The U.S. Anti-Abortion Laws Are Unloving
The anti-abortion laws spreading across the United States of America are an assault on women and girls. Not only do they further corrode any semblance of moral leadership the U.S. might still be thought to possess, they reveal a profound lack of love for America’s people.
In other parts of the world, the need for loving politics has become very clear. This has been partly in response to the unloving example the U.S. has set. It is true that some American politicians recognise the need for love in politics: congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has demonstrated, through her words and actions, that she does. But many American leaders, including President Donald Trump, have rejected love, choosing instead to push a politics of fear and distrust.
Of course, there are those who will argue that the rest of the world should stay out of U.S. affairs — but we will not. This is not only a domestic issue; it has international implications. As one of the great American thinkers, Martin Luther King, Jr., affirmed, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ The U.S. has long held itself up as an example for the world to follow; it has even imposed its influence on others through force. It is right for us to answer injustice with love.
The Politics of Love rejects domination in all its forms. As visionary American thinker bell hooks writes in Feminism is for Everybody, ‘there can be no love when there is domination’. This politics recognises these anti-abortion laws as yet another manifestation of patriarchal control.
The Politics of Love affirms loving values — such as care and listening. These everyday values can guide action and inform policy. I believe that compassion, trust, and responsibility are values that can help us as we think through abortion policy. Let’s consider them one by one.
Compassion requires us to understand that, for most women and girls, the decision whether or not to have an abortion is a very difficult one. It is not always a difficult decision; still, many women find it agonising. (If some men doubt this, it’s because, generally-speaking, we don’t listen to women and girls as carefully as we should.) Policy should be sensitive to people’s needs. As women and girls are those whose well-being is most directly affected by abortion policy, and because their understanding and experience can inform what sensitive policy looks like, they should be at the centre of policy-making on this issue.
Trust encourages us to have faith in women and girls. When we seek to impose unnecessary restrictions on people’s behaviour — when we attempt to control them — we display a lack of trust. All of us should be willing to affirm that women and girls are capable of making decisions, not only for themselves but for others as well. (This is not to say that individuals never require support; but there is a crucial difference between supporting someone and controlling her.) Anti-abortion law is an expression of society’s distrust of women; it is unnecessary and unloving.
Responsibility asks us to support those who are considering abortion. It encourages us to offer optional, non-judgemental support, with the aim not of influencing a woman or girl’s decision, but, rather, of ensuring she has everything she needs. Policy might help us to achieve this. (It is worth nothing that the language of ‘responsibility’ is sometimes used to blame others — as, for example, when it is used to ‘bash’ beneficiaries, to punish people who receive support from the government. Love challenges us to understand responsibility in terms of what we can do, individually and collectively, to nurture each other. Blame and punishment are not part of loving politics.)
Some people will try to argue that anti-abortion laws are an expression of love. (‘It is unloving,’ they might say, ‘to deny unborn children the right to life.’) But if love was motivating these reforms, we would at least expect them to be accompanied by strong provisions for the safety of women and children, not just foetuses. Indeed, considering the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse in the U.S. and the high rates of child poverty, if love was really motivating policy, the sexual safety of women and girls and the well-being of existing children would be lawmakers’ first priority. Reconsidering restrictions on abortion would come later, when those crises had been addressed.
The Politics of Love requires us to reject anti-abortion laws as unloving. We must resist, wholeheartedly, this assault on women and girls, and work to enact loving policy.