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Abortion? Nope. It’s All About Controlling Female Sexuality

Amanda Marcotte has an article at Reproductive Health Reality Check that says what I’ve been saying for a long time, that the anti-abortion crowd is not really concerned about abortion as much as they are about controlling female sexuality. She says it more eloquently than I do, of course. The jumping off point is this new “study” put out by the Family Research Council.

A report examining the demographics of women who have abortions, using self-reported numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics, was recently presented at a Family Research Council conference. Their conclusion? “OMG sluts!”

The researchers—a term that needs to be used somewhat loosely, due to the extensive statistical distortion employed in this paper—were incredibly intent on portraying abortion as a product of sexually loose women on the prowl. They mostly succeed in portraying themselves as remarkably prudish and out of step with mainstream realities. “Almost 90 percent of reported abortions are procured by women who have had three or more (male) sexual partners,” the researchers write, clearly expecting the audience to reel in terror at the idea that a woman might not marry the first boy she kisses. Which means that most women having abortions are … average. Women generally report having had about four male sexual partners, but social scientists are inclined to think the number is probably higher than that, because men report having a much higher average number of partners, and that discrepancy is mathematically impossible. Indeed, one study showed that by telling women that they’re hooked up to a lie detector, the number of sex partners they will cop to goes up. Slut-shaming, such as the kind produced by this report, causes women to round down.

“The fraction of women reporting abortions is far larger among women with multiple sexual partners than among monogamous women,” the study authors write. It’s a classic example of how this paper, which is supposed to be a study, is actually full of misrepresentations and dishonest number-massaging. After all, “monogamous” and “has had multiple partners” are not mutually exclusive groups. No doubt the study authors mean “has only had one partner ever” as their definition of monogamous, a strange and sloppy definition that would mean that a woman who lost her virginity during a one-night stand yesterday is more “monogamous” that a woman whose second marriage has lasted 30 years.

“Eighty-three percent of women who report having an abortion have cohabited at some time,” they write, clearly expecting the audience to find cohabitation to be a shockingly risqué behavior. Again, this makes women who have abortions average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “[M]ost young couples live together first before entering marriage.” By the time they turn 30, three-quarters of women have cohabitated.

It’s almost comical how out-of-touch the authors are with their ready assumption that extremely normal and even boring sexual behavior is scandalous. But, more importantly, this report is indicative of a willingness on the part of anti-choice activists to be open about their hostility to female sexuality, an openness that was, just a few years ago, angrily denied.

And as I’ve continually pointed out, if the goal was really stopping abortion rather than stopping women from controlling their own reproduction and sexuality, they would be in favor of the widest possible distribution of contraception. But they’re not.

Comments

  1. leftwingfox says

    She has another article at Raw Story pointing out the discrepancy between NOM’s “Pro-marriage” stance, and their condemnation of the Beyoncé + Jay-Z tribute to happily married bliss at the Grammies:

    From NOM:

    Rosenberg concludes of the performance, “If marriage is a product that conservatives desperately want to sell, the smartest thing they could do right now is to hire Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a product spokescouple.”

    But as we won’t be quoting any of the raunchy song’s lyrics nor linking to video of the performance, it must suffice to say that we politely decline Rosenberg’s suggestion.

    For our part, we think that neither of the ‘performances’ last night are an ideal starting place for a proper understanding of marriage.

  2. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    . . . if the goal was really stopping abortion rather than stopping women from controlling their own reproduction and sexuality, they would be in favor of the widest possible distribution of contraception.

    Conservative Christians would also be for sufficient funding for pre-school through college. They’d argue for more sufficient funding to insure people have a place to live, enough to eat, and healthcare. They’d also demand equal pay for women and sufficient time off work to care for children.

    Instead conservative Christians are the predominant voting base against such policies, in spite of the success in other countries with such policies where they enjoy less unplanned pregnancies, a lower abortion rate, more social mobility, and better economic outcomes.

  3. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Instead conservative Christians are the predominant voting base against such policies, in spite because of the success in other countries with such policies where they enjoy less unplanned pregnancies, a lower abortion rate, more social mobility, and better economic outcomes.

    FIFY.

  4. Scr... Archivist says

    …the anti-abortion crowd is not really concerned about abortion as much as they are about controlling female sexuality.

    And what has sociological research shown to be their deeper reasons for that concern? Some of them might even make some kind of sense, but I’m willing to bet that most of these reasons, such as concern over “illegitimate” children, can actually be resolved with access to abortion and contraception.

  5. Taz says

    the anti-abortion crowd is not really concerned about abortion as much as they are about controlling female sexuality

    While that may be true for the political leaders (“political” encompassing groups like FRC), it’s not true for much of the rank and file. There are plenty of true believers who completely buy the “killing babies” idea. Just as the 9/11 hijackers were not “cowards who hate us for our freedom”, the shock troops of the anti-choice movement aren’t doing it because they’re prudes. Let’s not fool ourselves about our opponents motivations.

  6. marcus says

    “Indeed, one study showed that by telling women men that they’re hooked up to a lie detector, the number of sex partners they will cop to brag about goes up down.

  7. says

    You don’t understand. Marrying your high school sweetheart and having no other relationships outside of that one (before or after) is normal. You 99% of the population are the weird ones. (And also the relationships we Conservatives have had outside of the current one which is the only one we`ve ever had are different than yours. Better, somehow)
    Besides, everybody knows that Traditionally Married couples who value The Sanctity of Marriage don’t have abortions. That’s just a fact. (And also if they do they had perfectly valid reasons, which are the same as your reasons, but better, somehow)
    And Traditionally Married couples who value The Sanctity of Marriage don`t need contraception. (And also if they do they have perfectly valid reasons, which are the same as yours, but better, somehow)

  8. scienceavenger says

    “Almost 90 percent of reported abortions are procured by women who have had three or more (male) sexual partners..Women generally report having had about four male sexual partners, .”

    I had to reread this several times to convince myself this is really what they meant, or that they hadn’t accidentally left off “during high school”. I’ve seen a lot of such studies, but that’s the lowest figure I’ve seen, and at the risk of inappropriately projecting my social groups onto the masses, if my observations of my kids and younger friends is any indication, this figure is preposterously low. I’d gladly wager that among people younger than 30, its 2-3X as high.

    …but social scientists are inclined to think the number is probably higher than that, because men report having a much higher average number of partners, and that discrepancy is mathematically impossible.

    Not at all., Many such surveys don’t do a good job of emphasizing that they are interested in heterosexual pairings. Throw in homosexual men, and the averages can increase considerably. Also, some of the men surveyed no doubt have acquired partners outside the survey group, such as under/over aged women, prostitutes, or women in other countries. To hear my military buddies talk, this could also skew things considerably. It’s also quite likely that the men have a socially influenced tendency to report inflated figures, just as the women could be socially influenced to report on the low side.

    “The fraction of women reporting abortions is far larger among women with multiple sexual partners than among monogamous women,” the study authors write.

    Isn’t this kind of like saying the fraction of people reporting surgeries for head injury is far larger among people who ride their motorcycles cross country than among those who just rev it up in the driveway?

    “Eighty-three percent of women who report having an abortion have cohabited at some time,” they write, clearly expecting the audience to find cohabitation to be a shockingly risqué behavior.

    It also conflates dependent variables, for both a willingness to get an abortion and to cohabitate are biased towards the left end of our social spectrum. Contrarily, those who steadfastly refuse to consider abortion also tend to refuse to consider cohabitating.

  9. says

    Well, obviously we know what this proves….the average woman is a raging slut!

    Yep, your mother, your sisters, your daughters, your female cousins, certainly your wife or girlfriend and other women you’ve slept with– I mean, dated…..statistically speaking, most of them are total tramps.

    Slutty is the new normal, folks. Has anybody told Huckabee?

  10. eric says

    “Almost 90 percent of reported abortions are procured by women who have had three or more (male) sexual partners,” the researchers write, clearly expecting the audience to reel in terror at the idea that a woman might not marry the first boy she kisses.

    You could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only women who have abortions are the ones who have 100 partners at the same time, and I still wouldn’t care. One has nothing to do with the other because pregnancy is not a punishment for bad behavior. So stopping a pregnancy is not somehow cheating, unjust, anti-karma, or whatever. Trying to argue that we should remove the right to aborition because only slutty slut sluts do it is like arguing that we should criminalize giving insulin to people who get type 2 diabetes due to lifestyle.

  11. amyjane says

    I’m revolted by the people who want women and girls to have babies as punishment for having sex they don’t approve of. Children should be wanted, planned for and loved!

  12. thascius says

    @6-They may be appalled at “killing babies,” but they generally have no problem letting babies starve, denying them healthcare or denying pregnant women prenatal care. I’m not just talking about the leaders either. Most, though maybe not all of the rank and file, do want cuts in food stamps, medicaid, and do want to see contraception limited.

  13. D. C. Sessions says

    One has nothing to do with the other because pregnancy is not a punishment for bad behavior.

    The people who see it that way get there from the combination of personal experience and the just world hypothesis.

  14. Synfandel says

    @9:

    if my observations of my kids and younger friends is any indication, this figure is preposterously low. I’d gladly wager that among people younger than 30, its 2-3X as high.

    It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

  15. frog says

    I’ve obviously seen The Running Man too many times, because my brain went straight to this line:

    “Then she had sexual relations with three, sometimes even four men within a single year!”

    Once again proving that may be the most prescient movie ever made.

  16. says

    @eric: That would only be the case if the average man has had sex with twice as many men as women, even if we discount female-female sex. It seems unlikely.

  17. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Oddly enough my abortion(s) were with my very first boyfriend/sexual partner. I married my second. Damn I’m a raging slut! Not that it matters, but the characterization makes me laugh.

  18. lancifer says

    In response to Ed saying,

    …the anti-abortion crowd is not really concerned about abortion as much as they are about controlling female sexuality

    Taz said,

    While that may be true for the political leaders (“political” encompassing groups like FRC), it’s not true for much of the rank and file. There are plenty of true believers who completely buy the “killing babies” idea. Just as the 9/11 hijackers were not “cowards who hate us for our freedom”, the shock troops of the anti-choice movement aren’t doing it because they’re prudes. Let’s not fool ourselves about our opponents motivations….

    I agree. Saying that everyone that is against, or even ambivalent about, abortion is really just interested in “controlling female sexuality” is clearly absurd.

    While there is significant overlap between people that oppose abortion and people that want to impose religious based restrictions on female sexuality, there is certainly a sizable divergence among those two groups as well.

    One needn’t abandon the idea of female sexual freedom to embrace the idea that some government restrictions on abortion may be warranted. As a matter of fact it is the rare person that insists that all abortions, up to the moment of birth, should be legal. In fact all fifty states have some restrictions on abortion and that is completely in keeping with Roe v. Wade.

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