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More on the Impossibiity of "De-Politicizing" Reproductive Freedom


Dana has an excellent post responding to claims that progressives should “de-politicize” issues of reproductive justice, noting that the main problem with this is that it’s impossible. We’ve already been through this with respect to the Iraq War, but you can’t “de-politicize” an issue that is a)salient, and b)on which substantial groups of people have fundamentally incommensurable views. And this is true not only with respect to abortion but with other reproductive issues. Despite the endless attempts of the Will Saletans of the world to believe that if we just stop talking about abortion (natch, by endorsing his anti-Roe views entirely and calling it a “consensus”) we can reach agreement on other issues. But we won’t be able to reach a consensus about lowering abortion rates by increasing access to birth control and rational sex-ed because in general the American forced pregnancy lobby is opposed to these policies. You can’t “de-politicize” an issue on which people disagree all the way down to first premises.

And this idea that a magic compromise is just waiting out there on these issues should be particularly untenable in the wake of Carhart II. The only thing that can be said for the idiotic “partial birth” bans is that, because the don’t even arguably protect fetal life, they force people like Kennedy to fully reveal the fundamentally sexist underpinnings of the movement to regulate abortion; without the anachronistic assumptions about women’s inferior decision-making capacities the legislation has no rational justification at all. Debates about abortion aren’t just about abortion, but involve very deep divisions about the role of women in society and the desirability of regulating female sexuality, and these irreconcilable differences structure debates about not only abortion but all reproductive issues. To think that we can make them go away is dreaming in Technicolor.

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