A much more fair comparison looks like this: a gun-owner’s desire to have access to a gun to protect himself and his family is like the woman’s desire to have access to safe abortion to protect herself and her family. To look at abortion this way is to accept that it is a form of self-defense.
I’ve always been interested in the value of political parallels. As an extension I’m often on the lookout potential false equivalencies. Some years ago, my father and I were talking about the self-described “pro-life” movement. He said, “Isn’t it ironic so many ‘pro-lifers’ are also in favor of the death penalty?” I agreed, but upon reflection decided they could say the same thing about us – the pro-choice crowd. They might ask, “Why are pro-choice people so often also against the death penalty?” For me, I don’t believe ending a pregnancy is the same as ending the life of someone who has lived actually outside the womb for years and years, but if you follow the shallow logic of “the innocent should live and guilty should die,” then being ‘pro-life’ and pro-death penalty makes perfect sense. In my experience, though, the ‘pro-life’/pro-death penalty stances generally fail to acknowledge the complexities of the consequences of forcing a woman to birth a child she can’t or doesn’t want to care for, and of killing a person who has been found guilty of a crime, but that is a different essay.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was posting, talking, reading a lot about Planned Parenthood and the testimony of Cecile Richards in front of a House committee that is seeking to defund it. On Thursday I was posting about yet another mass shooting – this time at a community college in Oregon. On Thursday night, I found myself thinking and discussing a LOT about the parallels between the fight for access: to abortions and to guns. A friend of mine posted the following, which I found incredibly thought-provoking and incisive:
Why aren’t thoughts and prayers an adequate solution for “pro-life” crowd when a “life” is taken by abortion? Why must they seek to completely end access for all others to a safe abortion? And why are thoughts and prayers enough for the “pro-gun” crowd when a life is taken by a gun? When a tragedy happens involving a gun, why are they not clamoring for ways to make sure guns don’t fall into the wrong hands? Why must they oppose with fortress-like strength any attempts to limit access to guns?
I shared the above post, and began talking to my friends online about it. One friend, Liane, though like-minded, presented a Devil’s advocate argument, saying,
“1. The Left wants to put more restrictions on guns. Guns don’t kill people. Guns are utility. People are the problem.
2. The Right wants to put more restrictions on abortion. Abortion kills people. Abortion is not utility. People are the problem.”
She went on to clarify,
From the right’s perspective….it seems their argument is like this: abortion’s only outcome is the death of a human; guns, however, don’t kill people. They are for hunting, for sport, or, okay, for self-defense. Only a criminal would purposely seek to take a human life, with a gun or with abortion. (Unless his name is George Zimmerman….the right can’t suck HIS cock hard enough)
(You can thank HER for that imagery…)
So, while guns serve a purpose other than to kill a person, abortions don’t. Allegedly. Is that a fair parallel, or even a true one? It’s fallacious reasoning to presume the person seeking an abortion does so out of a desire to kill rather than (get this) to live the life they want and that’s best for her.
A much more fair comparison looks like this: a gun-owner’s desire to have access to a gun to protect himself and his family is like the woman’s desire to have access to safe abortion to protect herself and her family. To look at abortion this way is to accept that it is a form of self-defense. Those seeking to outlaw abortion are taking away her ability to defend herself against a number of things. Having to carry a dead fetus to term. Having to continue a pregnancy that endangers her life. Having to endure childbirth when her pregnancy resulted from rape. Having to have a child when she does not want a child. Having a child when she knows she lives in abject poverty and can barely feed the children she has now. These are all situations on which the pregnant woman’s life may depend upon having access to safe abortions, yet the “pro-life” movement wants to strip her of that form of self-defense.
The left wanting restrictions on guns – especially in the wake of these horrible, tragic mass-shootings, is not in the same universe as the right going after access to safe abortions with the venom and deceit and horrible disregard for the lives of women the right seems to have. In comparing how the two things (guns and abortion) are viewed in our culture, consider that unlike guns, our culture doesn’t worship or romanticize abortion. We don’t say, “Ohmygod, I can’t wait until I’m old enough to have an abortion!” We don’t say, “Okay, sweetie – my mommy had this abortion and gave it to me, and when you’re old enough I’ll give it to you.” Our media, games and entertainment don’t make it look cool to have abortions. Our toy stores don’t sell toy abortion kits. When the Pink Legos Towns came out, they did not have little pink Planned Parenthood buildings. We don’t have “Abortion Shows” at convention centers, where it’s legal to purchase an abortion in the parking lot.
In other words, abortions are already viewed with the appropriate gravity. They are already considered a last resort by most, and those seeking them are already experiencing feelings ranging from anxiety to outright tragic despair. Women don’t get abortions frivolously, for improved social status or to show off to their friends. It is not considered “sport.” I’d venture to say that increasing access to them is unlikely to turn it into sport or a status symbol. It’s perfectly reasonable to demand the Second Amendment fans approach guns with the same gravity – even moreso. In fact, someone brilliant (I’m not sure who – if you know, please enlighten me…) suggested reversing the approaches in the following comparison:
To be fair, I actually know quite a few people on the right who are fans of gun rights, but also champion a woman’s right to have access to abortions, and many of the other services organizations like Planned Parenthood provide. They oppose open-carry, accept reasonable limitation on gun ownership and wouldn’t dream of interfering with a woman’s access to any and all manner of healthcare. I know conservatives who think protesters shouldn’t be allowed within a mile of an abortion clinic. Flipping the coin, I also know people on the left who are pro-choice, but also own and enjoy guns. Even of those who don’t own a gun, they don’t necessarily equate gun-ownership with insanity and a lust for blood. They’re cool with gun owners as long as said owners are ultra-careful and super-responsible in the way they use and store them. Such people as these are called “moderates.” Say it with me, class – “MOD-er-ates.” Unfortunately, moderate voices are often unheard, as they seem to be outnumbered. They need to get LOUD. We at least need to see Republicans vocally defending Planned Parenthood. Unlike unicorns, they do really exist!
Yet, I cannot bring myself to say that we need to see Democrats vocally defending gun owners. Why is that? I mean, aside from the fact that I don’t think it’s true… I think it has to do with who holds the power in each situation. The gun lobby already HAS a great deal of power – more than it should. A gun owner already HAS a great deal of power – more than he or she should. The same cannot be said for women lobbying for choice in and access to women’s health care. It must come down to which right I consider more important. More sacred. More worthy. More the underdog. A “pro-lifer’ may think the fetus is the ultimate underdog who needs someone to speak for it. I disagree. In that scenario, they are putting the fetus’ rights above the rights of the woman carrying it, making HER the true underdog. Still. As usual. As history would have it. The woman as the afterthought, unimportant in the equation.
Aliza Worthington grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Baltimore. She began writing in 2009 at the age of 40. Sometimes her writing follows The Seinfeld Model of “no learning, no hugging.” Other times it involves lots of both. She blogs about Life, Liberty and Happiness at “The Worthington Post.” Her work has also appeared in Purple Clover, Catonsville Patch and Kveller and Daily Kos. She has won BlogHer Voice of the Year awards in 2013 and 2015. Follow her on Twitter at @AlizaWrites. She is proud to have an essay in the upcoming anthology, Love Her, Love Her Not, The Hillary Paradox.
Image Credit – Many thanks to Christy Caine and Dan Wilkinson for conceiving of (see what I did there?) and designing the above “Come and Take It” images. They originally appeared in Christy’s brilliant 2012 piece, “Come and Take It” on her blog, Leap of Fate.