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Abortion and gender

Greg Yatarola | Tuesday, December 4, 2007

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament,” said Rosie O’Donnell, in one of her final displays of ignorance and tastelessness before leaving the intellectual feast known as “The View” this past summer. What occasioned that particular fit was the recent Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on an especially impolite method of abortion. O’Donnell also drew ominous conclusions from the fact that the five justices in the majority were all Catholic men. But of course – they voted to permit the ban not because abortion isn’t even vaguely hinted at in the Constitution, but because they’re misogynist Vatican robots!

I’d seen that comment before. Back when I was an undergrad, the Viewpoint editor printed it once as the section’s quote of the day. I’m not sure whom it was attributed to. I assumed the point was valid, that the conflict in America over abortion is largely a conflict between men and women. Yes, I’ve always known women who were dead-set against it, and men who are very grateful for its easy availability, but in many ways, subtle or not-so-subtle, our society reinforces the idea that the fight against abortion is a matter of men telling women what to do. Having been voted “most gullible” in high school, I was always one to accept conventional wisdom. Besides, the women I’d known who’d most eagerly expressed their opinion on the issue had been heavily on the pro-abortion side.

So I was surprised by a Washington Times article back in July 2003 titled “Pro-Life Women Shift to Majority,” by Grant Schulte. According to a survey conducted at the request of a pro-abortion advocacy group, 17 percent of American women think abortion should be illegal altogether. 34 percent more think it should be outlawed except in cases of rape, incest or mortal danger to the mother; these cases account for about one percent of abortions performed in America. So a slim majority of American women would ban 99 percent of abortions. Strangely, the New York Times, which claims to print “all the news that’s fit to print,” didn’t report on the story. Then again, such a story must be deeply embarrassing to an outfit that consistently editorializes in favor of unlimited abortion access under the euphemism “women’s rights.” New York Times Magazine did indirectly cover the story, however, printing an extended diatribe by a feminist angered by the survey results, telling her fellow women to get their thumbs out of their mouths (her metaphor, not mine).

A different survey conducted around the same time showed that men lean the other way, but by a larger margin, which makes the population as a whole slightly pro-choice. And according to the keynote speaker at the state Rally for Life two years ago, there’s a similar dynamic here in Maryland – the public leans pro-choice, but the women lean pro-life. So it’s true: There is a gender gap on abortion. But it’s not very big, and it’s opposite to the one Rosie and the rest would have us believe.

My first reaction to these results was that once again, women are demonstrably morally superior to men, which is what I already believed anyway. Just look at a list of serious sins – anger, lust, greed, dishonesty, drunkenness. Isn’t it like decoding the Y-chromosome? But the data in this case clearly don’t support such a broad generalization of female superiority. It’s not like women are overwhelmingly against abortion and men overwhelmingly for. Actually, I’m disappointed the gap’s not bigger, seeing how men have less problem with killing in general (animals, criminals, enemy combatants), are less fond of babies, and are more interested in promiscuity – and make no mistake, the right to abortion is ultimately about the ability to be promiscuous. Moreover, women know, in a way men never can, that “uterine contents” (a favorite New York Times term for “baby”) is a who, not a what. And if you remove from the comparison those men who deeply oppose abortion and would ban it but who have been so morally gelded that they sincerely believe they don’t even have the right to tell women not to destroy their children – the kind of men, good-hearted but gutless, who let their wives keep their maiden names, and who say “We’re pregnant” – then the gap shrinks even more, maybe even vanishes.

What then are we to conclude? Maybe just what Solzhenitsyn wrote. The line separating good from evil doesn’t divide one class from another, one race from another, Christians from non-Christians, or women from men. The line between good and evil goes right down the middle of every human heart. Yes, I’d still rather have the next passerby be a woman, if I were dying along the side of a road, and I’d rather be at the mercy of someone raised in a Christian home than in San Francisco, but goodness isn’t a function of genes or upbringing. The possibility of turning aside toward evil and nothingness was as real for Mother Teresa as it is for me, insofar as I haven’t already done so.

But I guess the lesson could just be, don’t listen to Rosie O’Donnell and don’t believe everything in Viewpoint. And be nice to those poor feminists – it must be extremely galling for them to rely on men for their most cherished right. Maybe that’s why they’re so mad? Cheers, girls!

Greg Yatarola graduated from Notre Dame in 1999. With the foresight of cynicism, he suspects it’s just a matter of time till science finds a way for men to get pregnant. He hopes he’s dead by then. While he’s not, he can be reached at gregpy@hotmail.com

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.