Opinion

Media’s abortion blinders on full display in piece about satanist’s abortion

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There is very little connection between whether a pro-abortion project brings anything particularly new or insightful to the table and the media’s likelihood of meeting it with admiring fascination. Case in point: the Washington Post has an interview with Jex Blackmore, Satanic Temple (yep, them again), about her Unmother project, a blog diary of her experience with her own abortion.

Cullen Herout has already started responding to Blackmore’s blog here at Live Action, so I’ll leave critiquing her moral conclusions to him, and encourage you to check out what he’s got so far. But there’s more to say about the press’s skewed, counterproductive approach to abortion, of which Abby Ohlheiser’s WaPo piece on Blackmore is symptomatic…

Blackmore is one of a growing number of women who have told the personal stories of their abortions online. The hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion became a collection point of many of those stories this fall, started in response to federal legislation seeking to defund Planned Parenthood after a series of undercover videos accused the women’s health organization of selling fetal tissues for profit in violation of federal law. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

But Blackmore’s blog is unusual for the conversation about abortion: While it, like #ShoutYourAbortion, directly addresses the social stigma directed at women who have abortions, her blog focuses on her pregnancy before undergoing the procedure, along with the physically painful and emotionally jarring reality of the abortion itself.

Between the above paragraphs was linked another WaPo article from last month about “How #ShoutYourAbortion is transforming the reproductive rights conversation,” which was in much the same vein: the biggest problem in the debate is the lack of personal perspective on how abortion helps women, and getting more positive anecdotes out there will work wonders in washing the stigma away.

But the truth is this isn’t anything new. Contrary to the above, pro-abortion activists have been trying this since long before the latest hashtag or the Center for Medical Progress came along. “My Abortion. My Life” started collecting anecdotes to fight the “stigma” in January. More than a year ago, it was the Not Alone project and Emily Letts filming her abortion, the latter of which was all the rage among so many who now think there’s something original about #ShoutYourAbortion. Abortionists and activists were bemoaning the need to fight “abortion stigma” the year before. NARAL has 173 “positive” abortion stories. “Thanks, Abortion!” (ugh) dates back to 2010. Glamour Magazine profiled women sharing their abortion stories in 2009. ImNotSorry.net has been going since 2003.

But reading the Post, you’d think Blackmore and the Twitter generation only now stumbled upon the magic formula to win the argument once and for all. Maybe they need to keep telling themselves it simply hasn’t been tried yet as a way of denying that it’s already failed—according to Gallup, none of this decade’s worth of efforts have gotten Americans’ opposition to elective abortion to drop below 54%.

With the national conversation on abortion focusing intensely on the debate over choice and morality of the procedure itself, Blackmore felt, something else gets ignored.

“We’re always talking about choice — the right of the mother, or of the fetus, the ‘unborn child.’ In that conversation, the woman almost gets forgotten. It’s not part of the psyche of the argument,” she said.

“The woman almost gets forgotten” and is “not part of the psyche of the argument”?

Really?

Pro-abortion politicians, activists, and commentators have been so fixated on making the argument solely about the woman that their efforts coined a whole new pejorative for being pro-life: “war on women.” It strains credulity to suggest that Blackmore nor the interviewer who should have questioned her about the manifest falsehood of the statement could be unfamiliar with the phrase.

Nobody’s forgetting that women are involved (well, except for Bernie Sanders forgetting about pro-life women). Scarcely a day goes by without a pro-lifer in the blogosphere or on the campaign trail getting assailed with “don’t you know what pregnant women go through?” or “how can you say women can’t decide for themselves?” and so on. We’re constantly answering challenges about alleged insensitivity to the fairer sex.

To then be told we’re not taking women into consideration—by the same people who really are trying to exclude someone else, the child, from the discussion—is preposterous.

“I think overwhelmingly the results of me documenting this process have been that there is a greater need for a conversation and understanding and support for women who are pregnant and planning an abortion, from the community at large,” Blackmore said. And that includes among the “pro-choice” movement.

“The abortion procedure for me was painful and kind of horrible for me personally,” Blackmore said. “I think there’s a fear of discussing that because people are afraid about feeding into the anti-choice rhetoric.”

It’s true that “painful and kind of horrible” aspects of experiences don’t necessarily condemn a procedure—root canals can be nasty business too, and that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them—but any admission that there’s something potentially “horrible” should at least spark some exploration of the possibility, a determination of whether the horribleness is something superficial and subjective, or points to a darker truth.

Similarly, pro-choicers’ self-proclaimed ambivalence to talk about what they’re supporting in real candor or depth ought to be a subject worthy of its own separate interview. The question it raises—how can being honest about abortion help abortion’s opponents if the procedure really is noble and important?—practically asks itself.

This comment, and the rest of the false premises exposed above, were golden opportunities for a more critically-minded interviewer to practice some real journalism and produce a unique and valuable abortion interview for a change. Alas, it was not to be—because much like Jex Blackmore, the mainstream press is absolutely convinced that abortion’s legitimacy is obvious, and that the only reason their fellow Americans don’t see it is because they haven’t been told so enough.

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