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‘Trust Women’ Is A Totally Inadequate Response To The Abortion Question


Salon published a column this week by an outspoken abortion advocate attempting to convince readers that when it comes to the question of abortion, the answer should always be to simply “trust women.”

Amanda Marcotte argues that women know what they’re doing when it comes to abortion, and we should all leave it at that. “The question is whether or not women can be trusted to make decisions for themselves like adults, or whether they should be relegated to second-class status, stripped of the right to bodily autonomy,” she writes.

This hyperbolic statement actually says nothing about the morality of abortion or why it should be legal for a mother to take the life of her child. Nor does it address the status of the unborn child, a human being whose life hangs in the balance during every abortion decision.

In any case, Marcotte starts off her column by explaining that “trust women” was the motto of the late Dr. George Tiller, an abortionist who was killed in 2009 by what Marcotte refers to as  an “anti-abortion terrorist.” By referencing Tiller right out of the gate, she is sending a clear message: “Trusting women is the reasonable approach to abortion. Look at what ‘anti-abortion terrorists’ are doing to those who practice abortion.”

Emotional appeals aside, the truth is that it doesn’t matter who uttered the phrase first, or ever for that matter. The phrase either has merit or it doesn’t. It is either worth following, or it isn’t. The origin of the quote is irrelevant.

Speaking of irrelevant, Marcotte puts forward a fair amount of research in the column. She cites studies about people’s attitudes toward women who have abortions, attitudes about which biological sex understands abortion better, beliefs about which demographic of women is most likely to access abortion, employment numbers of women who are denied abortions, and some information about how easy it is to access abortion in Peru.

None of the numbers demonstrate why “trust women” is a slogan worth embracing, nor do they explain why abortion should be a legal option in the first place. Virtually every number and study put forth in Marcotte’s column is wholesale irrelevant to that point.

Nevertheless, let’s consider this idea of “trust women” when it comes to unplanned pregnancies and abortion. Certainly most would agree that an unplanned pregnancy is a life-changing event, and produces a level of stress that many cannot imagine.

Let’s consider a few different scenarios. Imagine you walk in and find a friend engaging in self-injurious behavior, perhaps cutting. You gasp, and tell her to put the razor blade away. She explains that this is the best way she can think of to manage her stress levels, and that you should trust her to know what is best for her as she proceeds in her life. School and relationships are difficult, she says, and this is how she has chosen to handle the stress.

In another scenario, you notice that another friend is slowly slipping into the grips of alcoholism. You decide to confront the friend and encourage her to seek help. The friend becomes visibly upset, and with a raised voice, she proceeds to tell you that you don’t understand the difficulties of juggling parenthood, marriage, and work all at once. Your friend explains that the alcohol helps to “take the edge off,” and she tells you not to worry because she has determined that alcoholism is the best way for her to manage her life. “Trust me,” she says.

Now either of these situations could certainly involve either men or women, but since we are here talking about “trust women,” the scenarios involve females. These are both frightening situations, and situations that need to be handled delicately. But most of us would agree that under no circumstances would the correct answer be to just “trust her.” Most reasonable people would agree that the correct answer is not to allow our friends to continuing following a path to self-destruction. The appropriate choice would be to intervene and attempt to help your friend understand that the aforementioned choices are destructive and, at the end of the day, create more problems than they solve.

The point of those scenarios is not to compare women who get abortions with self-injurers or alcoholics, or to compare abortion with self-injury or alcoholism. The point is to establish the premise that there are some situations in which “trust women” is simply not a sufficient or defendable response. The same would apply to men. We don’t let our male friends just slip into destructive behavior while uttering sweet nothings of “Well, I guess I trust him.”

Bottom line: People don’t always choose the behavior that is best for them, and that includes both men and women. Sometimes a personal intervention is the appropriate response.

Now one could argue that abortion is different. One could say that it’s not a self-destructive behavior, and while I would vehemently disagree, we can set aside that discussion for now. A person might also point out that while alcoholism might lead to illegal behavior, neither it nor cutting are illegal behaviors in and of themselves. Nor should they be. Abortion advocates are likely to believe that abortion fits into the same category. Even if we agree that abortion is destructive, it should still remain legal for individuals who believe it is in their best interests.

Let’s consider yet one more scenario. Let’s say one day you find out that your friend, who has been struggling with drug addiction, has recently begun engaging in the selling of said drugs. Well, that’s illegal, you think, and not your cup of tea, but you trust her to proceed with her life in whatever way she thinks best. Not the greatest response from a friend, but you believe in letting people choose the path they believe best for themselves.

Then you discover that her target market is, of all people, junior high students. Children. Now you’re probably angry, and rightfully so. Now the problem is more than just self-destructive behavior. It’s more than a personal life choice. It’s more than just a matter of needing to “trust her.” Now she has involved other human beings, children, in her destructive life choices. “Trusting her” is not a sufficient response because even if one believes drug activity is a personal choice, most agree that involving children is not okay.

Further, dealing drugs to children is and should be illegal. Sometimes a personal intervention is not enough. The appropriate response here is to alert authorities and ensure the cessation of the unjust behavior. Indeed, in many places, a person would have a legal obligation to do so.

Again, the point is not to compare women who get abortions to drug dealers. We are establishing premises, and the premise holds that there are some behaviors, some injustices, that should be illegal, protected against, and not tolerated.

So first, it’s clear that there are some situations where “trust women” is not sufficient, and intervention is the more appropriate response. It’s not a knock on women, it’s just a realization that men and women do not always make choices in their own best interests. Next, It’s also clear that in situations where one human being is engaging in an unjust behavior toward another human being, intervention, including legal intervention, is sometimes appropriate in order to put an end to that behavior.

So is abortion a situation where “trust women” is a sufficient response, or is intervention the more appropriate course of action?

It’s clear where abortion fits in this discussion. By definition, elective abortion is the intentional taking of a human life by another human being. It is a practice whereby one demographic of human beings is able to legally destroy another demographic of human beings. This is injustice of the highest magnitude, and since it involves another human being, it should be illegal, protected against, and not tolerated.

Further, while abortion advocates would claim otherwise, the fact that an unborn child is so much smaller and dependent actually makes abortion a far worse crime against humanity than, for example, selling drugs to junior high students.

Reasonable people acknowledge that it is the responsibility of everyone to protect the well-being of children. The smaller the child, the more responsibility we have to protect him or her. It is nonsensical to argue that, when we witness a crime against a child, “trust him” or “trust her” is a sufficient response to the perpetrator.

And so it is with abortion. Abortion destroys the tiniest and most defenseless human beings of all. Whether women know what they are doing or not, the answer to the question of whether we should “trust them” as they engage in the behavior where they destroy their unborn children is a resounding “no.”