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29 June 2022

American pro-choicers try to have it all – and end up with nothing

Supporting gruesome cases of abortion to term just plays into the hands of anti-abortion activists.

By Simone Hanna

Bill Clinton once said that “abortion should be safe, legal and rare”. At the time of his presidency, the darling of the Democrats could get away with this fairly reserved opinion. Clinton could not have predicted that within two decades a generation of young Americans would be pushed to extremes – conservatives on the one hand, raised on “abortion debunked in four minutes” videos, and an increasingly hyperactive, purple-haired brand of pro-choice liberals on the other.

Contrary to popular liberal opinion, you cannot put the overturning of Roe vs Wade down to a wave of increasingly active conservative teenagers, even if the number of them is increasing. They represent only one side in a shrill culture clash, and a look at the other might go some way towards explaining why a seemingly closed argument has been reopened with such ferocity.

The pro-choice movement has, over the years, proved a godsend to the right, often sabotaging itself with extreme positions. While pro-choice activists have often used rarer cases of rape and incest as a justification for abortion rights, pro-life activists regularly use late-term abortion to show the gruesome the realities of what abortion can be; they often treat it as an end-all morality argument even though late-term abortion remains very rare and heavily unpopular among the majority of pro-choice people. Abortion activists would attract more empathy if they were to firmly condemn all such extremities, while focusing their attention on supporting abortion rights, earlier and safer abortions, personal autonomy and the understanding that children are best raised in households where they are wanted. Alas, they routinely fail to do so. Ridiculous performative antics such as Kendrick Lamar’s overly shouty “women’s rights” fake blood performance at Glastonbury do not help either.

All modern pro-choice activists have carelessly allowed themselves to be caricatured by pro-lifers. They are too easily defeated in political debate, too easily portrayed as irrational, sadistic and out of touch. Like countless other serious political movements, an extreme few have damaged it for the majority. In succumbing to a superiority complex, the modern pro-choice activist has failed to pick up on the deeper flaws and extremities of the anti-abortion movement too.

Pro-choicers won’t regain the initiative unless they appeal to middle America again. Once upon a time, abortion was defended with regards to healthcare and as a safety mechanism, which was far easier to empathise with. Now, American pro-choicers have turned their position into an extension of that extreme strand of politics their opponents decry as “woke” – and that is not a winning image.

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If the modern pro-choice generation wishes to win back credibility, they must embrace a “conservative” movement of their own, return to common sense and rationale, understand that many pro-lifers have good intentions (rather than senselessly branding them misogynists or religious extremists), and appeal to the reasoning championed by their feminist predecessors.

[See also: How many countries have tightened abortion laws?]

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