Monday, January 5, 2009

Abortion in an Anti-Choice Culture

The New York Times has an interesting article today on the growing use of ulcer medications to induce abortion. The article, which focuses on Dominican women in Washington Heights, is tinged with liberal racism, explaining that Dominican culture is socially conservative and pro-life. Two responses. First, American culture is socially conservative and pro-life (Knocked Up, anyone?). Particularizing this pathology to Dominican culture is absurd in a country that can barely say the word abortion on television. Second, it's worth questioning just how "socially conservative" Dominican culture actually is when women can walk into a pharmacy, say they need to bring down their period, and pharmacists will know they are asking for abortificants. This sounds to me like a widespread understanding and acceptance, on a subterranean level, of the practice of abortion. Maybe Dominican culture is actually complicated and can't simply be described as socially conservative?

This kind of essentialism aside, the article highlights a number of important facts. The first is that even in a culture which officially disproves of abortion and stigmatizes those that seek it, women will continue to terminate their pregnancies. It also shows that the stigmatization and criminalization of abortion hurts women, who, when denied safe medical care, will use other means, even at the risk of substantial self-injury. Finally, the article shows how abortion is a positive experience in many women's lives. The caption of the photo on the first page speaks directly to this - “It’s cheap but dangerous. Certain people are more delicate than others. But afterwards, I felt relief.” While liberals go on about reducing the number of abortions and how it's sad and tragic, they ignore the fact that for millions of women every year, an abortion is a victory in the struggle for control of their bodies.