LETTERS

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December 1, 2009

Barnum mischaracterizes pro-choice standpoint

Barnum’s failure to distinguish between the universal desire to avoid accidental pregnancies and the pro-life desire to prevent accidentally pregnant women from obtaining abortions is a large oversight.

Matt Barnum (“Not a Numbers Game”, 11/20/09) offers the statistic that 65 percent of Americans support reducing the number of abortions as proof of widespread disapproval for abortion: “What other medical procedure would people support decreasing just for the sake of decreasing it?” Barnum implies that even among those who are nominally pro-choice, many are uncomfortable with the high rate at which women have abortions (more than one for every four births, according to the article). Barnum commits a large oversight with this implication: Those who are pro-choice, yet want to decrease the overall number of abortions, almost certainly do not want to simply decrease the ratio of abortions per conceptions. Rather, they want to decrease the number of accidental conceptions, thereby also decreasing abortions. Most importantly, pro-choicers do not want to decrease the number of abortions because abortion is “immoral,” but because having an abortion is (almost always) upsetting and traumatic to some degree. Despite its statistically quotidian nature, nobody is pretending that abortion should be regarded among other medically commonplace procedures. Furthermore, even medically commonplace events (e.g. dental surgery) can be traumatic. In sum, pro-choicers don’t want women to avoid getting abortions after becoming accidentally pregnant; they want women to avoid becoming accidentally pregnant. Efforts to decrease the number of abortions would be an unproductive, bottom-up approach to this effect. Until the unlikely event that a 100 percent-accurate method of birth control—not abstinence, and not even abstinence is 100 percent accurate in cases of rape—is invented, abortions will always be necessary.

Barnum’s failure to distinguish between the universal desire to avoid accidental pregnancies and the pro-life desire to prevent accidentally pregnant women from obtaining abortions is a large oversight. This is a mistaken assertion of hypocrisy among pro-choicers.

Phoebe Heyman

Class of 2010