” online media campaign, dedicated to “putting an end to shame” regarding abortion, is the latest expression of the belief that people not only have the right to have one but they also have the “right” to not feel bad about it. Notice I said “people,” not women. That’s intentional. Abortion is invariably described as a “woman’s issue” but in truth it is a heterosexual behavior issue, biologically and politically; most men want abortion, it serves them. Women may be the primary face of it, either by marching in groups or the now unfortunately indelible memory of an individual making a complete fool of herself after the Kavanaugh confirmation by attempting with pathetically ersatz determination to pry open the Supreme Court doors—which weigh what, 10 tons?—with her fingernails. There can be no more glaring proof that the entertainment industry has unconditionally surrendered to the political correctness mob than the fact that Saturday Night Live didn’t touch it. (Resist! Oh drat, I broke a nail. Bummer!) Well, I laughed. But the thinking behind the “Shout Your Abortion” strategy is nothing new. As soon as Roe v. Wade was decided the new battle cry became: What’s the use of having abortion legal if women feel too guilty to use it? About 15 years ago, I was on the subway when a woman boarded the train wearing a bright yellow T-shirt that proclaimed “I Had an Abortion,” and in case any of us might miss the point she proceeded to stand in the aisle with hands on hips, chest puffed out, chin up, eyes sparkling with defiance. Looking at her I couldn’t help but think of the opening credits for the 50s-era Superman television series with George Reeves; hands on hips, cape flapping, cheesy special effects behind him, and a hyperventilating announcer heralding his heroics. This woman was twice as cheesy, and at least George meant well.
What is really behind the clownish theatrics and defiant posturing? The self-conscious apologetics behind post-abortion rituals like a naming ceremony for an aborted baby is easier to understand; it’s in lieu of the emotional healing that comes from admitting you made a mistake, and although there’s nothing you can do to change the past, you can resolve never to do it again. So why not just do that? Because to do so is to betray the sisterhood. How can something be a “right” and a mistake at the same time? Actually it’s not so big a step to take considering a common attitude, which is: Countless women who would never have an abortion themselves support it being legal because they don’t want the state making that decision for someone else. And despite the current frenzy about keeping abortion legal I think there is scant chance of a reversal because in a democratic, pluralistic society legal abortion is constitutional enough to remain in place. Like it or not, it’s not going anywhere. And even if Roe v. Wade were overturned it would simply mean that it would revert to the province of states’ rights; it would be legal, or illegal, on a state-by-state basis. After 46 years we now have middle-aged men and women who have never known a time when abortion wasn’t legal. What are the odds there will be a mad dash to the polls to change what is now the status quo? What would be the future of a politician’s career who dared to challenge this long standing status quo? So exactly what are all these women so angry about?
Why indeed are so many women terrified at the mere idea of abortion becoming illegal country-wide again, especially when in reality its coming to pass is extremely unlikely? They’re so terrified that they’re even willing to embrace the truly monstrous recent expansion of abortion law in New York State, because it’s deemed preferable to any “chipping away” of Roe v. Wade. I believe it’s because even a mere idea has the ability to devour common sense when it’s bouncing off of longtime injustices and ancient cruelties like a pinball machine on a winning streak—Ding! Ding! Ding! the brain lights up and fury and fear feeds an all-consuming indignation, an indignation that, however poorly expressed, is none-the-less just. Perhaps what bothers many women so much is even the slightest possibility of once again codifying in law the decree that a woman’s biology is her destiny.