by Doctor Science
I wanted to do a round-up of the recent surge in Republican/conservative attacks on abortion.
- A Catholic hospital de-Catholic-ed for saving a woman's life with an abortion
- An Idaho pharmacist who cited the "conscience clause" in refusing to fill a prescription to control bleeding -- because the Rx was coming from Planned Parenthood, apparently.
- The many-faceted attacks of H.R.3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.
- HR3 originally included a provision to restrict the "rape exception" of the Hyde Amendment to "forcible rape" (or what Whoopi Goldberg calls "rape rape"), but that has been dropped.
- For over a week, Sady Doyle has been blogging, twittering, and organizing against HR3. She was big force behind making it not re-define rape, and she's not stopping. The bill also affirms "conscience" clauses -- now extended to include a hospital's right to refuse to save a woman's life.
- Anti-abortion activists tried to scam Planned Parenthood by pretending to be child traffickers. PP reported them to prosecutors immediately after the visits, but somehow this is supposed to make PP look bad, anyway.
- I would be more surprised that those activists were willing to cynically exploit child sex trafficking (as though it's something that doesn't deserve to be treated seriously), except that Republicans have been blocking the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010. The deeply conservative Concerned Women for America opposed the bill because they think child sex slaves should be arrested as criminals, not supported as victims.
- The return of the back alley
There's lots more, but I'll stop for the moment.
Now, the post I wanted to write was about abortion, sexuality, and women's rights in America -- but I realized that that post and the ensuing discussion would fall apart into derailing flames without *another* post, first. This is my post about some premises.
I can only call a person or organization "anti-abortion" if they are also pro-contraception.
If you look around the world, abortion rates are lowest not where abortion is illegal, but where contraception is widely available and there is social pressure to use it.
Even with all the division in the US over the abortion issue, I know quite a few individuals who consider themselves strongly "pro-life" and who are also very strongly in favor of contraception.
Yet, I have not been able to find any "pro-life" organization or group that is pro-contraception. People in "Pro-life" groups are willing to say that abortion is murder, that pro-choice advocates are baby-killers, that Roe v. Wade is like the Holocaust or Dred Scott, that abortion is the defining moral issue of our time. This is *extremely* strong language, and only acceptable if you really mean it.
If you do mean it, you have a moral imperative to promote contraception. If you believe that birth control pills and IUDs are also infanticidal, that only increases your moral obligation to promote barrier methods such as condoms.
So, because "pro-life" groups don't approve of contraception, I am forced to conclude that they don't really truly believe that abortion is murder, much less genocide -- unless they think that contraception is *worse*, which not even the Catholic Church has been willing to come out and clearly say.
The question becomes: what are they opposed to, since it *cannot* be abortion?
My guess is that the people in the "pro-life movement" (PLM) fall into 3 subgroups:
A. A considerable number of individuals who are both anti-abortion and pro-contraception, and who feel alienated by the rhetoric of both the usual pro-life and pro-choice sides.
B. People whose basic, unconscious motivations are opposed to women's rights and to sexual expression, but who have enough of a conscious commitment to logic and justice that they will go for a just & logical alternative if it's presented to them, even though it makes them uncomfortable.
C. The Anti-Sex League and/or Slut-Shamers, Inc.. As far as I can tell, *all* the PLM leadership is in this group, and they don't even realize that many of their followers are in groups A&B. Traditional Catholic doctrine is in this group, because it lumps abortion with contraception as Bad Unholy Slutty Sex Practices.
That's my guess. What's yours?
 According to The Incidence of Abortion Worldwide, the countries with the lowest abortion rates are The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. These are all places where abortion is legal and easy to obtain, especially early in pregnancy, but where a variety of methods of contraception are readily available and widely-advertised, sex education is explicit, and there is social pressure to use contraception.
Abortion rates are low not just because these countries are rich; Tunisia is a very poor country with a low abortion rate, low fertility (it's not just that women are having a lot of children), and widespread use of contraception.
But what about Ireland and Poland, where there are no abortions because they're illegal? you may ask.
First, Ireland has no abortions because they have the ferry to England instead.
Abortion has been illegal in Poland since 1993. Under communism abortion had been one of the most common methods of birth control in Poland; since then the legal abortion rate has fallen to almost zero, and is often touted as a triumph of "pro-life" legislation.
It's difficult to tell what is really going on in Poland. Access to and knowledge of contraception is shockingly poor, and women's health statistics are not well reported. Anecdotal evidence suggests there is a substantial underground abortion industry in Poland and considerable "abortion tourism" to other countries.
The most telling fact is that the Polish birth rate did not go up when abortions became illegal. Under communism there were probably on the order of 100,000 abortions per year in Poland; making abortion illegal did not "save" lives, because we don't see 100,000 extra lives showing up every year, even though increasing the birth rate was one of the rationales for banning abortion.
 Though in fact that used to be more or less the way Catholics dealt with it. Getting an abortion doesn't happen very often in any woman's life, she's always emotionally distraught and often physically ill, there are lots of (potentially) mitigating circumstances. Contraception, though, is still in Catholic doctrine an "intrinsic evil", and it is necessarily habitual, planned, and determined. So basically, in traditional Catholic thought abortion is more like murder in the heat of an argument, but contraception is more like a cold-blooded contract murder.
This is particularly the case for first-trimester abortion, before "quickening":
The Council of Vienne, still very influential in Catholic hierarchical teaching, confirmed the conception of man put forth by St. Thomas Aquinas. While Aquinas had opposed abortion — as a form of contraception and a sin against marriage — he had maintained that the sin in abortion was not homicide unless the fetus was ensouled, and thus, a human being. Aquinas had said the fetus is first endowed with a vegetative soul, then an animal soul, and then — when its body is developed — a rational soul. This theory of "delayed hominization" is the most consistent thread throughout church history on abortion.5[source]
Joseph F. Donceel, S.J., "Immediate Animation and Delayed Hominization," Theological Studies, vols. 1 & 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), pp. 86-88.
 No, really, it can't. You can only plausibly claim to be working to reduce the abortion rate if you're doing things that have a track record of actually reducing the abortion rate.