Back on the pro-life movement: a review of a review

So Mollie Ziegler of the New York Sun has reviewed How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, which I also reviewed last week. Let’s take it paragraph by paragraph:

NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s Cristina Page writes a book that fails to even attempt to live up to its title: “How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America” (Basic Books, 256 pages, $24). Instead, its bizarre thesis is that pro-life groups do not attempt to prevent abortion. Rather, “they are against sex, and the sex lives the vast majority of Americans enjoy.”

I’d agree that the book fails to live up to its title: I’d say it’s saved America up to now, but the future is in serious doubt. Now Ziegler claims Page has an alternate thesis, that pro-life groups are against sex. Let’s see if Ziegler shows Page doesn’t prove this thesis.

Her odd claim that pro-lifers oppose sex for pleasure would be laughable were it not espoused with vehemence. A book that critically responds to the political work of either side of the abortion debate would be welcome. Instead, she puts the worst possible construction on a few select positions, notably a view among some pro-life advocates that contraception is to be eschewed. She also conflates pro-life opposition to abortifacients with opposition to all contraception.

Note that Ziegler offers no response to Page’s claim that no pro-life organization supports contraception. If even one group did support contraception, this claim would be easy to disprove. Yet there is no response, only mockery at the very idea of the claim. Then there’s this nonsense about conflating abortifacients with “all contraception.” Page is very clear in the book about the difference between abortifacients and contraception. She points to the overwhelming scientific evidence that neither the birth control pill, nor the “day after pill” is an abortifacient, that they act by preventing ovulation and fertilization, not implantation. She makes a very clear distinction between these contraceptives and true abortifacients, such as the “abortion pill,” RU-486, already banned in the U.S. Note again that Ziegler makes no responses to Page’s argument, just misrepresents and dismisses it.

Physicians who refuse to prescribe morning-after pills are “kooky” and “outrageous.” Their “dubious religious notions” cause them to engage in “vigilante acts of obstruction-by-pharmacist.” Apparently she believes women should not be forced to have children they accidentally conceived, but pharmacists should be forced to act against their conscience.

Wait, I’m confused — is it the physicians, or the pharmacists who are obstructing here? How can physicians engage in “vigilante acts of obstruction-by-pharmacist”? Surely that’s a quote out of context if I’ve ever seen one. The next sentence rises to even higher levels negligence: Ziegler claims Page believes that women should not be “forced to have children.” Okay, so far, so good — I think — I hope that even Ziegler agrees with this part of the sentence. The next part is a huge problem: “they accidentally conceived.” Umm, no. Remember, the “day after pill” doesn’t have any effect on fertilized eggs: the way it works is to prevent ovulation, and possibly to prevent fertilization. The final part is the final straw, suggesting Page believes that “pharmacists should be forced to act against their conscience.” Page said no such thing. She said that patients should be able to go into pharmacies and get the drugs their doctors prescribed. Pharmacies should be obligated to provide staff that can fill the prescriptions prescribed by doctors. Now, if you’re thinking of getting into a career in pharmacy, your employer has every right to make sure you can do your job. But no one’s “forcing” you to work against your conscience. You can always find another job, just like someone uncomfortable with pornography probably shouldn’t be working for the cable company. No one’s forcing anyone to do anything. Except in South Dakota, where they’re forcing rape victims to carry their assailant’s progeny to full term.

Ms. Page is the Ann Coulter of the pro-choice movement. Not only are reports that abortion causes lingering psychological damage false, but girls who have abortions actually function better. Besides, everyone knows that postpartum depression is a more legitimate concern for women.

Uh-oh. I’m confused again. Is the Coulter thing supposed to be a compliment or a slam? Because coming from Ziegler, I’m really not sure. Next Ziegler restates Page’s argument, only sarcastic-like, because sarcasm is always an effective rebuttal for science.

After calling President Reagan a “fundamentalist” and making an obligatory comparison of pro-lifers and Iranian mullahs, Ms. Page writes that the pro-choice movement “has been the realistic movement. And if, as a result, it has given up the high ground of deeply felt, religious intoned ‘values,’ it has gained something else. It has science.”

Okay, let’s just say this quote is taken a wee bit out of context. The “values” Page is speaking about here are the pro-life movement’s repugnant work to dismantle UN efforts to help China end its oppressive “one child” program. I’d take “science” over those “values” any day.

Apart from Ms. Page’s mocking of religious views and contention that science is on her side, It seems that the pro-choice movement is the one in thrall to ideology. The pro-life movement’s tactics of fighting for incremental political gains in state legislatures and court appointments is much more pragmatic than the pro-choice movement’s rigid refusal to concede any ground against abortion on demand.

Let’s remember, Ziegler has done nothing to disabuse us of the notion that science is on Page’s side. I’ll concede Ziegler’s last point: lately the pro-life movement has been much more effective than the pro-choice movement in bringing its agenda forward. But whether Page’s book helps the pro-choice movement or not remains to be seen.

Oh, and one last thing. Did Ziegler ever show us that the pro-life movement isn’t against contraception, or that they’re in the least bit comfortable with recreational, non-procreative sex among even married couples? I’ve quoted her entire review, so I guess not. What she’s done instead is prove Page’s point, that the pro-life movement uses misleading innuendo and pseudoscience in the name of the “belief” that abortion is wrong. Ziegler doesn’t discuss contraception at all in the article (except to wrongly imply that emergency contraception is an abortifacient), when Page’s entire book is about the pro-life movement’s opposition to contraception.

And the pro-life movement laps this shit up. Just take a look at Dave Andrusko’s response to the review on the National Right to Life web site: it’s all about “ripping babies’ heads off” — when this is a book about contraception, not abortion. I guess it’s all right to lie and deceive, as long as you’ve got God on your side.

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