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.