Published by Picador on 10/14/2014
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Katha Pollitt knows her audience. She knows she is unlikely to sway the opinions of abortion opponents, just as she knows the majority of Pro‘s readers will be pro-choice. But her aim is not to force-feed opinions to anti-choice readers. Instead, Pollitt hopes that Pro will take hold in the “muddled middle”; the space where the majority of Americans sit with hopes of restricting abortion rather than banning it.
“It’s as if we think motherhood is the default setting for a woman’s life from first period to menopause, and she needs a note from God not to say yes to every zygote that knocks on her door—even if, like most women who have abortions, including my mother, she already has children. There is deep contempt for women in that—and disregard for the seriousness of motherhood as well. “
At the center of Pollitt’s argument is the idea that both abortion defenders and opponents use language that describe the procedure as traumatic, tragic and difficult when it is often a clear decision for many women. Young teenage girls, students progressing in degree programs, and mothers unable to provide for a larger family might make the choice to have an abortion with little more than a second thought, like 3 out of 10 women who make the same choice before menopause. Pollitt uses pointed and intelligent discussion to pull together reasons why choosing abortion doesn’t have to be a tragedy, while smartly refuting points about birth control use and adoption as classist and sexist.
“If anti-abortion leaders were opposed only to abortion, why would they be so keen to stretch its definition to include the most effective and most popular methods of contraception? Why do they cling to the notion that the Pill causes abortion? Why don’t they welcome recent studies showing that emergency contraception prevents ovulation, not implantation? The fact that they grasp at straws suggests what they really object to is sex without a significant threat of pregnancy and the social changes connected to that.”
In sections that cover personhood, the role of women and motherhood as well as the potential for compromise on abortion, I found myself underlining full paragraphs. I picked up Pro from my place as a passionate liberal (my disgust over the Hobby Lobby decision didn’t give it away?) excited to read great arguments from a position I firmly believe in. I didn’t expect Pollitt to open my eyes to the pro-choice movement’s gray areas and have me seeking volunteer opportunities as soon as I finished. It’s that important. Even if you think I’m a little crazy and Katha Pollitt’s ideas are off the charts, this is the point where I chase after you and tell you to please read this book.