Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What Does the Morning After Pill Do and What do Abortion Opponents want?


I think one of the most significant issues in the fight over the Morning After Pill is knowledge of what it does. Those who are against it say that it causes an abortion. But "Jackie Payne of Planned Parenthood accused Plan B opponents in the states of mounting 'an active attempt to blur the line and confuse people about emergency contraception -- saying it's abortion when it's not. Our job is to explain how emergency contraception avoids later abortions, and is in fact a win-win for everyone.'"

I don't think it is an active attempt to blur the line. An abortion is termination of a pregnancy, and a pregnancy occurs not when an egg is fertilized, but when it implants within the uterus. But those who oppose abortion (for the most part) believe that life begins at conception, not implantation. When they say they oppose abortion, what they mean is that they oppose termination of a fertilized egg -- this is what the morning after pill does.

The morning after pill does not technically cause an "abortion," but it does something equally objectionable to the Right to Life crowd. They aren't trying to confuse people or blur lines, they are just using the word "abortion" in a technically incorrect way. They would be more correct if they said "emergency contraception destroys a fertilized egg." Instead they use an inaccurate shorthand, "emergency contraception causes abortion."


What do abortion opponents want? Jude suggests that they want to control the reproductive rights of women, but I disagree. Along the same lines, I recently read (I believe it was in Slate) a piece that characterized abortion opponents as bigots, presumably because the affect on women is greater than the effect on men.

The problem with these characterizations is that they fail to recognize the true motivations of the opposing side in the debate. Abortion opponents aren't trying to change the rights of women for the sake of affecting the sexual and reproductive rights of women -- they oppose abortion because it destroys what they believe to be human life.

To analogize, I'm not a racist if I oppose prison reform even though a greater percentage of African American men are incarcerated and I'm not an anti-Semite because I oppose some aspect of Israeli foreign policy. One can have principled reasons to take a policitical position that adversely affects American minorities without racist or bigotrous motivations.

I'm not sure if I've made these points well enough because I'm also trying to pay attention in class. But comments are welcome.