My mother forwarded an email to my sister and I about women’s voices in the media. The following chart was included in the email:
This was a paper I wrote for a Culture and Communication class in my first semester of college. I’m not a confident writer (I believe I’m rather weak at it actually) so this post is a rather hard one for me. There have been many changes in the debate since writing it and there was a prompt for the paper that I had to cater to but I still want this to be published to raise more awareness and to give myself a voice.
Our country is divided on many topics. In this presidential election, like many others, our country cannot come to consensus. Women’s reproductive rights are a very popular topic that divides our country, specifically with the issues on abortion. The largest problem with the issue of abortion is that our country has differing notions of reality. We cannot decide what “life” is. Another large problem is the fact that legislators are allowing their religious views and beliefs influence decisions that determine other people’s lives. The media and politicians reporting on the subject have obstructed facts. The issue of abortion and women’s reproductive rights is a huge cultural problem and remains that way because of all the factors that play into it.
One of the biggest problems with abortion is the fact that we cannot define life. The definition of when life begins is the largest area where we have varying notions of reality. The definition of human life has not been defined in scientific dictionaries. In fact, it changes frequently. Frequent writer on abortion issues, Dr. James Aluoch, believes “social contexts change, religious morals fluctuate, or new knowledge about the process of embryo development is obtained” are all factors that relate to why we cannot define life. Human life when relating to abortion has been defined many ways. Many people in our society believe that human life begins with the fertilization of an egg. On Mitt Romney’s website under the “Values: Marriage, Family, Life” section is written, “Mitt believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view”. However, for others, human life begins when the baby can survive on it’s own, without the support of the mother. The definition of when the life begins relates to the issue of how our culture defines this varying notion of reality; being unable to come up with an understanding.
The misconceptions about abortion that occur in our society are largely related to why we, as a nation, are so undecided on abortion. For example, we have trouble defining human life and abortion. Gail Collins in her article Behind the Abortion War argues, “many anti-abortion activists believe that human life and, therefore, pregnancy begin when the human egg is fertilized and that standard birth control pills cause abortions by keeping the fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.” In this sense even contraception is considered abortion. The ideas behind abortion are not defined and therefor our culture has a problem with how we create definitions related to the subject. Also there are so many people that feel very strongly about the subject that they will even go to the extent, as the news editor Katie Pavlich does, to say that, “President Barack Obama supports infanticide”. These are two contrasting definitions of abortion. This varying notion of reality is something that impacts the lives of many people across our country and across the world especially in terms of how our policies are made.
Another large issue related to abortion is how our culture views whose rights we should protect, the mother’s or the child’s. In many instances conservatives’ notions of reality support that we should protect the child’s rights by making abortion illegal. Mourdock, a conservative with extreme views on abortion believes, “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” In this case Mourdock, like many others try to turn to religion in order to try to come to an understanding about abortion. This notion of reality is that if God intended the rape, then the child was meant to be born. In Mourdock’s it’s hard to understand how he came to his conclusion. He must believe that humans, have no free agency, especially the males that are raping and impregnating women. So, if we cannot control our actions, why should we have any punishments for crimes? Why should women have to suffer because of another person’s actions? Why is religion a factor especially if, as the writer from The Daily Beast Michael Tomasky writes, “a woman [is] told she has to bear such a child, she has no choice in the matter, even if she doesn’t share those same beliefs about life being life, period.” These ideas lead to the notion that everyone should believe in Christian ideals. Mourdock leads to a large misconception that religion, primarily Christianity, is a part of decision-making and should be a factor of the lives of the American people.
Misconceptions caused and spread by the media and politicians also affect the notions of reality when it comes to understanding abortion. FOX news blames the press for obscuring the view of conservatives; reporter Dan Gainor writes, “only the news media made Mourdock’s comment controversial…in newsrooms, where abortion support is nearly unanimous”5. Here the media is influencing the notions of reality. The right’s opinion here is stating that the left influences the media because they are the majority within the profession. FOX news, well known to support conservative viewpoints, obstructs the press just as much as it is claims liberals are. By implicitly stating that only the media is making the comment controversial they are stating a bias within their news production, a factor that largely influences the notions of reality for people that follow Fox news. With the example from Fox news it is important to take all facts at face value. Many politicians such as Jon Kyl state facts to the media that are not true, especially when related to abortion and companies that provide birth control: “’you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does’”3. In reality Planned Parenthood’s website states that out of all their services abortions are only 3%3. Part of this varying notion of reality is a huge misunderstanding because of incorrect facts and bias.
Unlike Mourdock there are many conservatives that believe it’s ok for rape victims to have abortions. In The Cheat Sheet section of The Daily Beast they recap that, “During an interview with CBS News on Monday, Mitt Romney said that he believes abortion should be available to women who have been raped or are the victims of incest”. This varying viewpoint seems to be where most are confused on this subject. In this notion, abortion is murder except when the pregnancy is because of rape. So, if the baby is a “rape baby” then it’s okay to murder it. Which would mean that, according to this logic, either the baby is not a person so it isn’t murder or it is significantly different then other fetuses and not a human life. In this sense then abortion is not a sin under all circumstances. Another question under this notion of reality is if this conception is enforced in law, how would legislation decide to what extent it is okay to have the child aborted in accusations of rape? The philosophical stance against abortion is that murder is murder yet there is a clause to the fact that it is okay to murder in once existing circumstance. The theory of abortion being murder except when circumstances of rape or incest occur is not absolute. This notion has many conflicting viewpoints because as many people have a hard time doing, it is not easy to decide what to support.
Another varying notion of reality is that if abortion is made illegal it will not occur. Yes, making something illegal might stray people away from doing it but in terms of having children this is not the case. Before Roe v. Wade terminating pregnancies was quite common and very dangerous. “Deaths from legal abortion declined fivefold between 1973 and 1985 (from 3.3 deaths to 0.4 deaths per 100,000 procedures), reflecting increased physician education and skills, improvements in medical technology, and, notably, the earlier termination of pregnancy” according to the US National Library of Medicine, proof that legal abortion saves lives, both the mother’s and the babies. In considering the life of the mother and the child abortion is not an easy subject. The loss of a life, child, fetus or whatever the notion of loss is, is not easy to cope with. By denying reproductive rights women’s lives are being put in danger. The notion of reality that if something is made illegal it will not occur is false and can actually be even more harmful because it can cause the loss of an existing life as well as the loss of a future one. In this varying notion of reality it also includes ignoring the reality. Just because something is illegal does not mean it won’t happen.
Another false notion of reality is the fact that people actually want to kill babies if they believe in allowing choice. While being pro-choice one is not pro-murder. Instead it is taking into consideration, in terms of a pro-choice perspective, the aspect that the woman should decide; her rights come first. In a recent ad campaign backing Todd Akin “Kelly”, a rape victim who aborted her child, says, “the reason why I’m supporting Todd Akin is because I love this nation. I love my freedoms. I don’t want to lose my freedoms.” In this way the notion of reality is that only the freedom of a life is being taken away because of the baby. However, the women stating that she doesn’t want to loose her freedoms from a liberal viewpoint or notion of reality would be confused by this statement. The loss of choice on abortion is a loss of a freedom.
There are so many issues that abortion deals with. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings as to when human life begins and what is considered a person. Who’s rights we protect, human rights (the baby’s or the mother’s) is a large debate that divides the left and the right. How the baby was conceived in terms of incest or rape and if those are even factors that should be part of abortion laws. The understanding of alternatives to abortion and whether or not they are fair to force a mother to go through. These issues also largely play into how much the government is able to limit our rights in terms of privacy and personal rights. All these factors related to how our society interoperates their viewpoint and their varying notions of reality. The actions of humans, agency, and religion are all very strong contributing aspects to the notions of reality relating to abortion. The cultural issue of abortion is one that country has not been able to come to consensus on because of all the varying notions of reality that play into the problem. In terms of not being able to decide it’s the largest inclination that we should not be making the choice for others. In terms of women’s reproductive rights women should be able to choose for themselves.
Aluoch, James. Standard Digital News, “Commentary: We Will Never Agree On When Life Begins.” Last modified 3/3/2010. Accessed October 29, 2012. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?
Bassett, Laura. Huffington Post, “Todd Akin Campaign Features Rape Victim in Ad Targeting Women.” Last modified 11/01/12. Accessed November 1, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/todd-akin-ad_n_2059088.html.
Editorial, . The New York Times, “If Roe v. Wade Goes.” Last modified 10/15/12. Accessed October 30, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/opinion/if-roe- v-wade-goes.html.
Collins, Gail. The New York Times, “Behind the Abortion War.” Last modified 4/13/11. Accessed October 30, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/opinion/14collins.html?
Gainor, Dan. FOX News, “Mainstream Media Twists Mourdock’s Comment About God and Life into Something Unrecognizable.” Last modified 10/29/12. Accessed October 30, 2012. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/10/29/mainstream-media-twists-mourdock-comments-about-god-and-life-into-something/.
Howard Kurtz, David Frum. The Daily Beast: Cheat Sheet, “Romney: Abortion OK for Rape Victims.” Last modified 8/27/12. Accessed November 4, 2012. http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2012/08/27/romney-abortion-ok-for-rape-victims.html.
Jon Eligon, Micheal Schwirtz. The New York Times, “Senate Candidate Provokes Ire With ‘Legitimate Rape’ Comment.” Last modified 8/19/12. Accessed November 1, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/us/politics/todd-akin-provokes-ire- with-legitimate-rape-comment.html?_r=0.
Pavlich, Katie. Town Hall, “Listen: Barak Obama Calls Newborn Baby a “Fetus Outside the Womb”.” Last modified 8/24/12. Accessed November 2, 2012. http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2012/08/24/listen_barack_obama_calls_ newborn_baby_a_fetus_outside_of_the_womb.
Romney, Mitt. Mitt Romney’s Website, “Values: Marriage, Family, Life- Abortion.” Accessed November 2, 2012. http://www.mittromney.com/issues/values.
Tomasky, Michael. The Daily Beast, “About Murdock’s Theology.” Last modified 10/25/12. Accessed November 1, 2012. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/25/about-mourdock-s- theology.html.
NCBI, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “Induced termination of pregnancy before and after Roe v. Wade. Trends in the mortality and morbidity of women. Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association..” Last modified 12/9/1992. Accessed November 1, 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1433765.
Quick Overview, “The Abortion Debate.” Accessed November 1, 2012. http://www.quickoverview.com/issues/abortion-debate.html.
 Aluoch, James. Standard Digital News, “Commentary: We Will Never Agree On When Life Begins.” Last modified 3/3/2010. Accessed October 29, 2012. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?
3 Collins, Gail. “Behind the Abortion War.”
 NCBI, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “Induced termination of pregnancy before and after Roe v. Wade. Trends in the mortality and morbidity of women. Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association..” Last modified 12/9/1992. Accessed November 1, 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1433765.