Protecting the Right to Abortion


From Planned Parenthood: “Justice Kennedy’s retirement means President Trump will get to appoint a Supreme Court justice — putting our right to safe and legal abortion at risk and endangering our health and our communities. This is not a battle we can afford to lose.”

Call Your Senators

Planned Parenthood provides a script, reproduced here:

Dear Senator,

Roe v. Wade and the right to safe, legal abortion has been the law of the land for 45 years.

I’m among the 72 percent of Americans who do NOT want to see the Supreme Court overturn this right to control our bodies.
That’s why I’m calling on you to hold the line and reject ANY Supreme Court nominee who will put Roe v. Wade and our right to safe and legal abortion in jeopardy.

Banning abortion would insert politics into people’s private health care decisions and put countless lives at risk. It will endanger our health and our communities. I am calling on you to reject any anti-reproductive health care and anti-abortion Trump nominee.

[Your information here]

Do you know who you’ll be calling, and what their stance on abortion is?


This CNN article argues that public opinion, while perhaps our only defense against the overturning itself, has precedence in influencing decisions, morbid it may be: “Although the public’s favoring of the death penalty was dropping at the time of the decision, more Americans were for it than against it. After the decision, support for the death penalty climbed by about 15 points and states passed measures challenging the court’s decision. The Supreme Court eventually reversed its own decision and reinstated the death penalty.”

Especially today, when thousands, maybe millions are protesting the Trump administration’s family separation policy on the border, terms like “support” and “favoring” mean amplifying a voice in that compelling way. In a study by economists from Harvard and Stockholm University, these rallies have an effect, though not necessarily a direct one. Citing the Tea Party protests of tax increases in 2009, they discover that protest size (which was variable depending on the weather) made a difference: “rallies in congressional districts that experienced good weather on Tax Day 2009 had higher turnouts, which led to more conservative voting by the district representative and a substantially higher turnout for the Republican candidate in the 2010 congressional election.”

Sign up for Planned Parenthood to be given notice on a future rally. This is the only way I knew about the Women’s March in early 2017, and my ability to actually schedule that was crucial to me attending. Talk to your friends in your area, make a day of it when it comes, and keep your sign game on point.

The Argument

It’s important to separate the morality of abortion from its legality. If the Republican voter you’re arguing with believes that banning abortions will see a decrease in abortions, explain that this has never happened. According to Planned Parenthood, “Millions of people face unplanned pregnancies every year, and about 4 out of 10 of them decide to get an abortion.” You cannot stop people from having sex, not even mentioning the victims of rape or incest. According to the World Health Organization in 2014 (this information no longer exists on their website), “every year 21.6 million women worldwide have an unsafe abortion. Of these unsafe abortions, 18.5 million are in developing countries. Complications from unsafe abortions kill 47,000 women each year; these women make up nearly 13 percent of all maternal deaths.”

As Dawn Laguens points out in this CNN article, the right to abortion is about more than abortion itself, it’s about discrimination against women. The slippery slope game is dangerous, but let’s just look at what’s going on in a country like El Salvador: where “a 1998 law went into effect that made abortion illegal with no exceptions—including rape, life of the mother, or incest. Women who are found guilty of having an abortion face two to eight years in prison. Punishment is widespread as well. Anyone found guilty of assisting in the abortion also faces two to eight years in prisons. Doctors and nurses who assist and perform abortions face six to twelve years behind bars.”

A more offense-driven strategy I think is to anticipate how the opposition views women who have abortions and why people support it. Has the anti-abortion fellow in front of you honestly considered the reasons? Maybe our side hasn’t connected with him. Planned Parenthood provides examples of the different reasons why people decide to end a pregnancy:

  • They want to be the best parent possible to the kids they already have.
  • They’re not ready to be a parent yet.
  • It’s not a good time in their life to have a baby.
  • They want to finish school, focus on work, or achieve other goals before having a baby.
  • They’re not in a relationship with someone they want to have a baby with.
  • They’re in an abusive relationship or were sexually assaulted.
  • The pregnancy is bad for their health.
  • They just don’t want to be a parent.

It is currently a right that people have, but the anti-abortion guy sees it as a crime. One of the best counters to that belief, I think, is to sell him on the interiority of the theoretical woman in question. We don’t have a lot of pro-choice narratives on television, so this guy’s been filling the “woman who gets an abortion” narrative in his mind with dark motivations. If he could be convinced — and this is the hardest part — that women are human, part of that is then believing they have a right to their own bodies.

And so, if he doesn’t believe women have the right to their own bodies, he probably doesn’t believe women are human. You’ll know right away whether or not he believes in that right, but don’t call him on that specifically, because he can just say that it’s not actually a right to the body, or whatever. Crazier arguments have been made. Instead, now you know this much about him: either he has no meaningful relationships to the women in his life, or he can’t connect them to the abstract of our theoretical woman getting an abortion.

I think that’s where stories come in. There may not be popular examples in our media, but there are some real life accounts, which are usually harrowing and emotional — and human. These are the stories we need to push. Hence, the decentralized effort Shout Your Abortion.

Take this one from that org:

Or this one:

I had an IUD that failed while still appearing to be perfectly in place and functioning, which the doctor said was particularly rare. My mom reminded me that I was actively trying to prevent this from happening, doing everything “right”. Choosing an abortion would be a continuation of the effort we were already making not to become parents. Scott and I discussed how we technically could raise a baby. We were financially stable. We had supportive parents. We were in a good place in our relationship but acknowledged that we had just been in a not-so-good place six months ago. We weren’t sure we’d be spending the rest of our lives together if things progressed naturally. It was a possibility that having a baby together would force into reality.

Or this one, from New York Magazine:

When I got pregnant with my son, my very controlling boyfriend had convinced me that birth control poisoned my body. We usually slept in the car. I took a pregnancy test peeing over the kind of bucket you mix concrete in outside a dilapidated, vacant house. I decided I couldn’t abort a baby based on a stupid decision I made. They tell you that you love the baby automatically, but it’s not true. Then, in 2008, I was pregnant by my boyfriend Steve. We worked together at Target. He wanted to get married and have the baby. I was barely supporting the son I had, still living with my parents. I didn’t want to be tied to Steve forever. My mom and I went to Planned Parenthood. It was pouring rain. The picketers met us at the car with disgusting pictures. I was quite emotional, but I was so scared that if I showed any emotions, they wouldn’t let me do it. I told them I already had a baby. The doctor acted like it was assembly-line work. I told Steve I miscarried. We dated another year. The secret was devastating. People might be more understanding if I’d had an abortion when I was living in a car in an abusive relationship. This time, I was on birth control, with a full-time job, a boyfriend. People might think I should’ve kept it, but I couldn’t.

Of course, “I don’t want to have a baby,” isn’t gonna land on a lot of people. Even if our anti-abortion guy had a friend who said that, they might still openly disagree. At that point, it may be about making the right real for the guy, translating it to his own experiences with morally grey situations in which he has had the right to proceed. What does he care about? What are the buttons that you can push?

For example, let’s say you know or can find out via social media that he takes a lot of pictures with his iPhone, and because he’s anti-abortion he will claim to care about the lives of children. Educate yourself and then explain that the tin and aluminum in his iPhone was wrought by inhumane child labor. His right to that iPhone has an effect on the world, but he shouldn’t have to give up that right. If we’re honestly concerned about babies and children, we fight those battles on other fronts. Clearly, it’s not perfect, but it’s an idea. Connecting to this guy over what he cares about, rather than disproving a belief — if we’re able, we should try it.

(And also, don’t let the argument get away from you. Introducing new elements to the conversation gives him new opportunities to semantically pivot away, a classic strategy. He might seize on the definition of rights versus liberties, who knows. Equivalencies and analogies can simply be countered as “false,” because they’re impossible to “prove.” Keep your head on and never lose your cool — he’s counting on you to do that!)


Find the closest abortion clinic to you and see if you can give them support.

And as always, you can contribute to these orgs:
Planned Parenthood
Center for Reproductive Rights
Shout Your Abortion

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