Biological and social reality

Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I found Mr. Heidersdorf's accusation (Empire, Jan. 12) that pro-choice groups and individuals are "living in a world of euphemisms and slogans" incongruous. In fact, it is the "right-to-life" groups that base their movement on a distortion of biological and social reality, and promote their cause by the most flagrant and incendiary sloganeering. Their repeated equation of the termination of a pregnancy with "killing babies" and "slaughtering innocent lives" (while waving placards with bloody fetuses) are the most blatant of these tactics.

Basic biology and basic common sense inform us that a zygote or a first-trimester fetus is just not the same entity as a living, breathing baby. Our history and Constitution tell us that one group cannot be allowed to force its religious beliefs on others. Again, basic common sense should advise us of the dangerous absurdity of a society in which a fetus (or even a fertilized egg!) has rights equal to (or even exceeding) those of a pregnant woman.

Mr. Heidersdorf's sneering defamation of Planned Parenthood as an "abortion business" and his libel of Margaret Sanger, with whom my grandfather, a professor of sociology and a Methodist minister, worked in the 1920s, as a eugenicist and a racist are proof of his group's readiness to distort facts. Margaret Sanger founded the Planned Parenthood Federation on the principle that every child should be wanted and loved. To that end she created access to birth control for low-income, minority, and immigrant women - access already enjoyed by the privileged. Sanger vocally opposed eugenicists who supported passage of the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924. Far from being racist, Sanger worked closely with black leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois to provide family planning and health services to women who, because of their color, were denied access to their city's health and social services. She was praised by none other than Martin Luther King, who in 1966 stated "Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her."

In her day Sanger promoted contraception rather than abortion. Because it was illegal, there were high rates of illness, sterilization and death associated with the procedure; a horrific situation to which the anti-choice movement would have us all return. In Alaska, one of their intermediary goals is to prevent abortion funding for the poorest women, once more creating (as in Sanger's time) an underclass of citizens lacking full access to health care needs. When the legislators return to Juneau, I hope we take the opportunity to praise those individuals who refused to support this unjust act.

Janet Smoker


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