The Abortion Myth: Feminism, Morality and the Hard Choices Women Make
OverviewThe feminist position on abortion is little changed from thirty years ago, argues Leslie Cannold. Mired in the rhetoric of "rights," feminists have failed to appreciate women's actual experience of abortion and have ceded the debate on the morality of abortion to the anti-choice contingent. In order to counter the current erosion of abortion rights and appeal to women of Generation X, who don't remember a time when abortion wasn't safe and legal, feminism must evolve a richer, more nuanced understanding of abortion, she says, one that is premised on the right to choose, yet sensitive to the value of the fetus and the serious responsibilities of motherhood. Cannold, an American bioethicist working in Australia, seeks to forge a new ethics of abortion in her groundbreaking book. Drawing on her own study of women's actual experiences of and attitudes toward abortion, she documents the difficult choices women make and the moral and ethical reasoning they bring to bear on the question of abortion, whether they are pro- or anti-choice. In the lived experience of women, she finds a practical ethics of abortion in which termination is not only a moral response to an unplanned pregnancy, it may be the only moral response. Feminism must develop a new appreciation of what abortion means to women, Cannold argues. Women's right to choose (or reject) motherhood, rather than to "control their bodies," must be at the center of this new approach, as must the responsive, caring relationship between the pregnant woman and her fetus. Such an approach to this volatile issue speaks to the concerns of both pro- and anti-choice advocates, offering a middle ground in an often polarizing debate. Upon her book's publication in Australia, The Bulletin (Australia's weekly news magazine) declared that "a refreshingly forthright and compassionate voice has broken through the rancour and tedium of this benighted controversy." This first American edition, revised and with a new introduction, brings Cannold's new voice and perspective to a new audience.