Dana Milbank of Washington Post Thinks Pro-Choicers Need to Chill Out

18 Jan

A guest post from Abigail Collazo. Cross-posted from Fem2pt0

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post thinks the debate surrounding abortion, or what he refers to as “Roe Week,” is absurd.

In his latest column, Milbank criticizes abortion provider Merle Hoffman for raising a ‘false alarm’ about the threat to reproductive rights in this country.  He then goes on the cite the numerous marches and events that will take place on both sides of the debate over the next week as the country celebrates – or laments – the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in this country.

All of this attention troubles Dana Milbank.  He writes, “if these groups cared as much about the issue as they claim, and didn’t have such strong financial incentives to avoid consensus and compromise, they’d cancel the carnivals and get to work on the one thing everybody agrees would be worthwhile — reducing unwanted pregnancies.”

He chastises the choice movement by telling us that “not every compromise means a slippery slope to the back alley.”  He tells us to stop with the “sky is falling” argument and to acknowledge that the majority of Americans have legitimate concerns.

As you can imagine, I’ve never had a man tell me – a feminist – to “simmer down” and “be reasonable” before.  Maybe Dana Milbank doesn’t think the sky is falling, or that reproductive rights are being steadily rolled back in this country, simply because he’s so busy critiquing the “theater” surrounding the debate that he hasn’t bothered to really take a look at what’s at stake.

Milbank is on the right track with his admonishment of the Conservative side to pay more attention to family planning if they really want to reduce abortions.  But if he thinks that’s what we should all be focused on, and it’s the pro-lifers who aren’t willing to compromise on that, then what on earth is he admonishing the pro-choicers for?  Oh yes, for crying wolf and not being reasonable.  I’d like to take this opportunity to remind Mr. Milbank that “being reasonable” is what got us the Hyde Amendment.  Milbank wants us to find common ground with the pro-life movement and work on that.  Except as I’ve written about in the past, there is no common ground with the pro-life movement.  They aren’t anti-abortion; they’re anti-women.

The unprecedented efforts we’ve seen in 2011 to repeal a woman’s right to choose how to live her life and how to exercise agency over her own body goes far beyond just Roe v. Wade.  And yet, Milbank seems to just want us to focus on getting along and finding middle ground in reducing unwanted pregnancies and – always – to learn to play a little nicer.

The sky isn’t falling? The Guttmacher Institute has a solid (yet depressing) overview of 2011 already, so let’s just do a quick review, shall we?

- In all 50 states combined, more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related bills, amendments, and pieces of legislation were introduced.  Of these, 135 were enacted in 36 states, and 68% of these new provisions—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services.

- North Dakota was added to the list of 36 other states that require abstinence-only education.

- Montana, Texas, and New Hampshire all drastically reduced funding to family planning services out of proportion to cuts to other health care services.

- Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah adopted provisions prohibiting all insurance policies in the state from covering abortion except in the most extreme cases (life endangerment).

- Five states adopted provisions mandating that a woman obtain an ultrasound prior to having an abortion.

- Now that Texas and North Carolina have been added to the list, we’re looking at 26 states that mandate that a woman seeking an abortion must wait a certain period of time between getting counseling and having her procedure done.  Even stricter regulations were proposed in South Dakota (don’t even get me started on the host of other choice-related problems in South Dakota -only click through this link if you really want to feel sick.).

I understand that Dana Milbank doesn’t appreciate seeing “gruesome photos of fetuses” or images of bloodied hangers, but there’s a reason everyone’s coming out in full force.  WE’RE NOT GETTING THROUGH.

I’m outraged that “legal” in this country doesn’t mean available, accessible, or affordable.  I’m outraged that in addition to literally trying to close abortion clinics, pro-lifers are trying to enact legislation that would make fetuses into persons (Ohio is the latest, for those who haven’t been keeping track).  I’m outraged that we’re still teaching kids in public schools that women having sex is a bad and dangerous thing – hell I’m outraged that abstinence-only education still even exists.  This debate isn’t just about abortion.  It’s about women’s health, women’s rights, and women’s choices.

Milbank uses as the “hook” in this piece a report commissioned by abortion-rights activist Merle Hoffman to examine the effect of economic need on abortion coverage.  Except one has to wonder if he even bothered to read the report.  The conclusions in the report were not based exclusively on “journalistic” reports, but also on newer research from credible institutions like Gallup and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and from peer-reviewed research that explored the increase in numbers of women choosing abortion for economic reasons. These are more than “journalistic” sources. Furthermore, all the data supported the trend presented, and none contradicted it.  The idea isn’t to wait three years for a full and comprehensive, state by state analysis to realize that there’s something going on.

But my bigger concern is that Dana Milbank thinks the pro-choice movement needs to acknowledge “legitimate concerns” and stop crying wolf.  This is because when it comes to reproductive choice and abortion rights, he doesn’t think the sky is falling.

But I suppose that’s easy to say when the sky isn’t falling on him.

For those who are interested in telling Dana Milbank (@Milbank) why abortion rights really are at risk in this country, you can email him at milbankd@washpost.com or post a comment to his piece.

2 Responses to “Dana Milbank of Washington Post Thinks Pro-Choicers Need to Chill Out”

  1. Oubli January 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    I sent him an email!

  2. Oubli January 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Yup yup, he’s been emailed.

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