Barbara Kay: Sit back, relax, and enjoy your abortion
National Post - Wednesday April 1st, 2015
Having a “spa day” used to mean several hours of delicious relaxation, grooming and a temporary respite from the toll-taking stresses of a busy woman’s multi-tasking life. The highlight of the typical spa day is the massage – skilled hands kneading the flesh to release knots of tension and rid the body of harmful toxins – which gives the recipient the welcome illusion of rejuvenation and carefreeness.
The phrase “spa day” may never seem quite so innocent again, now that a medical unit in the posh Maryland suburb of Friendship Heights, Carafem, an abortion clinic specializing in the morning-after pill, has opened its doors. Carafem’s innovative marketing tactic is to offer abortion as something women do as a positive activity, almost – given the clinic’s luxury trappings – as a spa-like vacation getaway.
Carafem represents a turning point in abortion activism. It is the commercial result of feminist success on the abortion file.
Carafem’s bold strategy brings abortion out of the frosty hinterland of mere legality and into the warm sunlight of normalcy and full social acceptance. Metro stations in the Washington, D.C. area are sprouting ads for Carafem with the tag lone: “Abortion. Yeah, we do that.” They are betting that unapologetic endorsement at the retail level will entice women to shed their moral ambivalence, just as “you’re worth it” style advertising for costly grooming services long ago changed the perspective of millions of women, convincing them that a $500 spa day is a worthwhile investment in their mental health rather than a splurge motivated by pure vanity.
Women who sign up for Carafem’s services will be treated like princesses, not perps. Staff will greet them with herbal teas, sumptuous robes and a welcoming air. As Carafem president Christopher Purdy puts it, “We don’t want to talk in hushed tones. We use the A-word.”
Carafem is looking at a huge potential market. A majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, but polls indicate that half of that majority also consider abortion to be morally wrong. In other words, they consider it a necessary evil in extenuating circumstances, such as rape, incest, known disability or other hard cases. In Canada, where there is no abortion law, only 5% of Canadians feel abortion should never be legal, but only 5% think it should be legal in all circumstances. Most of us fall into the conflicted zone of approval in principle, but discomfort in practice with late – or even midterm – abortion, with sex selective abortion, and with multiple abortions (i.e. as a form of postcoital birth control). In Planned Parenthood parlance, we’re known as “abortion grays.”
Carafem represents a turning point in abortion activism. It is the business result of feminist success on the abortion file. Young women have no use for apologism. Having grown up entirely on Feminism’s watch, they see abortion purely as a liberation from inconvenience, with no moral implications and, high on identity pride, they above all do not wish to be judged by society for their choice. The number of campus Planned Parenthood chapters in the U.S. has, accordingly, risen from 70 to 250 since 2011.
Abortion activists are keenly aware of the attitudinal obstacles they face in the general population. “Most people in this country do not think abortion is a good thing on its face, even if they deeply believe it should be legal,” Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy and politics for Third Way, a left-leaning think tank, told the Washington Post. Her group counsels to de-stigmatize the procedure through, for example, the sharing of personal narratives, a strategy, she notes, that worked for the gay rights movement, encouraging gays to come out of the closet to their family and friends.
But this is an untenable comparison. Gays are human beings with a minority sexual orientation. They have the inherent right to be treated with the same respect and legal rights as any other human being. Abortion is the killing of a human being in progress. By no stretch of the imagination or intellect is there any moral parity between the two situations.
That a think tank could come up with this absurd linkage simply demonstrates to what extent the language of civil rights that used to be applied to dignified, objectively unjust racism has been appropriated by lazy thinkers for special-interest entitlements. In the case of Carafem – and if it is successful a wave of similar ventures to follow – we are talking about very material interests, so any suggestion that normalizing abortion is a bold advance in women’s rights is drenched in hypocrisy. There may be a great deal of money to be made in massaging the roiled consciences of those with much to feel roiled about. But that will make Carafem an entrepreneurial success, and nothing more.