Where in the Bill of Rights is “the right to not be pregnant?”

Source: Hot Air

It has become steadily more obvious in recent months that the Democrats are planning to run in the midterms primarily on a platform of abortion access because they believe that they’ve latched onto a political winner. Recent surveys seem to suggest that there may be some truth to that idea, though it varies widely by region. But really… what else were they going to run on? The economy? Inflation control? Energy prices? Foreign policy? Sometimes you take whichever port in a storm you can find, I suppose.

There have been suggestions that much of the media is playing along with that strategy. I saw another hint indicating that might be the case when I began noticing a number of outlets linking to a recent article in Harper’s by Charlotte Shane. The title is “The Right to Not Be Pregnant,” and the subject is precisely what you would probably imagine. But when I tackled the task of reading this lengthy essay, I noticed that the author’s approach to this debate was rather… unique, to say the least. Let’s start with the introduction, which Shane sets forth from a very personal perspective.

I’ve never wanted to be pregnant, and I’ve been pregnant three times. Each time I learned the news, my commitment to what I’d already known was confirmed viscerally and instantaneously—with the unshakable certainty of no. I say “no” often. I think “no” frequently. I am no stranger to “no.” But this refusal lived at a different depth. It saturated me. It constituted me like my lungs and my limbs and my mind. No, I do not want to be pregnant, I do not want to give birth, I do not want to have children. I wasn’t choosing because there was no choice. I didn’t want to be pregnant. No.

Let’s just pause right there for a moment. As you can probably see, Shane writes prose in a very flowery, emotive style. (That’s not a criticism, by the way. That sort of writing requires talent.) She speaks of the “unshakeable certainty of no.” She cites how frequently she says and thinks the word no. I wasn’t able to find an exact age for Charlotte Shane after a brief search, but from the appearance of her recent photos, she still seems to be rather young, at least compared to an old fossil like me. And if she’s already had three abortions by this point in her life, there are at least a few things she’s not saying “no” to. Just sayin’…

The author goes on to assert various bits of evidence to support her claims regarding bodily autonomy and related subjects. She notes that nearly half of the pregnancies in the world are unintentional and that the ability to conceive is an inherited trait, not something that women (sorry… “people capable of pregnancy”) were given a choice about. Biology, she claims, “need not be destiny.” She describes pregnancy as “a process that would colonize me if left unchecked.” I’m sure you’re getting the general drift of the essay by now.

We could spend our time nitpicking some of the underlying assertions in this piece, such as the statistic regarding half of the pregnancies in the world being unplanned. That may well be true, but the numbers are vastly higher in underdeveloped nations lacking widespread availability of various methods of contraception and a stigma surrounding the use of such tools. But even that doesn’t address the core point I wanted to touch on today.

Shane writes at length about the “fundamental right” to “not be pregnant.” This is actually a different concept than the previously popular “right to an abortion” that so many Democrats bring up. It’s a “right” (if you choose to label it as such) that was supposedly “taken away” by the conservative justices on the Supreme Court this year. What’s being ignored by people taking that approach is the fact that the actual “rights” described by the Founding Fathers were not “given” to anyone by a musty document or a government official. We were all born with those rights. The “right” to an abortion didn’t exist until the original finding in Roe v. Wade. It was granted on a federal level by one set of justices and later moved back to the control of the states (not “canceled”) by a different set.

Conversely, I would agree with Charlotte Shane that every woman or “person capable of pregnancy” definitely has a right not to be pregnant, which is something quite different. But that right carries with it the implication that you have a choice in the matter. You can choose not to become pregnant and there are many methods of virtually ensuring that it won’t happen, though all contraceptive techniques are subject to occasional failures. So what else has the author been saying “no” to? Did she say no to condoms and birth control pills? Did IUDs also receive a thumbs-down? And then, though I will undoubtedly be figuratively burned at the stake for saying it, there is always abstinence. That remains the one and only almost entirely foolproof way to exercise the right not to be pregnant, barring a celestial visit, a bright star in the east, and three wise guys bearing some cool gifts.

I’m left wondering if this is the opening shot in a new approach for liberals to discuss the abortion debate as we head into the midterms. The “right to not be pregnant” has a much softer ring to it than the “right to an abortion.” One survey after another has shown how divided the American psyche is when it comes to this question. Significant majorities of voters, including some in surprising places like Kansas, have indicated that abortion should be available as an unfortunate but legal option, at least in the first trimester. But even stronger majorities oppose abortion in the third trimester and are unconvinced that a baby at that stage of development is simply “a clump of cells.” So if Democrats think they have found a winner for the midterms in the abortion debate, they need to be careful about how far they push it. And a “right to not be pregnant” might turn out to be a better marketing angle.