A devoted reader of The Fredericksburg Star Corita Scott of Spotsylvania, Virginia, took issue with an op-ed written by Fredericksburg Mayor Thomas J. Tomzak that dealt with the social cost of deadbeat dads. Mayor Tomzak used to be an obstetrician; he has seen firsthand the reality of teen pregnancy and teen motherhood; he has seen what happens when the father shirks his responsibility. Dr. Tomzak rightly pointed out that “when the cord is clamped and cut, the discussion of women’s reproductive issues should end and a discussion of the rights of newborns should begin.” Dr. Tomzak also called on us all to “stigmatize male irresponsibility for what it is – anti-woman, anti-child, and anti-community.”
So what was the problem here? Surely pro-choicers and pro-lifers would agree that fathers should step up for their children, right? But Dr. Tomzak mentioned being “sympathetic” to “reproductive issues,” which Scott saw as code for “the right to abortion.” (Not once in this piece did Dr. Tomzak ever call for easier access to abortion, nor increased access to family planning, nor better sex ed. But why let facts get in the way of righteous anger?) This was the segue to such apt questions as:
Isn’t abortion the expedient way to eliminate this problem of unfit parents and neglected children who place a financial burden on society? If so, why hasn’t the funding and the need for such programs mentioned above decreased in 2010?*
I am not dignifying the eugenicist bent of these questions with a response. Ick. Did it ever occur to Scott that the legalization of abortion is not the only newsworthy trend of the 20th century? The funding and need for such programs increased for other reasons than abortion. I propose the fact that the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer after the 1970s. Maybe addressing the inequality might do something about the need for social programs. Just saying. Scott has her own solution.
The answer is not to destroy the unborn child but to help the mother gain self-esteem by compassionate care, education, and training for job opportunities.
Fantastic. Mayor Tomzak wouldn’t disagree that teen mothers need compassionate care, education, and training for job opportunities. It does not have to be an either/or proposition, either. Access to abortion – which, again, Dr. Tomzak never actually advocated in this article – does not diminish the importance of any of those things. But Scott was not satisfied because Dr. Tomzak didn’t spell out that abortion is bad. Having a shred of sympathy for women’s health – even the condescending, paternalistic kind – is tantamount to being pro-abortion. And this obsession with vilifying abortion drove Corita Scott to derail what could have been an important conversation about the need for young men to take responsibility for their children. (Why does male responsibility get glossed over every single time?) Let Corita Scott’s LTE bear witness to the “pro-life” agenda – it has never been about abortion, but rather, a call to withhold anything resembling respect, anything that doesn’t smack of shaming and judgment, from women and girls.
*Incidentally, Steven Leavitt, the author of Freakonomics, did in fact propose that we can thank the downturn of violent crime in the 1990s to abortion; potential violent criminals of the 90s had been aborted in the 70s. Leavitt’s theory was spectacularly wrong. (Lifenews had a field day with the fact that Leavitt was wrong, but I refuse to link to Lifenews. Google it yourself.) No surprises that it was wrong – Leavitt was wrong on one of his basic premises, that the abortion rate skyrocketed after Roe. Legality never has been nor will it ever be a sine qua non of abortion. It is not Latin America, where abortion is illegal, often even in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, but Western Europe, a bastion of liberal abortion laws and easy access, that boasts the world’s lowest abortion rate.