Amanda at the XX Blog hits the issue on the head when she says:
I don’t really think that most Americans are confused about what they want to see, which is safe, accessible contraception and abortions in the first trimester.
For those women that “deserve” abortions, that is. The real gray area that has always been a huge gray area is where the idea of pregnancy as punishment for naughty girls comes into play.
In the current conversation about choice and pregnancy (and whether or not you get to choose to be pregnant) options seem to be available if you deserve it. The price of deserving choice, or redemption if we want to use the language of religion, is a woman's victimhood. In other words, I can exercise authority over my reproductive choices/future only if my autonomy has been compromised by an act of aggression - rape or incest. Victimization earns autonomy.
Autonomy that I already exercise, by the giving and taking of sex, cuts off further choice. By practicing safe sex, by even saying that I have the right to be sexual on my own terms and that I can maintain or manage my sexuality, I am opting out of choice later on. Apparently, in today's sexual politics, for both the right and the left, a woman only gets ONE choice.
So who receives the benefit of a full range of choices? Not the Victim Woman; once she uses her choice to have/not have an abortion, the choice flow chart ends. She stays victim - either of the aggressor or the act the aggressor forced her to make. Her agency virtually disappears. The Naughty Woman, who's chosen sex over...whatever, if an unplanned pregnancy occurs, must learn the lesson of consequences. How many times has a discussion between pro-lifers and pro-choicers devolved into someone sniffing,"Well, she shouldn't have been doing that, anyway!" or "Well, now she knows what happens when you have sex." The chance to remedy a mistake, an accident, disappears in order to punish the Naughty Woman for having sex in the first place.
I think the Consequences argument is (for lack of a better word) bullshit on a couple of levels. Not only does it seek to make pre-marital sex punitive for the woman participating in it, it returns sex to the marriage bed as if that's where it belongs naturally. Moreover, it posits that women have never been fully aware of what the product of unprotected sex or a failed condom can be. Basically, it nullifies our earlier choice to have sex. In other words, I only had sex because I didn't have all the information.
Which brings us to moral agency. Hilary Clinton’s speech successfully repositioned the argument as prevention of unplanned pregnancy vs. prolonging abortion, and correctly made sex education the center of the solution – but only in terms for teens (children), poor women who don’t normally have access to contraception, or married women who wanted to use contraception for family planning. What about women like me? Single women who choose sex – maybe with one partner or perhaps with a few. What about women like me – educated, knowing women, who rationally (or irrationally, depending on the lover) choose a sexual life and considers it appropriate (and moral) to have one? Is premarital sex a moral act for a woman? Over at XX Blog, Amanda thinks so. So do I –less so for religious reasons than for ethical ones, if that’s the right word. (Though I have to say that my religious background is always hovering just at the corner of my vision…much to my dismay while in the throes of whatever folly I’m in at the time.)
I had a rhetorically beautiful line of argument laid out about female agency and choice but I guess I’m less coherent than I thought. I guess I’m trying to say that I’m tired of the single woman, the strong woman who has always known what she’s wanted and why, being a blank in our conversations about sex and morality.