Katha Pollitt talks to Jill Filipovic about her new book on why abortion matters.
You’ve been a pro-choice writer for decades. Why this book now?
It was surprising to me that this book wasn’t already out there.
There are some books of reporting about abortion, where people go and interview a lot of people or they write about the political struggle, but there isn’t a book that actually lays out the more philosophical arguments around abortion rights. I have a friend who is a brilliant, very important social theorist who said to me at a dinner party, “I’m only telling you this because we’re friends, but I oppose abortion except for rape. The only reason I think it’s OK is because women would die if it were illegal. But for myself, the only reason I think women should have them is because of rape.” I said, “So someone should have a baby because they have sex?” And he said, “They made their bed, they should lie in it.” This man proved to me that you can be really smart, you can think you’re thinking, but you’re not — you’re repeating a lot of reactionary platitudes that have been handed down to you. I thought, what about a book where I try to talk about that, to the people in the mushy middle?
Books where we try to talk to people who haven’t really thought about [whatever it is] yet are an important and useful category of book.
At the end, the filter question comes up.
Can you be a pro-life feminist?
You can be a pro-life feminist for yourself. You can say, “I would never have an abortion,” and then when you got pregnant, you never would have an abortion — because a lot of people who say, “I would never have an abortion” actually have abortions. But I don’t think you can restrict freedom for women in such a fundamental way and be a feminist.
That’s what I think too. And I have thought about it.