Sunday, June 12, 2005

When I’m ready: more on the language of reproductive rights


On the heels of George Lakoff’s wrong-headed article on the language of abortion rights, which I discussed here nine days ago, has come a similar piece by William Saletan in Slate, advocating the linkage of reproductive rights to something he vaguely refers to as “responsibility.” I’ve been corresponding with Bionic Octopus (who was good enough to praise my previous post in her blog) about Saletan’s article, and she has now posted an excellent dissection of it, including excerpts from my side of our correspondence (i.e., material I haven’t posted here). Read it now, then hit the back key for some final stray thoughts from me.

Hello again. Good, isn’t she? BionOc quotes an earlier Saletan article which recommended that the message should be that “The abortion is not the end of the story. Kids and family are the story, ‘when I’m ready.’” She responds: “If the supposed left has ever produced a more crystalline formulation of the idea that a woman's body is ultimately, teleologically a reproductive vessel, I have yet to see it.” Right: Saletan does not consider a rejection of the (perceived) duty to reproduce an acceptable option. The “when I’m ready” approach infantilizes women, by suggesting not that they’re mature enough to be trusted with the choice of abortion, but that they’re too immature to be trusted with a child. He empowers women by disempowering them (and probably expects to be thanked for it). And it relegates abortion to a stage of life women are expected to grow out of. However it is society which has, hopefully, grown out of its paternalistic phase, and people like Mr. Saletan must outgrow their desire to circumscribe the rights of others.

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