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Guest: DI columnist misguided in pro-choice criticism

BY SHANNON O'REILLY - GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 16, 2010 7:30 AM

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In his Feb. 10 column, “Pro-choice missteps,” Justin Sugg not only painted all pro-choice individuals with a broad brush, but he apparently also refused to read any of the criticisms of the Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad.

Every opinion I have read, including those of activists such as feminist activist Amanda Marcotte, had no issue at all that a woman chose to carry her pregnancy to term. When Sugg claims that pro-choicers are “more pro-abortion,” he is engaging in a high level of intellectual dishonesty.

I cannot claim to speak for all pro-choicers, but I do think that many of them would agree with me on this: Pro-choice means the freedom to control one’s body. That is why the pro-choice groups with the greatest integrity not only fight for access to contraception and abortion but also on behalf of women who are discouraged from having children (people with disabilities, people in low-income brackets, those with “genetic defects”) and those, most horribly, who are forced into sterilization procedures.

The greatest criticisms of the Pam Tebow ad are these: that CBS helped to create the ad and that the ad ignores the majority of women who are deciding whether to terminate their pregnancy. The latter is particularly thorny, and it’s one that Sugg seems to ignore; so I will focus upon it primarily. The majority of women who get abortions in this country get them because they do not want to be pregnant at that moment in time. They do not have the funds, the support network, the desire, or the time to go through pregnancy or raise a child.

Pam Tebow was in a different situation, to put it mildly. She wanted to be pregnant, and she wanted the resulting child. She chose — key word, chose — to continue with the pregnancy even with the risk of fetal defects. That choice was hers alone to make.

Holding up the Tebows as the model family, as examples of how people ought to choose, ignores the reality of most women who choose abortion. The problem with using Tebow as a spokeswoman (as Focus on the Family intends to do — she not only has a featured video on its website that is much more explicit than the ad but is also being asked to speak at anti-abortion events around the country) is that her feel-good story is not the story of women who have the most to lose in the abortion battle. She was not in a similar situation, and she cannot be treated as any kind of authority — just a woman who made the choice that was right for her.

I have no problem with the ad that CBS aired. The Super Bowl spot serves as nothing more than a teaser for the full video on the Focus on the Family website, however, which brings the real anti-abortion politics to the table — and continues to ignore the fact that the Tebows’ story is not a common one. This disregard assumes that all women are the same, that all women’s situations are the same and can be resolved through love and faith in the Christian god. These assumptions are insulting, infantilizing, and problematic.

If Sugg wants to call out pro-choice activists, he should read what they are actually saying — not what he thinks they are saying. Instead, he decides to tread the well-traveled road of alarmism and mischaracterization without giving any thought to the rationale behind pro-choice objections.

Finally, Sugg professes his belief that life begins at conception, and yet women should still have the right to choose. He states this as a problematic position that makes him a “moderate” between two extremes. This point of view is one that I find questionable, even though it is often expressed:

Biologically, life does begin at conception. Certainly. But this is not a problem for those of us who believe that what is truly at stake in the right to an abortion is the right to body sovereignty — and the idea that nothing has the right to use anyone’s organs without her consent.

Shannon O’Reilly is a UI junior.


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