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I hear, a lot, from those who want to take away abortion rights that they just want a woman to "take responsibility" or show some "personal responsibility" for her "decision to get pregnant". In pro-life-ese, having a vagina and having sex means choosing to be pregnant. And we get from there to "Don't take it out on the baby!" and other such nonsense. This is, almost always, pure and utter nonsense: it's not about women being responsible for their own actions (and often not protecting The Babiez, but that's another post...).

The use of charged rhetoric like "responsibility" is handy -- it (sometimes) steers the conversation away from Jesus land, which is useful because, you know, Constitution. It also suggests that the person attempting to plan their parenthood is, rather than being responsible in doing so, actually irresponsible; that taking a responsible course of action, and choosing not to be a parent if you're not ready or able to do so, is actually just the lazy harlot's answer. This is exactly what their imagery implies: that women who don't see eye to eye with Republicans and pro-lifers are in general oversexed hussies who can't control their libidos, and so are looking for handouts from "Uncle Sugar". It's a not-that-subtle ad hominem, that shifts the conversation away from their need to prove that the government has business telling women that they must act as "hosts" for unwanted fetuses, onto us. And not even to demonstrate that we should and do have rights, but that we're even capable of being taken seriously. After all, why should anyone listen to an irresponsible, baby-killing sex fiend? And isn't that what women who don't want conservative "small government" or their employers dictating their reproductive decisions are? Conservative pro-lifers try very hard to convince you that that is the case.

Whether it will be as successful a strategy as Reagan's "welfare queens", I don't know. But it is employed for exactly the same reason: because it replaces the need for a good argument for starving people or taking a reproductive rights with an Us v Them dichotomy. Where conservative rhetoric has done its work, people don't think of soldiers and the elderly when they think of food stamp recipients; they don't think of themselves or their friends and family who have relied (or are relying) on foodstamps. They see someone else, some lazy Other who just wants to follow an easy path.

The pro-life rhetoric regarding abortion and reproductive rights is following the same, shameless trajectory, although hopefully with less success (that remains to be seen). They are attempting to sort women into fictional categories: on the one side, the virtuous woman who can shut down rape pregnancies, always wants to be pregnant if she has sex, and relies on Jesus and a more material man for her and her offspring's well-being; and the irresponsible, baby killing slut machine, who thinks that preventing pregnancy or -- heaven forbid -- ending a pregnancy is acceptable and might even -- brace yourself -- choose single parenting.

The cognitive dissonance that goes into condemning birth control, and abortion while also railing against single mothers and programs that help poor children, women and families -- a dissonance displayed by almost every prominent pro-life Republican today -- is a post, or ten, in itself. But there's a simpler way to, as Todd Akin might put it, shut that whole thing down.

Many people claim to oppose reproductive rights on the grounds of personal responsibility -- that a woman choosing to have sex is consenting to parenthood; this is in and of itself a ridiculous and archaic proposition. But they run with it: she chose to have sex and thus get pregnant, and she shouldn't take out her irresponsible behavior on the baby. They claim their opposition to abortion, birth control, plan b, etc., is based on the notion that choosing to have sex means consenting to pregnancy, and you can't just weasel your way out of it. But many of these same people also oppose access to abortion when a woman did not consent to sex in the first place. In fact, pro-life support for forcing women to carry rape pregnancies is so politically challenging to pro-life Republicans that the Republican Committee had to give GOP men lessons on how to talk about rape and women's issues. In other words, opposition to abortion has nothing to do with personal responsibility -- because it's opposed even when the woman had no choice, and thus no responsibility, in getting pregnant in the first place.

Now, obviously, individual pro-lifers might be more flexible on this. Some believe a raped woman should be allowed to terminate her pregnancy, but no one else. However, this is not the position of the Catholic church or most pro-life organizations. Individuals may be and often are more humane that these people, but that's a distressingly low standard.

Personal responsibility is a non-issue for anyone or group that opposes absolute access to abortion for rape victims. If you're choosing to force motherhood on someone whose "responsibility" the pregnancy is not, it's not about personal responsibility. Period.

So pro-lifers really need to get their argument in order, or drop the sanctimonious language of forcing people to "take responsibility" for their actions (while trying to limit the ability to do exactly that) because they don't give a rat's hindquarters about personal responsibility. They're willing to force the same outcome on a rape victim who did not choose to engage in intercourse, much less become pregnant, as a woman who had consensual sex and became pregnant; a woman's choice to have sex, then, is irrelevant. And, if the choice is irrelevant, "responsibility" for that choice is irrelevant.

Originally posted at Rachel's Hobbit Hole

Originally posted to Rachels Hobbit Hole (on Daily Kos) on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:56 AM PST.

Also republished by Abortion, Pro Choice, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well said. (17+ / 0-)

    I am also confounded by the "pro life" legislation that always seeks to punish doctors for providing abortion, but not the women who get them.  As if pregnant women are stumbling around, until an evil "abortionist" gets hold of them.

    If women are truly responsible for pregnancy, and abortion, lets see some laws that put women in jail.  

    Bet that would be real popular .....

    My dogs think I'm smart and pretty.

    by martydd on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:34:13 AM PST

  •  Tha absolute positively rank (15+ / 0-)

    hypocrisy of the pro-life Americans is mind-boggling.

    Always has been.

    What they are is pro-me---what they are not is pro-life.

    They simply feel qualified to dictate to others.

    "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

    by lyvwyr101 on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:42:43 AM PST

  •  It has never been about "personal responsibility" (23+ / 0-)

    and has always been about punishment. Since the story of Eve, it's been about punishing women. Shaming us for biology. Shaming us for daring to enjoy sex beyond the purpose of procreation. They long for the days of publicly scarlet lettering unwed mothers while ensuring that there are no options. It's always been about dominance and power. Same as it ever was.

    We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

    by Vita Brevis on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 08:57:38 AM PST

    •  Bang on. It's a code word. (9+ / 0-)

      Shame is deeply, deeply ingrained in authoritarian religious philosophies.  It's the biggest rhetorical weapon used to keep believers in line.  Thus, it makes a convenient weapon to point at others too, while appealing to (putative) propriety.

      You're dead right, Vita Brevis.  It's absolute horseshit.  Male fear of female power is absolutely insane.  It's like cutting off half of yourself to spite the other half.

      Not that I'm a slavering Robert Heinlein fan - I do like some of his work, but not all of it - but he did have one really fantastic quote in The Number Of The Beast.  At one point, a middle-aged female character - who the narrative has shown is razor-witted, very intelligent, and fiercely independent for the most part - discusses with another female how males can't be trusted to make important decisions because they think with their genitalia and act off their emotions.  Later in the book, the same two females expertly manipulate their husbands into making a fairly significant life-decision by staging an fairly nasty argument.  They get what they want, and the men are none the wiser.  Funny scene actually.

      I'd say the criticism isn't universally true, but often far too close for comfort.  But then, being male, I'm probably biased.  :-P

      In either case, flipping around the classical conservative criticism of women (at least the ones they don't like) in power was something I found both hilarious and apropos.  Not to mention anyone seeking to undermine women by criticizing their capacity for intelligent reasoning and logical decision-making is saying far more about themselves than their intended victim.  I'm married to a professional computer programmer and (if I may say) know whereof I speak.

    •  Ye Olde Alienation Myth! (3+ / 0-)

      The birth-order is reversed too.

      A female does not birth creation, it is formed out of mud.
      And Eve does not birth Adam, he births her from his rib.

      A sculptor is outside of his work. Completely separate from it, and always will be.

      A mother however--now that's another kind of relationship entirely.

      "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

      by GreenMother on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 01:47:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is actually one of the things (5+ / 0-)

      at the root of the Catholic church's relatively recent (late 1800s) intense opposition to abortion: that women who sin should have to suffer the pain of childbirth as punishment.

      Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

      by anastasia p on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 01:58:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thoughts: (11+ / 0-)

    Anti-abortionists are really fetus fetishers.  Let's call them out on it.  If they really cared about the babies after birth, they would support child nutrition programs, paid time off for new mothers, paid time off for adopting parents...etc...etc...  but they don't.

    Talk about throwing the baby out  with the bathwater!

    Making abortion illegal makes every miscarriage a potential crime. How do I know you didn't have a secret abortion?  I think this needs to be investigated.

    Making abortion illegal will limit Obstetric services for all.  If you can't abort a pregnancy for the life of the mother, you might get sued.  If someone things you're doing suspicious D&Cs, you might get prosecuted.  Costs go up.  The practice just becomes too burdensome.  Who wants to be an OB when you can make just as much with flat-out GYN services.  Maybe go into GYN Oncology, instead.  

    Making abortion illegal will not reduce the number of abortions. Guttmacher Institute says that 2011 was the year of the lowest # of abortions since they've been tracking-- 1.06 million--the SAME NUMBER of abortions that occurred BEFORE Roe v. Wade.  Now, they're legal and safe.  Before, they weren't.

  •  Cognitive dissonance (16+ / 0-)

    Wherever you try to push into the pro-lifer rhetoric, you get hit with the dissonance.  
    **Women aren't to be treated as adults capable of informed medical consent over what happens to their bodies, yet women must take responsibility for their actions.  
    **The doctor who performs the abortion is committing a crime, but the woman who seeks one out is not.  (Is she a blameless dupe?  Is she a victim?  Is she akin to an inanimate object, just "the scene of the crime"? What is the role of the woman in the commission of the "crime" of abortion?)
    **No abortion to save the mother's life, even if that means her other children have to grow up without a mother.
    **No abortion even if the fetus will never grow into an independent being with a reasonable quality of life, however minimal. Better to be born into pain and suffering and the absence of human dignity, than to be terminated before pain can be experienced.

    And of course there's the old favorite: men who like sex on the regular are manly horndogs, nudge nudge wink wink, but women who enjoy sex are shameless whores.

    "Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom." -- G.W.Carver

    by northbronx on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 12:19:15 PM PST

  •  funny how personal responsibility (8+ / 0-)

    in regards to unwanted pregnancies

    never seems to be an issue for redressing the role of the fathers.

    "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” -Confucius

    by pierre9045 on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 12:43:37 PM PST

  •  The pro-life group "ignore" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OldDragon, JerryNA

      a group of women who have the financial resources to purchase abortion services that are conveniently re-labeled.  

  •  Personal responsibility is recognizing (10+ / 0-)

    that you neither have the time/means/emotions to bring up a child or into this world.  Sometimes the responsible thing to do is get an abortion and that is what drives them nuts.

    •  Agreed. Choosing abortion IS "personal (3+ / 0-)

      responsibility" to the max. Sometimes giving birth IS "taking it out on the child." Unwanted children are far more likely to suffer bad consequences in their lives as a result of parents who are emotional or financially unprepared to raise them or  who even resent them.

      Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

      by anastasia p on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 02:00:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I see this issue the same as I see GLBT rights (9+ / 0-)

    No argument from the idiots has been framed that doesn't draw upon religion. Period.


    It always go back to religion every time. There is no compelling argument presented, that shows the government has a place in forcing a religious edict upon female citizens--female voters.

    To do so would be a clear violation of our own constitution and a violation of women's individual human and civil rights.

    Even the notion of "slut" is at it's heart, religious. After all, it's a pejorative term that denotes a woman who fails to subscribe to specific, religious-sexual mores.

    Why more people don't see that and keep pushing that forward is beyond me.

    Lovely diary,
    Thank you.

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 01:42:55 PM PST

    •  Exactly this. (15+ / 0-)

      My favorite commentary on the subject, I found at Seanan McGuire's Tumblr:

      There is a concept called body autonomy. It's generally considered a human right. Bodily autonomy means a person has control over who or what uses their body, for what, and for how long. It's why you can't be forced to donate blood, tissue, or organs. Even if you are dead. Even if you'd save or improve 20 lives. It's why someone can't touch you, have sex with you, or use your body in any way without your continuous consent.

      A fetus is using someone's body parts. Therefore under bodily autonomy, it is there by permission, and not by right. It needs a person's continuous consent. If they deny and withdraw their consent, the pregnant person has the right to remove them from that moment.  A fetus is equal in this regard because if I need someone else's body parts to live, they can also legally deny me their use.

      By saying a fetus has a right to someone's body parts until it's born, despite the pregnant person's wishes, you are doing two things.

      1. Granting a fetus more rights to other people's bodies than any born person.
      2. Awarding a pregnant person less rights to their body than a corpse.

      Miss Aji? She blogs here now.
      I’m a feminist because the message is still "don’t get raped" not "don’t rape."

      by Avilyn on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 03:30:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. If they want to save babies so bad, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Avilyn, lcbo

        let them find female volunteers to be surrogates for their sperm. Or better yet, let the men get artificial wombs. It might do them some good to risk their lives for a change.

        "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

        by GreenMother on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 07:21:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Guttmacher did a study (9+ / 0-)

    to catalog and quantify reasons women elected to have abortions.

    75% did so because they had other responsibilities they needed to tend to, including other children and other relatives, and a similar portion said it would not be financially responsible to have a child at this time.

    Over half already had children - ie, the stereotype of the white suburban pregnant teen isn't the reality. Nearly 4 in 10 said they had already completed their childbearing.

    A few respondents articulated their fears that having another baby now would force them onto public assistance, an outcome they wanted to avoid. For example:

    "If you think about it, OK—I get pregnant; I might not be financially stable. I got to take somebody's working money for welfare. You know what I'm saying? Why not let me get out of this situation, so I could better myself so when I do get pregnant and have another baby, I don't have to take your money, because you're working. I'm not going to be working, because I'm going to be sitting on my welfare, taking care of my baby! Why?"—21-year-old with one child, below the poverty line

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 01:48:40 PM PST

  •  It the repeat abortions, 44%, that probably fuel (0+ / 0-)

    the personal responsibility rhetoric.

    The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science. Carl Sagan

    by Kvetchnrelease on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 02:19:37 PM PST

    •  You misunderstood the numbers (7+ / 0-)

      "36.4% and 8.0%, respectively, had previously had either one to two abortions, or three or more abortions"...

      It isn't surprising that women are sometimes faced with more than one abortion.  Fertility last a 30 year span.  A teen pregnancy is common but so is a change of life pregnancy.  Both choices to terminate are valid.

      Only 8.0% of women had 3 or more abortions and you have no idea the stories behind those numbers.

      •  I refused, knowing my own capacity (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, skeptigal

        in terms of energy and liking of the baby stage, to have Irish twins. I also refused to try to deal with being up all night with a new baby when I was attempting to potty-train a child with ADHD.  My children are five years apart, which was ideal for us, and heaven knows that the abortions I had were always due to birth control failure.

        When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

        by Alexandra Lynch on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 08:19:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Also... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OldDragon, kyril, Kvetchnrelease, lcbo

    ...if one wanted to be truly prolife you need to support programs, services, and aide to raise healthy and loved children.  To say the baby must be born live, but then don't dare ask for help is not really prolife.

    As an aside while this is not my view, those who oppose both abortion and birth control really do think that sex is for procreation only.  The most obvious hole in that theory is rape, but even so morality should not be legislated.  My point is that such people see no cognitive dissonence or hypocrisy in opposing both, but rather a very logical connection.

    •  So yeah (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't agree with their viewpoint, but the people who truly believe that sex is for procreation only and who condemn both contraception and abortion aren't being hypocritical, they're being consistent with their religious beliefs. Whether we think those beliefs are stupid or not, we shouldn't judge them for that anymore than we want people judging us for being atheists (in my own personal case).

      The real hypocrites are the politicians who make hay out of this and fool the people referred to above into believing that religious beliefs can create US laws that stand up in the face of the constitution.

  •  Instead of "pro-life" (0+ / 0-)

    I increasingly describe the movement against safe and legal abortion as "forced-birth." I like it. It's precise and descriptive. I hope it catches on.

    Yes, the trend away from taking a woman's consent seriously is chilling.

    Thanks for the diary.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 07:10:05 AM PST

  •  Talk about cognitive dissonance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You know, I totally agree that abortion should be readily accessible and safe. It's an important safety valve that needs to be preserved for women. That said, I don't believe abortion should ever be considered a viable means of contraception.

    To me, "Personal responsibility" means "Use contraception if you don't want a baby." Is this really so hard to process? Or does the author willingly ignore the fact that simple ignorance and irresponsibility are the cause of the vast majority of unwanted pregnancies, and by extension, the vast majority of abortions?

    It's a simple fact that whether or not people get pregnant from consensual sex is entirely within the control of the people having sex. Failing to acknowledge this fact is simply dishonest, and gets us no closer to taking the ammo out of the hands of the right.

    Boys and girls should be taught this from a very early age. Like it or not, teaching these things is the responsibility of the parents. Too many parents today abdicate this responsibility by taking the "if we don't discuss this it doesn't exist" mentality with their kids. Again, this is a failure of personal responsibility on the part of the parents.

    Arguments that poverty, inequality of opportunity, mom's got 2 jobs, etc somehow absolve parents and children of all responsibility are frankly bullshit. Being poor doesn't absolve you of responsibility for your own actions.

    Can we all admit as grown-ups that we do hold some responsibility for our own decisions, actions, and outcomes, please? It won't change what the right says, but at least we'll be honest with ourselves.

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