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Slate Op-Ed: Abortion Is a 'Morally Neutral Health Care Option'

Pregnant African American woman holding her stomach in hospital

Back in the 1990s, the Democrat position on abortion — as described by then-president Bill Clinton — was that it should be “safe, legal, and rare.” It was a position that implied that, while certain circumstances might necessitate the termination of a pregnancy, abortion was not the ideal outcome for an unwanted pregnancy, nor was it something to be taken lightly. These days, progressive groups tell women to “shout your abortion” in an attempt to “normalize” abortion as simply another healthcare option available to women — a “reproductive right” to be made use of at the woman’s discretion, no questions asked. Now, in an article for Slate, writer and mother Rachel Klein suggests that parents should be telling their daughters that they will help them get abortions if they become pregnant.

Klein’s article is called “Why Won’t Parents Talk About Helping Their Daughters Get Abortions?” and it is a call for the complete normalization of abortion as a valid and even desirable method of contraception. Klein, it seems, has so completely bought into the “shout your abortion” mentality that she is legitimately confused as to why parents might not want to send their daughters the message that an abortion is a completely acceptable contraceptive option.

Klein rails against “laws and regulations” that “increasingly reflect an assumption that abortion is (only sometimes) a necessary evil, rather than a morally neutral health care option.” She can’t understand why her fellow “progressive, pro-choice” supporters still seem to see abortion as “a last resort—a horrible, traumatic event that must be avoided at all costs.” This, Klein wants us to know, is not what she is teaching her daughters.

This stance on abortion — that it is “morally neutral” — is the new frontier in pro-choice activism. But it isn’t necessarily the majority stance, even among those who believe abortion should be legal. Klein references a recent Gallup poll that found that attitudes toward abortion are evenly divided, with 48% of Americans identifying as pro-choice, and 48% identifying as pro-life. But — and this is what Klein can’t understand — only 29% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal “under any circumstances.” Why aren’t parents, Klein wants to know, aligning their “parenting with [their] politics”?

But, even within the pro-choice camp, it’s quite a big leap from “safe, legal, and rare” to “morally neutral.” So, while pro-choice activists may see no moral issue with abortion, the Gallup poll suggests that plenty of pro-choice supporters do. And, obviously, nearly half the country finds abortion to be so morally repugnant as to believe it should be outlawed. But, with groups like Planned Parenthood and Shout Your Abortion taking center stage in the media as the voices of the pro-choice movement, it’s no wonder that people like Klein have talked themselves into believing that there is no moral issue with abortion.

Klein’s confusion over why parents wouldn’t offer their daughters a standing get-out-of-pregnancy-free card doesn’t even stretch to the notion that they might believe abortion ends a life. And perhaps this is fair, given that she is speaking largely of her fellow pro-choice supporters. But her speculation that parents are hesitant to offer their daughters the option of abortions because they are “worried a child’s unwanted pregnancy might reflect poorly on their own parenting” seems particularly obtuse and judgmental. And her use of scare quotes around the term “bad choices” as a way to describe the unprotected sex these hypothetical daughters engaged in implies that Klein sees nothing wrong with that either. Which, in fairness, is the logical stance to take if you believe that having an abortion is as “morally neutral” as using a condom or abstaining from sex entirely.

For those of us who believe abortion is not “morally neutral” and is, in fact, morally wrong, Klein’s viewpoint is abhorrent. But it would be hard to argue that it is illogical within the framework of the current stance of abortion activists. The reason abortion is morally wrong is because it ends the life of a human being. If you don’t believe that, then you ought to view abortion — as Klein does — as akin to, say, the implantation of an IUD.

While Klein’s argument — and her suggestion that all parents offer their daughters the option to have an abortion — may seem extreme to people on both sides of the issue, her stance highlights the turning point we now face in this debate. The fact that only 29% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal “under any circumstances” means that the vast majority of Americans believe that there is at least some moral ambiguity around abortion.

And yet, the pro-choice conversation in the media has turned decidedly toward the “shout your abortion” camp. Which means that we, as voters and parents and women and human beings, have a choice to make. Do we blindly follow the logic of abortion activists and the media that gives them voice, or do we acknowledge the conviction of the majority that abortion presents, at the very least, a moral gray area? In the current cultural moment it’s a choice we have to make. People like Klein are making their choice — and being given a platform to share it widely — so we darn well better make ours.