When religious zealots pressed down hard on Stephen and the early Christians, they intended to stomp out the nascent movement before it got any traction. They were unsuccessful. Chapter 8 of Acts tells the story of how Christianity spread in its early days: It spread through persecution. Though the leaders of the day intended to stop the movement, they, instead, caused it to spread more rapidly. As the Christians were persecuted, they fled to other places, where they preached the gospel to more people. In this way, persecution had the opposite effect of what was intended by the persecutors.
A similar opposite effect phenomenon is found today in the outcome of abortion. Abortion was touted as a giant step forward in women’s rights. Its promise was liberty for women, giving them complete control of their bodies and their futures. President Obama recently marked the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v Wade decision with comments, again, applauding the decision as a victory for women’s rights. But I wonder if the foray into full “reproductive health” (as it is euphemistically referenced) isn’t turning out to have the opposite effect for women.
What do I mean? Two recent studies are building a case against the goodness of abortion for women. Specifically, Richard Stith, in the article “Her Choice, Her Problem” for First Things, chronicles the oppression which has followed women since the onset of abortion in 1973. Clearly, this is an opposite effect. Interestingly, he shows that even feminists could foresee this opposite effect. He traces the arguments from pro-abortion feminist Catherine MacKinnon which were made during the early debates on abortion but were never heeded by abortion advocates. Stith shows through a review of MacKinnon’s arguments and present statistics on the declining freedom of women how abortion has actually had the opposite effect from that which pro-abortion feminists intended. In short, his argument boils down to this:
“The presence in the sexual marketplace of women willing to have an abortion reduces an individual woman’s bargaining power.”
Men, it seems, hold the upper hand in sexuality, leaving the woman alone to deal with its consequences. The man is free to have casual sex with the woman without fear of consequences. At one time, she might use the fear of conceiving to opt out of sexual favors, but she has lost that bargaining power. Now, she must yield because abortion “solves” the contraception problem. If she won’t allow sexual favors, he will find a woman willing to have an abortion who will allow it. Then, if there is a pregnancy, he is free to leave her all alone to decide what she does “with her body.” Abortion empowers men and leaves women more vulnerable. If you don’t believe that, compare the number of unwed mothers before abortion in 1973 and after abortion today. Look at the number of women living in poverty today contrasted with 40 years ago. Economists call this “the feminization of poverty.”
And, building on the reality pointed out by Stith, Maggie Gallagher points to a new book which studies sexuality in America: Premarital Sex in America by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker.
Gallagher points out from their study that abortion appears to end with depression in women. Even further, Gallagher points out that the depression comes at least partially from the drastic increase in low commitment sexual encounters. Because the abortion culture has produced a freedom for men to use women for sex without commitment, it has further pushed women into the role of being used merely for sex—any sex which the man prefers without any commitment to the woman.
In short, Gallagher says, “…we have created a sexual culture that empowers young males (even as it stunts their incentives to grow to become successful, confident and happy family men) and disempowers women.”
Abortion may have had the opposite effect its original adherents intended.