The question of abortion is "simpler" than they think
Here's another interesting highlight from an interview for the Frontline Choice 2012 program. This one is with Lawrence Tribe, who has known Obama very well since his earliest days at Harvard Law:
Q: Let's go backward just for a second, but I think it informs everything that we've said now. When you were working on the abortion -- was it a book?
It was a book called Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes.
Q: He emerges as centrist, trying to figure it out in a way -- I don't need to put words to it. You can.
It was a book that I cared a great deal about. I believe and believed then -- still believe -- that women need to be able to control their lives and their bodies if they are to be fully equal citizens. On the other hand, I have enormous sympathy for those who think of the helpless unborn as an entity with rights of its own and who find abortion a tragic choice.
And Barack Obama and I, I think, were on the same wavelength in recognizing that there is this important clash of values. It's not simple. And indeed the reasons that people come out one way or the other on this impossible clash of absolutes, those reasons have to do with their comfort or discomfort with modernity, with what is happening to society, with the role of women, but with also the marginalized role of cultural minorities who have views that others mock and don't take seriously.
So it was a struggle, and it was a wonderful project to work with him on, because he saw all sides. He was interested in not necessarily finding a point in the middle of the spectrum, but in finding a line that was sort of perpendicular to the normal access of disagreement, ways of coming to terms. We wouldn't necessarily agree, one side and the other, and we wouldn't each of us individually see ourselves necessarily as on one side or the other of that clash.
But we could find ways of making abortion less necessary, making less people feel desperate enough to feel that they had to end a pregnancy, making contraception more available, making education more widely available, making adoption a more realistic option. And working with him on that clash and on how to resolve it, not find a midpoint but ways of getting beyond it, was a way of seeing a very interesting and all-encompassing mind at work. ...
Notice the assumptions in all that --- that abortions are only "necessary" if women feel desperate or are uneducated or simply can't find a good way to put their children up for adoption. As if the millions and millions of American women who have abortions year after year just need some "services" that will make it so they will be happy to go through pregnancy and childbirth regardless of the circumstances in their own lives at the time or the emotional difficulty of then giving up their own offspring for someone else to raise. (Do these people think that's easy to do if only you have the right phone numbers?)
I know this is Tribe talking and not Obama and I'm not attributing those thoughts to him because of that. But I assume that Tribe does have some insight into the way the President reasons and this doesn't sound all that different from the post-partisan POV he came into office with (combined with the typical technocrat's faith in problem solving by the numbers.) The fallacy, of course, is that these answers would ever fully satisfy the anti-abortion people unless one also agreed to ban the practice. Did they not understand this?
This issue will never be "solved" at least not that way. There will always be unintended pregnancies. That is a function of being human. And there will always be abortion. There always has been. Some people do not agree that women should have the right to do that and they will agitate to outlaw it. But it will not prevent it. Because women do own their own bodies and direct their own lives and some of them will go to extreme lengths to maintain that autonomy, even if it means putting their health and lives in danger. We have centuries of data supporting this.
So when a couple of elite males decide that they will find some sweet spot that will make these women happy as well as those who don't think these women should have the right to make that choice, it's an infuriating denial of women's basic human agency. It is simple. Women are going to have abortions, full stop. The only question is whether or not they are going to be forced to go through hell and possibly die to get them --- and whether society is going to admit that it cannot and should not make that decision for them. Once you accept that reality, the rest is just talk. If religious leaders want to counsel their adherents not to do it, fine. If politicians want to lecture the public that it's wrong, fine. If they want to create programs to help women get access to birth control and afford to raise kids if they want them and all the rest, terrific. If you care about your fellow humans, you should want all of that. But the right to abortion is a fundamental human right and the necessity of it being safe, legal and available is a requirement for a decent society.
The common behavior of everyday women from all walks of life proves that this is a simple question:
INCIDENCE OF ABORTION
• Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.
• Forty percent of pregnancies among white women, 67% among blacks and 53% among Hispanics are unintended. • In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred.
• Each year, two percent of women aged 15–44 have an abortion. Half have had at least one previous abortion.
• At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.
• Eighteen percent of U.S. women obtaining abortions are teenagers; those aged 15–17 obtain 6% of all abortions, teens aged 18–19 obtain 11%, and teens younger than age 15 obtain 0.4%.
• Women in their 20s account for more than half of all abortions; women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and women aged 25–29 obtain 24%.
• Non-Hispanic white women account for 36% of abortions, non-Hispanic black women for 30%, Hispanic women for 25% and women of other races for 9%.
• Thirty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic.
• Women who have never married and are not cohabiting account for 45% of all abortions
• About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.
• Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children).
• Twenty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100–199% of the federal poverty level.*
• The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.
Those numbers tell the story. Unless you want forced contraception, full sexual control or a Handmaid's Tale society it's going to happen.