Saturday, June 11, 2005

The precarious state of reason at The Guardian

Today The Guardian published an article by one Katha Pollit under the heading Special Report United States of America. A more appropriate heading might have been Idiotic Feminist Screed, or at the very least Commentary, which would have had the benefit of not deceiving the curious into thinking what they were about to read was, well, an actual report about the US.

Pollit makes good sport of the unfortunate fact that, due to a not entirely well thought out law (is there any other kind?), sex offenders in New York have been receiving free Viagra via tax-funded Medicaid for the last five years. Reason enough for a few sarcastic yuks, I suppose, although her preference for seeing other states make the same mistake so as to prevent blue New York from becoming the butt of red-state jokes probably goes too far. But all this is just a lead in to the “real story” which, according to Pollit, is:
the precarious state of women's reproductive health care and rights here in God's country.
Of course, by “women’s reproductive rights” what Pollit really means is “legal abortion”. (Why can’t these people simply say what they mean? The right to an abortion is not a “reproductive” right. It is a right to destroy the result of having already reproduced.) Reading on it becomes clear that Pollit doesn’t really have a firm grip on the meaning of the word “precarious”.
British readers probably know that American women seeking abortion face an ever-increasing number of legal roadblocks in many states: parental notification and consent laws for teenagers; 24-hour waiting periods; mandatory state-scripted lectures, which in some cases include false information, such as that abortion causes breast cancer.
Does Pollit not realize how utterly foolish she sounds, talking in such dire tones about a 24-hour waiting period to customers of the vaunted British NHS, where apparently waiting times for an abortion appointment can be up to 5 weeks? Apparently not. Note also the quick switch Pollit pulls, talking about the roadblocks that “American women” face and then citing laws which apply not to women but only to teenagers.

And what about those teen laws, anyway? It turns out that, of the 50 states, 15 of them have absolutely no laws whatsoever regulating teen abortion. An additional 13 have only parental notification (not consent) laws. So in over half of the states there is effectively no legal barrier to teen abortion whatsoever. Of the 22 states which have some kind of parental consent laws, 4 of them are not enforcing the laws because of court orders. And again, such laws that are enforced apply only to teenagers, as does the “Orwellianly named” Child Custoday Protection Act. ("Orwellianly named"? Does The Guardian employ copy editors?) Women over 18 - in other words, women - face no barriers to abortion at all.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Pollit has gone over the edge. She says:
Clinics have been so harassed by protesters, and so mired in politically motivated red tape, that for many women abortion is, for all practical purposes, unobtainable: Mississippi is down to one; so is North Dakota.
The US has the second highest abortion rate in the entire western industrialized world. ‘Nuff said.

Well, it should be enough, but unfortunately Pollit’s column didn’t end there, as she switched from scare tactics about abortion into raising the spectre of a cataclysmic end to contraception in America. That, however, deserves its own treatment, which will be forthcoming soon.


Anonymous Mark Miller said...

Read the article. The thing I object to most is the generalities she presents:

[Clinics are so harassed, women can't get abortions anymore]

I think if this were the case I would've heard about it. I haven't. The U.S. is a BIG country. What she does is take incidents in a few states and make it sound like it's happening all over the country.

As to the coverage of Viagra, I too raised an eyebrow at that. I think it might've been a technicality in that Viagra aims to restore normal function. Perhaps that's covered in just general language of insurance policies. By the same token the reason contraception would not be covered is it's meant to block normal function.

"But what's happening now is truly frightening. Anti-abortion pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for the pill and for Plan B"

As I understand this is only allowed in a few states(?) I don't think this is a trend across the country. In any case, what the objecting pharmacists are supposed to do is refer women who ask for contraceptives to a pharmacist who will fill the prescription.

"Case in point: last year, the Christian-right attorney general of Kansas subpoenaed the private medical records of women who had had abortions. Right now, in Indiana, the attorney general is demanding to see the private medical records of low-income teenage girls who went to Planned Parenthood for birth control."

This is really misleading. For one, who says the AG in Kansas is Christian-right? The reason these officials are asking for the records is due to the fact that they're prosecuting rape cases (I think statutory rape). They need the evidence in order to prosecute the rapists. They have made it clear that no private information from these records will be revealed in open court.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Mark Miller said...

And one other thing (referring to the article by Pollit):
"Sensible people continually point out that contraception is the best way to prevent abortion"

Huh. Could've fooled me. A friend of mine and his wife had their second child as a result of "contraception". They used a condom. It broke. She got pregnant, and it wasn't that difficult either.

Years ago when I had Sex Ed. in high school we weren't given the "abstinence only" message. It was actually quite sensible. We were taught about reproduction, contraception, VD, some general discussion about intimate relationships (not too heavy though), and we were given a reality check of what it's really like to be parents. One thing that still sticks with me is when a visiting health instructor said, "If you don't want to get pregnant the surest way of doing that is to not have sex." Sounds drop-dead obvious, but I'm glad she said it anyway. Secondly she said, "If you want to be sure to not get a venereal disease, don't have sex, or if you do, use a condom." I'm sure we were also informed that the pill does not prevent VD, only pregnancy, and only if used consistently. If used inconsistently, you could get pregnant anyway. Much better than "the best way to prevent abortion is contraception." That may be conventional wisdom, but it's only partly true.

2:40 AM  
Blogger GrannyGrump said...

It takes a screeching banshee like Pollett to look at a country where abortion is so ubiquitous and complain about a lack of access.

At my RealChoice web site, (You can click over to it from my blog; I can't post the link because for some reason my host service is rejected as spam. Go to the main page and add library/weekly/aa021900a.htm) I did a thing on PP's idea of "adequate access." In that case, the lamentation was that there wasn't "adequate access" in DC.

The abortion ratio -- which is the number of abortions per 1,000 live births -- is 1,000 for DC. The state that comes next in ranking is Rhode Island, with 447 abortions per 1,000 live births. The average, nationwide, is 311 abortions for every 1,000 live births. In other words, there are twice as many abortions per live births in DC as in Rhode Island, and three times as many abortions per live births in DC as averaged nationwide.

To be fair, in the District of Columbia, roughly half the abortions are done on out-of-state (or in this case, out-of-district) residents. That still means that half the remaining abortions are done on DC residents, which would give us an abortion ratio of 500 and an abortion rate of 50 -- still higher than anybody else by a significant margin. This is doubly true when you reflect that 20% of Rhode Island abortions are also done on out-of-state women, so only 80% of their abortion ratio (or 358) applies to Rhode Island residents.

For purposes of this discussion, we must wonder why, if the District is so unfriendly to abortion-seeking women, roughly 7,000 women a year come into the District from neighboring states for their abortions.

And this is "lack of access."

3:45 PM  

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