WashPost Op-Ed Argues Abortion Advocates Should Insist Abortion Is Never Immoral, or Even 'Difficult'

The Sunday Outlook section of The Washington Post carried a blunt front-page headline: "Stop calling abortion a 'difficult' choice." Janet Harris, a former staffer at the pro-abortion feminist Democrat PAC Emily's List, argues that killing your baby shouldn't be seen as agonizing or complicated. It sadly suggests the unborn child is a human with a future that somehow matters.

Harris complained "when the pro-choice community frames abortion as a difficult decision, it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning 'informed consent' laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it. Often, abortion isn’t a difficult decision. In my case, it sure wasn’t."

Today, when advocates on both sides of the debate talk about the decision to have an abortion, they preface their statements with adjectives such as “difficult,” “hard” or “reluctant.” For anti-abortion conservatives, the reason for using such language is clear: Abortion is murder, they contend, but characterizing a woman who has one as a murderer is a bit, well, harsh. A more charitable view is to assume that she must have struggled with making this immoral choice. Pro-choice advocates use the “difficult decision” formulation for a similar reason, so as not to demonize women. It also permits pro-choice candidates to look less dogmatic.

But there’s a more pernicious result when pro-choice advocates use such language: It is a tacit acknowledgment that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue requiring an ethical debate. To say that deciding to have an abortion is a “hard choice” implies a debate about whether the fetus should live, thereby endowing it with a status of being. It puts the focus on the fetus rather than the woman. As a result, the question “What kind of future would the woman have as a result of an unwanted pregnancy?” gets sacrificed. By implying that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue, pro-choice advocates forfeit control of the discussion to anti-choice conservatives.

Harris is a hardened fundamentalist on abortion. Killing an unborn child is never a moral controversy. Abortion means never having to say you're sorry. The less of a conscience you display about it, the more powerful you become:


Contrary to numerous movies and “very special” television episodes portraying abortion as an agonizing, complex decision (“Obvious Child” notwithstanding), for many it is a simple choice and often the only practical option. A 2012 study published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that the vast majority of women seeking an abortion — 87 percent — had high confidence in their decisions. This level of conviction contrasts with the notion that millions of women vacillate over whether to have an abortion....

Abortion rights groups are struggling to expand their message from "pro-choice" - which they say no longer resonates with voters as it once did - to more broadly encompass women's health and economic concerns. The movement needs such recalibration precisely because it was drawn into a moral debate about the fetus's hypothetical future rather than the woman's immediate and tangible future. Once these groups locked themselves into a discussion of "choice," terminating a pregnancy became an option rather than a necessity. Pro-choice groups would be a lot stronger, more effective and more in sync with the women they represent if they backed away from the defensive "difficult decision" posture.

Dave Andrusko at National Right to Life summed it up well:

We kill the powerless because we can and in the process do not even bother to acknowledge the possibility that we have stepped off an ethical cliff....

Harris is a part of the pro-abortion movement that believes the more brutal they are; the more matter-of-fact they make the decision to annihilate a million children a year; the less conscience they reveal, the better off their cause is.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis