A Clarification

I realized today that my post about Akin was insensitive towards rape victims. I don’t disavow my conclusions from the post, but I didn’t make enough of an effort to see the situation from their point of view.

So let me clarify something. I acknowledge that getting pregnant and giving birth after rape must be a terrible experience–more terrible than I could possibly imagine, since it hasn’t happened to me. I know that pregnancy and childbirth can be difficult even when you’re bearing children with a man you love. Doing so against your will, with an evil man, must feel like a second rape–one that goes on for 9 months of pregnancy and for the long, painful duration of labor.

So if I could wave a magic wand and ensure that no woman got pregnant via rape–or, better yet, that nobody got raped in the first place–I most certainly would. And I think that’s what many people are trying to do when they allow for abortion in the case of rape. They want to make this horrible situation go away and spare the rape victim from further pain.

The problem is . . . does abortion actually accomplish this?

Based on what I’ve read and heard about abortion, I have my doubts. Abortion is a mechanical or chemical invasion of the body, with serious physical side effects. As I said in my last post, “even by feminists’ own admission, then, abortion is a violent and painful act perpetuated against the natural integrity of a woman’s body.”

Then there is the possibility of regret. Yes, being pregnant for 9 months is a long time to live with the consequences of someone else’s sin. But a lifetime of regret and guilt over taking an innocent life–which is what many post-abortive women feel, even after rape–is even longer.

Let me be clear–I do not judge women who turn to abortion during the desperate and difficult period following rape. My objection is to the pro-choicers who won’t allow for an honest discussion of the issue.



Did Akin Have a Point?

I considered writing a post when Congressman Todd Akin’s infamous remarks became a scandal. But I thought the furor would die down as soon as some other politician made another dumb remark (which happens with some frequency), and I didn’t see the point in writing about a news story so ephemeral. Months afterwards, however, I still read editorials arguing that Akin’s remarks discredits the entire pro-life and conservative movement. It seems the subject still requires some attention from pro-lifers, so I am going to add my opinion, as unpopular as it may be.

Akin was incorrect and insensitive when he claimed that the female body can magically reject a rapist’s sperm. I think everybody–even Akin himself–acknowledges that his comments were wrong. Somewhere in his remarks, however, lies a kernel of truth, which is that abortion in cases of rape is very rare–not impossible, but rare. A survey from the Guttmacher Institute–a pro-choice research institution affiliated with Planned Parenthood–found that only 1% of women seeking abortion in the United States were doing so because of rape. Since the data was self-reported and didn’t require respondents to show evidence that they had been raped, it is unlikely that rape was under-reported in this survey. Therefore, the 1% statistic seems valid.

The rarity of pregnancy-by-rape makes sense when you consider the fact that women are infertile more often than not. Post-menopausal women, women on birth control, women who are already pregnant, breastfeeding women, girls who are too young to be menstruating regularly, women with fertility problems, plus women who don’t happen to be in their monthly “fertile window” (which consists of only a few days), are not going to get pregnant even if raped.  Since rape tends to be a random and one-time occurrence, the odds of a rapist (as opposed to a long-term partner) catching one of these fertile windows are probably low.

Hence I am not surprised that 99% of abortions in this country are the outcome of consensual sex. And yet, pro-choice rhetoric implies that nearly all women seeking abortion are doing so because of rape, and that restricting their access to abortion in any way is tantamount to raping them all over again.

By pointing out the small numbers of pregnant rape victims, I am in no way trying to belittle their experiences. Every single person is infinitely precious, and therefore her suffering matters regardless of its statistical frequency. But, in order to find the most compassionate attitude towards pregnant rape victims, we must first stop exploiting them for political gain, which is what pro-choicers do every time they use sympathy for rape victims in order to claim political privileges for non-rape-victims. In order to find the most compassionate treatment for rape victims, we need to confront the realities of abortion. We can only advise rape victims on the best path if we are honest about what abortion actually is.

Surprisingly, one of the best descriptions of the abortion experience can be found in a feminist anthology called Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. The author, Inga Muscio, opens the piece by radically declaring that “abortion sucks”:

“Abortion Sucks” is a literal statement, made in reference to the machine employed in ridding a woman of her unwanted pregnancy. This machine is a vacuum cleaner . . . . Vacuum cleaners are useful for cleaning up messes, and in our society, a pile of kitty litter on the floor is treated much in the same way as an undesired embryo. The main difference, though hardly recognizable to Western science, is that kitty litter is sucked from cold linoleum and an embryo is sucked from a warm-blooded living being’s womb. (112)

Her jaundiced views of abortion stem from personal experience. This is her description of the abortions she received at Planned Parenthood:

The lady [nurse] told me to recite my ABCs.

“A, B, C, D, E . . . ” Something entered my vagina, deeper, deeper, deeper than I imagined anything could go.

“F, G, H, I, O, W . . . ” The walls of my uterus were being sucked, felt like they were gonna cave in. I screamed “O, P, X, X, VOWELS, WHAT ARE THE VOWELS? R? K? A! A’s A VOWEL!” And then my organs were surely being mowed down by a tiny battalion of Lawn-Boys.

“S, did I say S?” My boyfriend was crying too and didn’t tell me whether I had said S or not.

There was a two-inch thick pad between my legs, and blood gushing out of me. The motor had stopped whirring. I felt delirious. I asked, “What do you guys do with all the fetuses? Where do they go? Do you bury them?” The lady ignored me, which was fine; I had to puke. She led me into a bathroom, and I vomited bilious green foam.

For two weeks, there was a gaping wound in my body. I could hardly walk for five days. (113-114)

As a good feminist, Muscio cannot bring herself to question the principles behind the pro-choice movement. She merely disagrees with the methods of clinical abortion, the unpleasantness of which she attributes to the patriarchal dynamics of Western medicine. For her third abortion, she seeks out herbal and natural methods, which she portrays as a beautiful and even spiritual experience. However, some of her comments imply that even these methods are not without their flaws:

I looked at the bathroom floor and there, between my feet, was some blood and a little round thing. It was clear but felt like one of those unshiny Super Balls. It was the neatest thing I ever did see. An orb of life and energy, in my hand.

So strange.

So real. (116)

An orb of life . . . except that it was dead. Because she killed it. Which, based on her next statement, seems to be a fact that haunted her even as she claimed to feel relief: “I wore black for a week and had a little funeral in my head” (116).

Even by feminists’ own admission, then, abortion is a violent and painful act perpetuated against the natural integrity of a woman’s body (as well as the natural integrity of the fetus, an orb of life and energy). If that’s how the true feminist believers describe their abortions, then how much more would an average woman, with no prior stake in the pro-choice movement, suffer from regret and guilt about having taken a life?

I don’t deny the painful realities of pregnancy and childbirth. I gave birth with no pain relief and in some rather unpleasant circumstances–and yet, I would rather endure childbirth ten times over then experience any of the abortions described by Muscio, even the supposedly pain-free herbal one. At least childbirth is natural to the design of our bodies–unlike a vacuum cleaner or poisonous herbs, which sound like they would merely be an additional violation of a woman’s body after she had already been raped.

In all the furor over Akin’s comments, then, we’ve lost sight of some more subtle truths: for instance, that pregnancy after rape is an unfortunate but rare experience; that exploiting rape for political gain is despicable; and, most importantly, that pretending abortion can erase the pain of rape is not the most compassionate way to treat rape victims.

Are Housewives Obsolete?

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan argued that new technologies should liberate women from their traditional role as caregivers. She lauded “the scientific advance[s] that might have freed women from the drudgery of cooking, cleaning, and washing” (342)–and lamented the fact that, instead of using washing machines to save time, housewives just decided to wash clothes more often. Friedan, being a socialist, believed that technology and the means of production dictate social organization–so now that we’ve reached a certain level of technological development, society must progress past obsolete social roles.

Friedan’s argument has become so ingrained in the conventional wisdom that even anti-feminists repeat it without acknowledging its origin. For instance, the blogger Pro-Male/Anti-Feminist Tech writes that, in the past, “there weren’t washing machines, stoves, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, etc. so there was more work to be done in maintaining a household.” Now that we do have such conveniences, there’s no need to even debate whether women should stay home–it’s clear that they don’t need to. Thus feminism and the “men’s rights movement” converge.

But, as the reader may have surmised, I am no fan of the conventional wisdom.

First of all, it is foolish to embrace all technology uncritically. When deciding which kinds of labor-saving devices to adopt in the home, we should consider their effects on the family, the community, and society at large. For instance, it is now technologically possible to outsource childbirth itself, in the form of surrogate mothers, so that Mom doesn’t even have to take a six-week maternity leave anymore. Outsourcing childbirth is efficient–after all, it creates a literal division of labor–but I think most husbands would reject such a proposal, because of its possible effects on mother-child bonding as well as the natural uneasiness that families feel when introducing strangers into such an intimate area. So the question isn’t, “Are there technologies that can replace some of the functions of a traditional wife and mother?”, but rather, “If such technologies exist, should we be using them? Are they moral? Are they compatible with the fundamentals of the good life?”

I think certain labor-saving devices, such as the washing machine and dishwasher, are largely innocuous (I say “largely” because there may in fact be environmental effects that could someday force us to limit their use). However, TV dinners and microwaves are another technological innovation that get cited as a way to replace the housewife. But even feminists have finally acknowledged that convenience food is really bad for you (probably because Michael Pollan made cooking cool again). So, can we agree that TV dinners and take-out food are not a civilized way to feed one’s family? That it’s healthiest for the family when Mom doesn’t get home from her commute at 6 pm, since it’s difficult to prepare much of a home-cooked meal when you don’t even get home until dinnertime?

So, while technology can facilitate housewifery, over-reliance on technology–or adopting the wrong kinds of technology–can dehumanize and weaken the entire family.

Secondly–and more importantly–the art of household management may have gotten easier with washing machines and online bill-pay, but child-rearing has actually gotten more labor-intensive in recent years. In bygone eras, extended families were more close-knit and could therefore help out with child-rearing more. Furthermore, institutions like the Church could provide much of a child’s moral education. Sadly, this is no longer the case. Children are probably more likely to learn heresy than sound doctrine in a catechism class, while public schools indoctrinate children into feminism. Countering the secular and materialistic dogma of our times is practically a full-time job, one that often requires homeschooling or vigilant involvement in your children’s school.

Of course, having a stay-at-home mother may not work for every family. Circumstances may require her to work outside the home, and it’s ultimately the husband’s decision to make. But I hope that families truly choose what is best for their situation, without being swayed by the conventional wisdom that mocks mothers as nothing more than glorified Roombas.