Katha Pollitt’s new book of poems, The Mind-Body Problem, has just been published by Random House.
Trust women. That was the motto of Dr. George Tiller, abortion provider and hero. Dr. Tiller trusted women: to know their own life circumstances, to know themselves. Trusting women has an old-fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it, like “sisterhood.” How quaint, the notion that a woman, faced with a crisis pregnancy, can reach into herself and make the decision that’s right for her–at any rate, a better decision than someone else would make for her, someone who doesn’t know her, has never been in her predicament and doesn’t have to live with the consequences.
Someone like, oh, a man. In the immediate aftermath of Dr. Tiller’s murder it was astonishing how many men were called upon to weigh in on abortion on national television. CNN featured William Schneider, Sanjay Gupta and Bill Press. On Fox, Bill O’Reilly defended his use of “baby killer” and “death mill” to describe Dr. Tiller and his clinic. On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann–who the last time I checked in spent a whole segment making fun of Miss Anti-Gay Marriage California’s breast implants with waspish misogynist Michael Musto–had only men: Slate‘s Will Saletan, who thinks we can “end” abortion by stigmatizing women with unwanted pregnancies, because right now everyone is just too kind, and Andrew Sullivan, who knows as much about women’s reproductive lives as I know about soliciting bareback sex on the Internet. Sullivan confessed:
I do think that–I mean, I’m personally opposed to what he does. I actually don’t believe in late-term abortions. But I have to say–on my blog today, a lot of women wrote in and told me their own stories of this. And I was kind of shaken by the fact that most–most women–almost all women that go to these places, are in desperate straits. The children are very, very deformed or ill or will not survive birth or the mother’s health is directly threatened. These are very grave and difficult circumstances.
So Sullivan, who has been an outspoken antichoicer for two decades, is only now finding out why women terminate pregnancies? Shouldn’t that have been part of the basic research? And even after hearing the awful stories, he still, apparently, thinks Dr. Tiller was wrong to help them: women ought to carry anencephalic fetuses to term, give birth to Tay-Sachs babies who will live a few brief agonized years, postpone their own cancer treatment or heart surgery to give birth even if delay means they die, have their stepfather’s baby in middle school. But at least he feels bad about it now.