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Abortion march is ugly

Forget gravitas. Forget anything you ever thought about the beauty of free assembly or the power of free speech. We have taken our gravest contemporary concern the sanctity of human life and reduced it to a carnival of the grotesque.
Abortion march is ugly

Kathleen Parker


All the slogans, chants, posters, stickers, gestures, speeches and slurs from Sunday's "pro-choice" march congeal in my mind as this single image:

A young woman in requisite belly-baring jeans is crab-walking sideways down Pennsylvania Avenue pointing defiantly toward her baby-bearing parts in graphic retort to three men dressed as grim reapers and bellowing thanks for marchers' generous support:

"We're pro-death!" the reapers shout. "We're with you! 1.2 million more this year!"

Forget gravitas. Forget anything you ever thought about the beauty of free assembly or the power of free speech. We have taken our gravest contemporary concern the sanctity of human life and reduced it to a carnival of the grotesque.

The men in costume and other pro-lifers who lined the parade route to taunt marchers constituted a mere sprinkling compared to the hundreds of thousands who showed up to, irony unintended, "March for Women's Lives." No one seems to have an exact number of how many swarmed the nation's capital, but official estimates hover around 800,000.

Let's just say there were a lot. Indeed, rarely have so many been so unattractive in such large numbers in one place. I'm not talking about physical appearance. The defining demeanor of the crowd was ugly and uglier. Some of the protest signs were crude to pornographic. Some of the young ladies looked like they might not have had all their shots. Profanity and obscene gesturing toward the pro-life crowd were commonplace.

My guess is that marchers' angry words and actions were visceral reactions to the ugliest scenes of the day huge photographs of aborted fetuses at various stages of development. These sights are not for the squeamish, and surely not for the children some pro-choicers dragged along. I cringed to think of the nightmares little ones would have later that night.

It is natural to want to avert one's eyes from the sight of a pair of tiny human feet held between an adult thumb and index finger, an image taken from a first trimester abortion. It is human to want to call "it" something positive and upbeat like "choice," to celebrate the "wantedness" of all the children marching, rather than to linger over the image of a dismembered baby.

But by whatever term we comfort ourselves, pictures don't lie. Pro-choicers are right to be concerned that public support is slipping for abortion on demand. They're right to be concerned that the Bush administration is seeking ways to make abortion rare.

But they are wrong to deny what is plain if painful to see. Abortion ends a human life and that life looks an awful lot like a baby much sooner than we ever thought when Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land 31 years ago.

I'm not in favor of criminalizing abortion, but I am in favor of an honest - even brutal assessment of what abortion is and what abortion does. Pro-choicers are wrong to dress up abortion as only a woman's choice, and pro-lifers are wrong to insist that women who choose abortion are "baby killers." No one gets an abortion for the pleasure of it.

In all likelihood and this is where I place my chips for now abortion will eliminate itself once truth is allowed a fair and open hearing. Central to that hearing is at least one pointedly feminist question that has been displaced by a debate that defines itself only in terms of freedom, rights and privacy:

Is it really in women's best interest to thwart or destroy the creative force with which they are uniquely endowed?

Somewhere on the way to making children accessories to fashion or obstacles to liberated libidos, the women's movement lost sight of the one thing women do that all Earth's men combined cannot. They bear life. That is nothing to wink at, or to toss into an incinerator with the sutures, ruined organs and bloody rags.

If any other creature on Earth were so meticulously destroying its own offspring and wreaking who knows what havoc on the gene pool we'd declare a national emergency, convene special commissions and enjoy a spate of Hollywood consciousness-raising movies, doubtless starring some of the stars who led Sunday's march.

Something is wrong with this picture, and we avert our eyes at our peril.

Kathleen Parker, an Orlando Sentinel columnist, welcomes comments via e-mail at  kparker@kparker.com. Her column appears on Friday.


homepage: homepage: http://www.citizenonline.net

Yet we kill Millions for war profit 02.May.2004 08:29

Tired of it.

Let's talk about that, not what you want a Women to do, if Life is so Precious then let's stop wars, stop polluting,. stop filling animals full of hormones so our young reach puberty at an early age.
Start treating the earth right so that all the kids you want to be born can have a place to live.

Abortion is every womens right 02.May.2004 14:53

Sharon Smith

SHARON SMITH is a columnist for Socialist Worker and author of Women's Liberation and Socialism, a new collection of essays that will be published by Haymarket Books.

THE RIGHT to choose is just one aspect of a much larger issue of reproductive rights--women's right to control their own bodies and reproductive lives. Although in recent decades the battle has centered around the right to abortion, this includes more than the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy--but also the right to have children in the face of racist sterilization programs that targeted African Americans, Native Americans and disabled people in the U.S. throughout much of the 20th century.

Latinos were often obliged to sign consent forms in English instead of Spanish, and were frequently sterilized without their knowledge. By 1968, one-third of all women in Puerto Rico--still a U.S. colony--were permanently sterilized. Today, racist sterilization programs continue to target Black and Brown women and men in poor countries around the world in the name of "population control."

Reproductive freedom is also about abortion rights for poor women. Even when abortion is illegal, wealthy women have--and have always had--the money and private doctors to obtain abortions, while poor women face the choice of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term or risking their lives with unsafe, illegal abortions.

Large numbers of poor and working-class women die when abortion is illegal. According to the World Health Organization, 78,000 women around the world die from unsafe abortions every year.

And in the U.S., before abortion was made legal in 1973, large numbers of women died from complications from abortion. In New York City, Black women made up 50 percent of all women who died after an illegal abortion, while Puerto Rican women were 44 percent.

Since the 1970s, many of the same states that denied Medicaid funding for poor women's abortions have been perfectly willing to sterilize them, free of charge. These are the reasons why reproductive rights--the right to choose whether and when to have children--is not just a women's issue. It is also a class issue, a racial issue and an issue of global justice.

Crusade of the bigots

RIGHT-WING organizations with names such as the Moral Majority are neither morally superior, nor are they anywhere near the majority. They represent an extremely well-funded minority--with "friends" in high places, like Congress and the White House.

To be sure, these right-wingers--including George W. Bush--couch their opposition to abortion with pious phrases praising "the sanctity of life" and the "sanctity of marriage." But they are hypocrites. Newt Gingrich, for example--a leading spokesperson for "the sanctity of marriage"--is now on his third.

Their crusade is political, not moral. Morality is personal. Those who oppose abortion should be able to follow their own consciences--and at the same time allow other people to follow theirs.

No one in the pro-choice movement has ever suggested that anyone personally opposed to abortion should be forced to have one. Yet the goal of the anti-abortion crusade is to impose--by law--a very conservative set of moral values on the rest of the population.

The rise of the Christian Right

THE CHRISTIAN Right has its origins in the New Right of the 1980s, which did not even pretend it was religiously motivated. The agenda of the New Right should dispel any myth that it believed in the sanctity of human life. Its agenda included support for the death penalty, support for nuclear weapons and massive cuts in social spending for the poor.

Right-wing Rep. Bob Dornan (R-Calif.) even sponsored the Human Life Amendment--which would have banned abortion under all circumstances, without exceptions for rape and incest victims, or even if the woman would die if she gave birth. So much for respecting human life.

The New Right was formed to oppose all the gains made by the social movements of the 1960s--not just the women's movement, but the Black Power and gay liberation movements. The New Right in the 1980s brought together Protestant fundamentalists with old-time segregationists.

It is no coincidence that at (now deceased) Strom Thurmond's December 9, 2002 birthday celebration, Trent Lott--who fights daily to carry out the Christian Right's agenda in Congress--praised Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign, whose centerpiece was opposition to integration. "We're proud of it," Lott said. "And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either."

The New Right's--and now the Christian Right's--opposition to abortion has its origins in this context. These right-wingers oppose all aspects of women's rights, and believe that the growing numbers of women in the workforce--along with abortion--are undermining the "traditional" nuclear family.

It could reasonably be argued that the "traditional family" ideal--the breadwinning husband and the stay-at-home Mom--never actually existed, since many working-class women have always worked outside the home. But this ideal--of the "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Leave it to Beaver" variety--was a centerpiece of the reactionary era of the 1950s. And that is exactly the era to which the forces of the Christian Right want to return.

In the 1980s, the hallmark of the New Right was not merely opposition to abortion, but also to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that would have established women's constitutional equality with men. Phyllis Schlafly's Stop ERA organization campaigned as ardently against the ERA as the National Right to Life campaigned against abortion.

In the 1990s, the Christian Right supported Bill Clinton's so-called welfare "reform" that threw millions of poor families, women and children into deeper poverty, and pushed for teen abstinence programs. Today, the Christian Right is not only behind Bush's support for a gay marriage ban and his attacks on abortion, but also his $1.5 billion program to promote marriage in poor Black areas--where it believes the traditional family is most threatened by single motherhood.

Whose family? Whose values?

IT IS worth asking why the Christian Right is so attached to this rigid ideal of the traditional family when only 9 percent of all U.S. families fit this model. Why can't their idea of "family values" change to reflect the real changes in people's lives?

The vast majority of women today are in the workforce, and half of all marriages end in divorce. And the demand for gay marriage is a result of the fact that many same-sex couples are choosing to live together and raise families.

The Christian Right can't adapt to these changes because the ruling class relies on the heterosexual nuclear family--not as a "moral" institution, but an economic unit that is central to capitalism. And while politicians such as Bush and Lott act as spokesmen for the Christian Right, Democrats Bill Clinton and John Kerry also tout "family values."

It was no accident that Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and promoted teen abstinence as president. He was attempting to appease the Christian Right. Republicans and Democrats alike represent corporate interests--and uphold the nuclear family as an institution that is central to capitalist society.

Preserving the institution of the nuclear family--and, most importantly, women's unpaid labor within it--is of material benefit to the system. Whether they work outside the home or not, inside the family, women perform labor--housework, cooking, laundry and child care--that is free of charge, and therefore invaluable to the continued existence of the capitalist system.

The dead end of electoralism

TURNING BACK the clock is the political program of the Christian Right. States across the U.S. have passed hundreds of laws curtailing women's right to choose--imposing 24-hour waiting periods, requiring teenagers to obtain the consent of their parents even in abusive families and refusing state funding for poor women's abortions even if they have cancer or diabetes.

In November, the attack on abortion reached the federal level, when Congress passed a ban on the intact dilation and extraction abortion procedure (which right-wingers deliberately mislabeled as "partial-birth abortion")--without so much as a clause to protect the health of the pregnant woman. And the Senate's March 25 passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act makes it a second crime to harm the fetus of a pregnant woman.

But we have to ask the question: How has the Christian Right been so successful at shifting the political climate? The answer is simple--the anti-abortion crusade has relentlessly pursued an activist strategy that promotes the false impression that women choose abortion for "frivolous reasons," and "selfishly" delay abortions for the sake of convenience.

But if the Christian Right has been campaigning relentlessly to undermine the right to choose--rallying by the thousands and protesting outside abortion clinics--the same can't be said for the pro-choice movement. Instead of mounting an unapologetic defense of women's right to control their own bodies, pro-choice leaders have increasingly spent the bulk of their time and money campaigning for pro-choice Democrats.

Yet in November, 63 House Democrats and 11 Senate Democrats--many of them "pro-choice"--voted in favor of the misnamed "partial birth" ban. And in March, 47 House Democrats joined forces with Republicans in voting for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. These results demonstrate the bankruptcy of the pro-choice movement's electoral strategy.

We also need to ask why the pro-choice movement didn't hold Clinton accountable when he broke his campaign promise to pass a Freedom of Choice Act--and when he threw poor women off welfare. Clinton voiced no disapproval as right-wing lawmakers passed state laws across the country mandating parental consent or notification, and a host of other restrictions on women's right to choose.

During Clinton's first term as president, Congress had the most anti-choice voting record in its history. Yet Clinton's only attention to the abortion issue in his second term was to promote sexual abstinence among teens to lower the country's abortion rate. Clinton's presidency showed why politicians can't be relied on to defend abortion rights--no matter what their campaign rhetoric.

What kind of movement?

IF THE electoral strategy has been a failure, what kind of movement is needed to turn things around? The grassroots movement for gay marriage is showing the way forward.

In recent months, thousands of gay rights activists around the country have resurrected the strategies of the civil rights movement and refused to take "no" for an answer when demanding marriage licenses. Suddenly, the right to same-sex marriage--which seemed impossible just a few months ago--is within reach.

That is how rapidly the political climate can change when a grassroots movement starts to fight back. We can also learn a lesson from the women's movement of the 1960s and '70s--the movement that won the right to choose in the first place.

At the time, Richard Nixon--an anti-abortion right-winger much like George W. Bush--occupied the White House, and the U.S. Supreme Court was packed with conservative appointees. Yet the first state to make abortion legal was California in 1970--when none other than Ronald Reagan was governor.

Between 1969 and 1973, tens of thousands of women and men held hundreds of protests across the U.S., making women's right to choose a central demand for the women's liberation movement--along with equal pay, child care and an end to discrimination. Today, we need activism to build the kind of movement that can link the right to choose with full reproductive rights for all women. This can become a movement that will settle for nothing less than full equality.

Real people are living lives that are completely out of sync with the so-called family values of the Christian Right. And one out of every three women today has an abortion. That means most people know someone who has needed one.

We are the majority, not the Christian Right. The pro-choice movement should be fighting against everything the Christian Right stands for. Such a movement--that defends the right to abortion without apology--will find millions of people on its side.


sad state 02.May.2004 16:33


I think the fact we have abortion at all is symptomatic of the failure of society.

I understand that women end up manipulated by men with no integrity who have only the most selfish intentions. Family planning also goes awry. There are many qualifying factors that surround the decision to terminate.

Yet, and I believe almost everyone feels this way, using abortion as a means of birth control after unprotected casual sex is just plain wrong.

pro-choice is not pro-abortion 02.May.2004 17:48


This debate is very sad. Women marched because the right to choose is the only alternative to the life abhoring measures put through by 'pro life' legislators.
Pro life cannot begin with prohibitions, it must begin with many 'yeses' ---- yes to healthcare for all people, yes to housing, yes to decent wages, yes to safe environments, yes to quality education, yes to equality, yes to peace .... When such a world exists, abortion will become infrequent.
The trouble with 'pro lifers' is that they think their narrow idea of life is reality. Life is larger and more complicated. I think that there are many 'prolife/prochoice' women like myself who simply consider the legality of abortion to be necessary to prevent illegal unsafe proceedures against desparate poor women --- I have met many women who have had abortions. I have never met a "pro-abortion" woman or one who took the proceedure lightly. The answer to ending the need for abortion is to really become 'pro life' in all of life's many facets.
I have a number of children myself and I wrote most of this holding a teeny newborn grandchild. I love children. I am not pro abortion. I will however continue to vote for pro choice candidates as they seem more able to recognize the larger issues of life than the narrow view held by 'prolife' candidates.

bs 02.May.2004 18:48


"Yet, and I believe almost everyone feels this way, using abortion as a means of birth control after unprotected casual sex is just plain wrong."

i dont agree. why is it wrong? is it that casual sex is wrong? or is it because having an abortion is supposedly murder?

casual sex is a fact of life. dont try to lay your moralistic guilt trip on me. and face the reality that most people engage in sex because its fun. people should always take precautions against disease and pregnancy, but sometimes things happen that arent planned for. that doesnt mean that we demonize the basic human desires that we all have.

abortion is not murder. lets stop with this superstitious/religious/mystical belief that we are filled with some magical spirit, and once a seed is fertilized god breathes life into us. we aint nothing until we are socialized to become human. so in my view, a fertililzed seed is not a person. a fetus aint even really a person. obviously the longer a woman carries the fetus, the more important that fetus becomes to her. but it aint really a person with its own cognition. therefore, we dont value a fetus as its own person.

to 'stevie' 02.May.2004 19:08


"the fact we have abortion at all is symptomatic of the failure of society."

--abortion will always exist and occur, no matter what your opinion of it or what legislation is passed concerning it.

if you are "against abortion" in any or all cases,


original article post is SPAM 03.May.2004 03:34

some ReichWingNut SPAMMED it to all the IMCs

(and from Florida's Fascist Orlando Sentinel no less)