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Should Be Required Reading for All
on May 4, 2013
Nothing ignites a firestorm of debate like abortion. Politically, the issue was settled over thirty years ago by the Supreme Court, so why does the furor not end? According to political theorist Jean Elshtain the abortion battle was settled prematurely leaving meaningful national discussion out of the mix (p. xii). Politics trumped a serious need for answered questions.... medical, emotional and sociological. The Supreme Court's "resolution" of 1973 never really resolved the most important aspects of the abortion issue. Roe v. Wade has merely impeded open and objective discourse on the reality of abortion's holistic effects on women and our culture. The Cost of Choice is an explosion of this much needed conversation. Twelve professional women have objectively analyzed all facets of abortion and its disquieting effects on women themselves and on our culture as a whole. It appears that abortion, the crown jewel of ultimate liberation for women, has in fact served up deprivation of well-being for them instead.
A 2002 magna cum laude law degree recipient from Boston University School of Law and a member of the Massachusetts Bar, Erika Bachiochi is the editor of The Cost of "Choice" and author of one of its twelve essays. Armed also with a B.A. in Political Science and an M. A. in Theology Erika is a prolific speaker and writer on feminist topics, abortion, law and the Church. Her latest book entitled Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching was published in 2010 and follows a similar multi-authored format. Now a mother of five children Erika has challenged her own pro-choice past and early activism concluding that abortion is "inherently antithetical to genuine feminism" (p. xv).
The Cost of "Choice" is not the typical pro-life book teeming with Scriptures and Christian rhetoric. Although ultimately the book's ideology is reflective of Christian ethics, it is a scholarly presentation and analysis of empirical data based on thirty years of abortion in the United States. The authors are professional women whose short bios and credentials are featured as an addendum in the book. At the time of writing ten of the twelve held positions either as attorneys, medical doctors or university professors, while one was a Public Broadcasting Service producer and one is the founder of a national organization. Each exhibits a knowledgeable proficiency in her topic and provides ample research documentation throughout.
Editor and author Erika Bachiochi has approached the issue of abortion systematically from three different perspectives: 1) its sociological effects on women and our culture; 2) its effects on women's health; 3) its effects on our laws, regulations, and alternative choices. The essays are arranged in keeping with this three-part topical format according to the expertise and experience of each author.
In relating the historical basis for the cry of abortion-on-demand, the authors point out that the original American feminists of the early 1900s fought for voting rights and for equal job opportunities. They believed that promiscuity, divorce and abortion could only damage the status of women and would foster their exploitation. Nevertheless, embedded within the cultural (or sexual) revolution of the mid-1960s the "modern" feminists deviated drastically from their predecessors and became obsessed with the idea that abortion was the apex of true liberation and was crucial to a woman's best interests. Fueled by anger towards men and jealousy over man's unrestrained social, career, income and sexual status, the new feminists demanded the same. Essentially they wanted to be men, but the gift of childbearing became an inconvenience and a hindrance to reaching such equality. Thus the battle for abortion began, and it began in high gear.
Having looked at the genesis of the abortion crusade, the authors methodically reveal the irony in the devastating consequences of abortion which are precisely what the original feminists had feared and predicted.... and even worse. This irony is the underlying theme of The Cost of "Choice." The authors argue efficiently and effectively that the pro-choice movement has only resulted in degrading womanhood and in fostering bondage to a false idea of liberation.
In unprecedented decisions, the Supreme Court has given the woman the right to decide whether the fetus inside her body will live or die. As a result, an attitude of insensitivity and irresponsibility towards life, children, parenting and relationships has developed within our culture. Pleasure and convenience supersede responsibility and accountability to others. As Elizabeth Fox-Genovese so adequately stated, "Abortion dismisses women from the company of responsible persons who are capable of sacrificing a piece of their freedom for the good of others - especially the children who embody our future" (p. 60).
Besides eliminating the dignity of selflessness and responsibility from the expected character of women, the culture of abortion has also degraded women's relationships with men. There are expressions of this sinister side-effect of abortion rights throughout the book. With abortion-on-demand justified by law, sexual promiscuity has also been sanctioned by the culture. There no longer is a reason for a woman to say "no" since abortion has become an acceptable form of birth control. Consequently, sexual exploitation is at an all-time high and lasting marriages are at an all-time low.
Furthermore, in a quest to equalize women with men, the law actually has promoted women over men in parental rights of the unborn. The expectant father has no right whatsoever to save his unborn child if the mother has chosen to abort it. The woman, and only the woman, has the unique right to play God. Adding insult to injury, while the law is protecting the woman's right to determine the life or death of her unborn child, it continues to legislate protections for the unborn in all other circumstances. Paige Cunningham reminds the reader that laws exist giving rights to the unborn child to inherit property, to be the focus of a custody dispute and to have an appointed guardian ad litem for legal representation (p. 109). If someone other than the mother should cause the death of an unborn child, that person is guilty of fetal homicide. Is it any wonder that the man has relinquished his responsibility to and respect for the woman as her rights which contradict normative laws cancel out his rights?
Liberty through abortion rights has succeeded in many losses for the woman. The pro-choice movement has consistently led astray both women and the culture at large with its faulty claims. From the beginning abortion was a political issue. Every woman deserved the right of total and unconditional control over her own body. The marketing strategy however centered on health and social benefits. Legal abortion would be the solution to over-population, poverty and child abuse. It would reduce the welfare rolls. It would forever end all the deaths from the "coat-hanger" and "back-alley" illegal abortions. The Cost of "Choice" offers reliable data that render such "facts" extremely over-dramatized and over-estimated. The authors present real data showing that abortion has not been the panacea for all the social ills for which it was advertised.
As evidence of further bondage from pro-choice liberty, women have been riddled with potential health repercussions that not only jeopardize their own lives but the lives of future children they might choose to have. Links to breast cancer, placenta previa and pre-term births are indisputable. Dr. Joanne Angelo, a psychiatrist and clinical professor, cites that women who have experienced abortions are secretly engulfed in "an ocean of grief" that they are not allowed to expose (p. 94). Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian cites studies of pronounced increase in self-harm and suicide in post-abortion women. Ironically, these facts are rarely publicized or even acknowledged thus becoming the hidden risks of "liberty."
Paige Cunningham draws attention to the enduring role the Supreme Court has played in changing the lives of women as well as today's culture as it has acquiesced to the "ill-conceived notions of women's needs" (p. 103). The total focus of the Court has been on the negative aspects of childbearing and rearing. No emphasis was given to the sanctity of life, responsible sexual behavior, the mother-child bond or the joys of parenting. These laws have definitely changed the very moral fiber of the culture and as Mary Ann Glendon said, they require "a very complicated clean-up operation" (p. 12). In following passion over reason the warriors of "choice" have certainly succeeded in elevating the crown jewel to its legal pinnacle, but in so doing they have opened Pandora's box.
The Cost of "Choice" exposes the contents of that box. The authors are convincing in their objective and reasoned arguments based on the facts. They also offer viable alternatives to the culture of abortion such as endorsing self-giving instead of self-assertion, promoting government funded pregnancy support centers and legislating "right-to-know" laws. Most of all, the authors rightly emphasize recognizing the obvious. What makes a woman unique and special is her potential to bear children. It is not the "unique act" of abortion that gives her worth.
Legitimate open debate on this issue from all positions is crucial. The early feminists were right about the detrimental effects of abortion, and younger women today are becoming more in sync with them than with the later abortion-rights group. This fact alone demands a balanced conversation and The Cost of "Choice" is a seamless conversation starter.