RE: Jessica Valenti, “Abortion Rights are Already Under Siege – and it’s only going to get worse.”

Today, Guardian writer Jessica Valenti posted an article about abortion rights in America, one in a long chain of Trump-hysteria baiting. Before I delve in to responding to this article, I’d like to first clarify my views on abortion. As far as America is concerned, I agree with Valenti in that it should not be banned, but I do think the decision of whether or not to ban abortion should be left in the hands of the states, and therefore advocating the removal of Roe vs. Wade. I think there are double standards that need to be addressed and I also think that abortion in itself should be a moral not a legal issue.

Valenti begins her article by listing off a series of cases where women induce their own abortions, some through coat-hanger abortions, and are subsequently arrested for it; likening this to the 1950s, she says “I don’t describe this horrific scenario to remind you of a time when abortion was illegal and how bad it was for women.” Valenti writes “just a few months before Donald Trump said women who have abortions should be “punished”, a woman in Tennessee was arrested for trying to end her pregnancy with a hanger.” Stepping aside the seemingly obvious attempt here to blame Trump for this woman’s actions for something he said during his campaign, which he retracted, Valenti appears to be making her first in a series of logical missteps. She begins her article by saying how bad it is that women still perform their own abortions, before then suggesting that punishing women for performing their own abortions, harming themselves and the child, is wrong also. A theme throughout the article in fact is that abortion need be legal to prevent self induced abortions, and yet to criminalise self induced abortions should be against the law. (Although to be fair, she never actually advocated making self induced abortions legal, she simply seems to be whining that it happens, but shouldn’t be prevented from happening, even though the law currently permits abortion). However, let’s look at the examples she gives.

Anna Yocca, who tried to abort her foetus with a wire hanger was sentenced under attempted murder, the police saying that the child (who she did give birth to in the end) would be “forever harmed” by the injuries sustained. Now, I would argue this is a form of child abuse if “attempted murder” is not a sufficient claim, because Yocca was 24 weeks pregnant. At that stage the baby not only can feel pain, but is even developing the ability to hear. Her next example is a woman named Purvi Patel in Indiana who suffered a 20 year sentence for taking pills which led to the miscarriage of her unborn child, at 23-24 weeks also. Her final example was a rare case of Bei Bei Shuai who took rat poison to try and commit suicide, which inevitably led to the death of her child, at 33 weeks.

Valenti then goes on to tie these examples to another narrative when she says “let’s be clear, women, especially women of color, are already being punished for abortion.” Ignoring that Anna Yocca was white, I suppose the “especially” there was her cherry picking of two minorities and one white girl. She later claims that the amount of women who try to self-abort is indeterminable, “I say countless because we literally do not know the number of people who attempt their own abortions” therefore making it impossible for her to deduce that “women of color” (as if it makes a difference, although we’ll get on to that later) are self-aborting at a higher rate than white women.

Valenti talks about Trump’s vow to leave the issue of abortion in the hands of individual states, now this is an interesting point. If you are in favour of legalised abortion, then on the surface it would make sense to want it to be legal country-wide and not have the possibility of a state outlawing it. However, I will put this to you, let’s say you elect somebody as president of your country that decides to pass a law allowing the issue of abortion to be decided by the president. If this president agrees that abortion should be legal, then you will rejoice, however, by giving this power to the government and not the states you are opening a door for somebody to use this power to make abortions illegal country-wide. You can’t always guarantee that your advocate will be elected, so why then is removing this power from the government, allowing for some but not all states to ban abortion, worse than what you did by giving this power to the government and allowing in the future for all states to ban abortion? Valenti should be happy that Trump is bypassing his own views on “punishing” women who have abortions (as she claims), by giving up the power to decide, a power that she has allowed him, and cheered him, to have by advocating it for previous candidates.

Valenti brings up Mike Pence, stating that he “signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country as governor of Indiana.” Of course she fails to mention what these restrictions are, although it’s clear she knows as even following her own source you can find that Pence’s restrictions were predicated on forbidding abortions if done only on the basis of “sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry or disability, including down syndrome,”  now, for Valenti’s claim that “women of color” are suffering, it seems odd to be in favour of abortions for babies of colour, because of their colour alone.

Valenti goes on to seemingly make the case that because some women, unspecified amounts by her, self-abort simply because they don’t want to see a doctor, or “they’re the kind of person who like to do herbal treatments or take vitamins for their healthcare in general” (quoting Dr. Daniel Grossman), we should therefore be allowing self-induced abortions. She says “if reproductive rights were not in such imminent danger, now might have been a good time to start expanding options for women who don’t want clinic care but instead want to end their pregnancies at home.” The problem here of course, is that if this is her argument, why was she presenting cases of women performing coat hanger abortions being arrested as morally wrong? Is her point that murdering a child at 24 weeks is fine so long as it isn’t done by hanger, and if it is done by hanger it’s only proof we need more options than hanger and they shouldn’t be punished for it?

It becomes hard to pin down her point here, especially when she goes on to cite in big quotes “no woman should fear arrest or jail time because she ends her pregnancy or seeks medical help in this situation.” Well, Valenti, you haven’t proven that women are arrested for ending their pregnancy, nor have you proven they are arrested for seeking medical help. All you’ve proven is that they are arrested for stabbing a 24+ week foetus to death with a metal object.

She follows on from this with her Trump-hysteria close, that women are seeking long term birth control measures like IUDs and buying up Plan B pills for fear of losing contraceptive insurance, despite Trump’s claim that he is against requiring a prescription for purchasing birth control. But then she ends the piece with the following point, “if somebody wants an abortion they will find a way to get one… so let’s make sure they can do that safely, no matter who the president is.” The only problem with this, and I don’t largely disagree with the sentiment, is how do you expect to ensure they can do it safely, regardless of the president, by allowing the president full control over abortion rights?