If you want to be taken seriously as a pundit in political circles you’ll have to state where you come down on the whole “abortion question.” Here’s the thing about pundits. Those that are journalists, meaning they do actual reporting as well as opining, are nervous as hell about declaring their views on any policy, let alone one with such entrenched sides like abortion. To declare what your views are on any topic is to make you an activist, which is a dirty name to call a journalist. (Trust me, next time you want to annoy a reporter, call him/her an “activist.” They’ll hate it more than the term “biased.”)
So when Conor Friedersdorf, associate editor at The Atlantic, writes about abortion, how can he protect himself from charges that he’s “pro-choice” and therefore an unreliable “authority” to write about abortion? I call it the Just-Make-It-Barely-Legal position, a stance favored by other pundits like Will Saletan. This stance allows pundits to make sure they cover all sides; they don’t want abortion outlawed, but gosh darn it, why can’t society find options for women other than abortion because it so darned sad to them. Yup, Friederdorf knows how to thread the needle on the abortion question: keep it legal but make sure to tell everyone how personally queasy it makes you to have it available.
My position on abortion is an uncommon mix. As a purely constitutional matter, I don’t think Roe vs Wade employs sound judicial reasoning, and it seems to me that our founding document, properly read, would leave the matter to the states. Personally, I’d endure a lot of suffering to avoid being complicit in an elective abortion (as opposed to one undergone to protect the health of the mother). But I am against laws banning abortion. Though I believe that human life starts very early in a pregnancy, I am not certain enough I’m right to send someone to jail based on what is, for me, a guess.
Now that Friederdorf has inoculated himself against charges that he’s too pro-choice (“abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!”) he’s free to mansplain about how other pregnant ladies should feel, especially after watching how Sarah Palin handled her last pregnancy.
As a general matter, Sarah Palin and her politics of victimhood, personality and resentment are negative influences on American political culture. On the subject of abortion, however, she has shown one way forward. Her decision to have a Down syndrome baby surely helped stigmas against developmentally disabled kids to fall, and her daughter’s pregnancy and subsequent celebrity also sent the message that carrying an accidental pregnancy to term is a doable thing that needn’t destroy one’s life. (It also reduced the stigma attached to teen pregnancy — a likely precondition for significantly reducing the abortion rate, as many social conservatives have come to see.)
I would love to know if Friedersdorf, after finding out a friend was pregnant (or a parent of a teenager) would honestly tell them “Look Sarah Palin/Bristol Palin decided to come to term, so you can too!” Of course not. It’s bullshit punditry that sounds reasonable but in fact makes no sense in a real-world application. But it’s split-the-baby-down-the-middle stance means Friedersdorf is a very serious thinker about abortion.
Friedersdorf is under the delusion, either because he’s a man or because he’s never spoken to an actual woman, that women turn to abortion because of cultural reasons and that if we just change the culture, by having more movies like Knocked Up and Juno, we can reduce abortions in America.
Of course this makes no sense at all, since popular culture almost NEVER portrays abortion as a reasonable option, but for some reason it’s still a very popular option amongst women who find themselves unable to carry a pregnancy to term. Perhaps Friedersdorf, and other “very serious pundits” like himself, instead of making sure they have plausible deniability on the abortion question, should actually talk to women who’ve had abortions and figure out if a change in “culture” might have made them change their minds. Perhaps that would be a culture of universal healthcare, inexpensive daycare and housing, as well as an economy with lower than 9 percent unemployment. Let’s change that culture first instead of believing ladies need to watch Knocked Up a few more times.