As public relations campaigns go, proudly proclaiming "We Had Abortions'' probably isn't going to win any Addy awards.
Such is the gist of Ms. Magazine's current campaign to thwart trends toward curtailment of abortion. The Oct. 10 issue of the feminist magazine features a cover story titled "We Had Abortions,'' as well as a petition signed by thousands of women who, well, have had abortions.
And who are not one bit sorry.
The campaign was organized to put a woman's face on abortion, as Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal put it, and as a counterpunch to pro-life testimonials from women who regretted their abortions.
The fact that many women feel shame, guilt and loss and are willing to say so has created a snag in the fabric of pro-choice arguments that focus only on the technical aspect of abortion.
On Wednesday, Smeal told MSNBC's Tucker Carlson that abortion is "a medical procedure, that's obvious.''
Actually, it's not obvious. Abortion certainly involves medical personnel and equipment, but the result is something more than merely medical. It is also human or more to the point inhuman.
To put an accurate face on abortion would require something that strict pro-choicers refuse to acknowledge: That abortion really has three faces that of the mother, the father, and that of the ... what do we call it? Fetus is so South Park these days. How about the quirky "products of conception from your termination''?
That's how hospital administrators a few years ago in Glasgow, Scotland, labeled the post-abortion remains from Nicola McManus, who had induced the miscarriage of her nine-week-old "baby,'' as I prefer to call it, upon taking the RU486 "abortion pill.''
McManus was startled to discover the remains in a jar resting on a shelf in her hospital room. Her outrage at the careless hospital staff brought tears and the sort of statement Ms. & Co. prefer not to hear: "Women need more counseling before abortions, not less,'' said McManus. "I will never get over what happened to me.''
A nine-week-old fetus, for the record, has a heartbeat, a closed circulatory system, a respiratory system, eyes, ears and brain function. She can't go shopping yet, but she can squint, swallow, move her tongue and make a fist. She is not, in other words, "just a clump of cells.''
The problem with petitions and "I Had An Abortion'' T-shirts, such as those hawked by Planned Parenthood, is that they trivialize the deeply emotional and spiritual consequences many women suffer. They also deny girls and young women access to the nobler feminist position that knowledge is power.
We insist on informed consent for appendectomies or tooth extractions, but not abortions. As a result, American daughters now coming of age will see only the go-girl aspect of sexual freedom without the whoa-mama revelation of maternal awe.
The latter isn't learned from a textbook, but is experienced during that moment of personal reckoning when one realizes that a fetus is unequivocally a baby. My own transformative thinking from an unflinching pro-choicer to a disclaiming pro-lifer came with childbirth and motherhood.
After experiencing the humbling power of creation, it was impossible for me to view abortion as anything but the taking of a life. That is the truer lesson feminism should impart to its little sisters.
Now for the painful disclaimer I hinted at above. It begins with "Nevertheless,'' and ends with "I am reluctantly pro-choice.'' The very bottom line is that abortion ultimately is a personal decision. That said, I favor far stricter limits than most pro-choicers, beginning with "six weeks and time's up.''
I figure 42 days is enough time for a gal to figure out whether she's up for motherhood. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a sane remedy to appalling recklessness.
As I differ with pro-choicers, I also differ with pro-lifers who insist that once abortion is outlawed, hearts and minds will follow. It is more likely that abortion will continue, but will become more dangerous and even more hideous.
Hearts and minds indeed must be changed, and feminists if they really care about women should lead the charge. By showing and telling the unfiltered truth, abortion eventually will die of natural causes.
Flaunting abortion on T-shirts and petitions may make for radical fashion, but the models and signatories aren't likely to sway people in the hoped-for way. For beneath the message is a callousness that merely reiterates the lack of empathy implicit in every abortion. Likely few will be inclined to award empathy in return.