It’s not for liberal media elites to say what is in the minds of pro-lifers. SV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters

Reducing violent misery by eradicating abortion

By  Andrea Mrozek
  • April 13, 2023

It’s hard to stay cool when faced with unfair mischaracterizations of what one believes. But it’s Easter, and hope springs eternal so instead of publicly lambasting John Ibbitson’s recent column in the Globe and Mail, I’m going to do a public service instead. What follows here is an attempt to distill what it is many women actually believe when we choose pro-life laws. 

First, the basics of his column. He starts with the decline in teen births over recent decades. Great. Except he thinks this decline may be at risk because “white Evangelicals” (hello race and religion card) are “stripping women’s rights” (read outlawing abortion) all because they are losing power and population share (insecurity). “That anyone would accept increased poverty and misery among young people as a price worth paying to win a culture war with the left is a mystery,” he concludes. 

If anyone were doing that, it would indeed be a mystery. So here are what the people on the other side of the tracks are actually thinking. For pro-life women, abortion is itself a sign and symptom of a pre-existing misery — a culture that fails to recognize the preborn as members of the human family, and thus fails to recognize or care for them. Eradicating abortion is about decreasing a particularly violent form of misery that is both embedded in, and leads to, other poverties. 

The decline in teen births since the 1990s is generally a happy story, one reported by pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike. Likewise, the abortion rate has also fallen in the same time period. However, if abortions fell alongside a falling teen birth rate before legislation curtailing access to abortion, this casts doubt on the idea that legalized abortion is the source of the falling teen birth rate, or that more strict pro-life laws will de facto leave any teenager in poverty and misery.  

Why fewer teens are having babies is complex. Ibbitson fails to explicitly mention a big reason, which is the decline in teen sexual activity, instead referencing “sex education, readily available contraception and growing confidence and autonomy among young women.” 

Interesting theory, especially that last part. Since the 1990s are not exactly Ancient Mesopotamia (they are when I graduated from high school), I can say fairly confidently that confidence and autonomy were not in short supply back then. A case in point would be that many women who came of age about this time have used said confidence (and autonomy) to write recently published books. I’m thinking of Louise Perry in The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, Mary Harrington with Feminism Against Progress, Erika Bachiochi with The Rights of Women, Christine Emba’s Rethinking Sex: A Provocation and Abigail Favale’s The Genesis of Gender, among others. 

This nascent literature presents something of a conundrum for the standard tropes about the wholesale benefits-without-trade-offs of abortion, modern sex education, contraception and even autonomy. It’s not just that the ethos of the sexual revolution commercializes and cheapens sex. It’s also that the revolution fails on its own measures of success. Free love failed to materialize, with fewer among us having sex at all. 

And yet, so many continue to see abortion, liberal sex education, the Pill and low fertility as signs of “progress.” Ibbitson himself sees the decline of global fertility as a “huge advance for the rights of women.” But here in Canada, this is simply not true. The think tank Cardus, where I work, recently surveyed several thousand Canadian women about their fertility desires, learning half of Canadian women wish to have more children than they do. The inability to form families is as much pain as progress, yet politicians and public commentary haven’t caught up. 

Once upon a time, I believed I need to support contraception to be against abortion, and that marriage is unrelated to human thriving. Two decades of dating later, a very near miss on having my own family and reams and reams of reading and researching have me opposed to my former self. Did I have bad motivations then, or now? Or did I just have a series of experiences, learn new things and come to new conclusions? 

That there are “two solitudes” between progressives, particularly in education, and many parents cannot be contested. What we need to navigate at least some of this is a cease and desist on broad swipes on the motivations of the people we don’t like. That includes me, in assessing the columns of liberal media elites. 

(Mrozek is Senior Fellow at Cardus Family.)

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