Katha Pollitt recently penned ( see http://www.thenation.com/article/205049/theres-reason-gay-marriage-winning-while-abortion-rights-are-losing) another one of her astute
analyses of the failure of reproductive rights to gain traction with the
American public. She points out that gay rights are on a juggernaut to legality
and respectability. She sets forth a number of reasons, a few of which deserve
Sexual freedom – the Puritanical culture demands punishment
for women (not men). So true. But Pollitt doesn’t say why. We’ll get to that.
Men don’t see reproductive rights (being for women) as being
that important. Polls show that men and women support (and oppose) abortion
rights almost equally and always have since polling began after Roe. She
doesn’t mention the so-called men’s rights movements, which see abortion rights
as being antithetical to a man’s right to become a parent only with his
consent. Nor does she mention the uncomfortable truth that women oppose
abortion rights almost equally with men.
Pollitt points out that low-income women suffer with
abortion restrictions. So true. She doesn’t mention that many low-income women
also support restrictions on abortion rights. So what is going on? Are they
demented? Under their husband’s thumb?
Pollitt goes on to mention that marriage equality takes
nothing away from anyone, whereas abortion and contraception “give power to
women and take it from others: parents, employers, clergy and men.”
Abortion and contraception are about reproduction and who
controls it. It is, in the view of many, a zero sum game – either men control
when a child is to be conceived and born, or a woman does, though ideally it is
a decision made jointly. So why do some women oppose having that control? I
mean, it is their body, their health, and their life.
In a Gallup Poll from 2012 (the most recent I could find
with this breakdown) those with a household income of over $75,000 called
themselves pro-choice versus pro-life by 58-36, whereas with those with a household
income of less that $30,000 the ratio swung the other way, 41-46.
One reason might be that low-income women, and men, see
family formation and a male income as vital to survival and see restrictions on
their own, and other women’s, reproductive rights as contributing to this. Male
reasons include increasing paternity certainty that their children are theirs
(DNA testing may be too new to have changed evolved behavior) –hence the
Puritan culture that punishes women for infidelity. Restrictions on
contraception and abortion also decrease the ability of husbands to stray with
impunity – this is in a wife’s interests. Since contraceptive sauce for the
goose is contraceptive sauce for the gander, women will give up this right for
a, in their view, more vital goal. Restricting the reproductive rights and
liberty of the “other woman” helps keep husbands home.
Women and men have reproductive strategies, sometimes
individually sometimes in partnership. Contraception and abortion are
inextricably intertwined with these. It is all about reproduction. There is a
battle of the sexes, like it or not. It’s just that not all women see reproductive
freedom as being in their reproductive interests, just as not all men see
reproductive freedom for women as being antithetical to theirs.
Margaret Sanger and her family members are best known as birth-control pioneers. Yet three of them were also artists. Now their watercolors are on display at the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s gallery in Portland, Me.
The work includes pieces by Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who took up painting after moving to Tucson in the late 1930s for her health, making mostly desert scenes. Her husband,William Sanger, was a painter and an architect, who began displaying his work in the 1910s; much of it featured stormy landscapes of Maine, where he was a frequent visitor.
Their grandson Alexander took up drawing and watercolors after his retirement as president and chief executive of New York City’s Planned Parenthood in 2000. He, too, paints on the Maine coast as well as in New York, where he is chairman of the International Planned Parenthood Council.
“I’m proud to be following in my grandparents’ footsteps in multiple ways,” Mr. Sanger said in a telephone interview. Particularly “haunting,” Mr. Sanger said, is his grandmother’s painting of a woman with three children walking away from an adobe church in the desert — which is something of a self-portrait, he said. Margaret Sanger had three children, and was indicted on charges of violating the Comstock law, which made it a crime to offer contraceptive information through the mail. “My grandmother’s holding a little girl’s arm and that’s my aunt, who died at age 5 of pneumonia,” he said. “The death was closely connected to circumstances — that my grandmother was in exile out of the country for a year. This is the one painting that she kept till the end of her life.”
The show, “The Sangers — Artists and Rebels,” which runs through May 29, coincides with the 50th anniversary of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Information: 207-232-4123. ROBIN POGREBIN
With reproductive freedom in jeopardy, Alexander Sanger, grandson of renowned family planning advocate Margaret Sanger and a longtime leader in the reproductive rights movement, has taken an urgent, fresh look at the pro-choice position—and even the pro-life position—and finds them necessary, but insufficient. In Beyond Choice he offers the first major re-thinking of these positions in thirty years.
“Well researched and readable, Beyond Choice should be required reading for both pro-choice and pro-life supporters.” —Governor Christine Todd Whitman