So last night I watched 12th & Delaware, an HBO documentary on abortion from last year. It’s good in a predictable sort of way. I don’t think I learned anything about the principles behind the abortion debate, but I picked up a few things about the logistics.
I spent most of the movie thinking about Lake of Fire – another, slightly more interesting, abortion documentary I watched on YouTube a few months ago. The point from that movie that’s stuck with me is that the arguments for and against abortion aren’t really about abortion at all. Abortion just the vessel into which everyone – the hippies, the Christians, the women’s-libbers, the doomsdayers, whatever – put their calcified ideologies and preconceptions.
Watching 12th and Delaware it kept striking me that abortion could easily have gone to the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. I can imagine a world in which right-wingers were adamantly pro-choice. A small-government ideology is completely in sync with advocating for more access to abortion. ‘I don’t want the government telling me what to do with my body!’ is the kind of statement the Tea Party would support to the ends of the Earth–just not to the uterus.
Similarly, there’s nothing internally contradictory about left-wingers being pro-life. You can draw a straight line from supporting human rights, to banning the death penalty, to opposing abortion. If life and human dignity are worth preserving, why stop at the birth canal?
I want to watch a movie that tells me how abortion got here. Why is it one of the few social issues on which it’s impossible to be agnostic? Watching 12th and Delaware (and Lake of Fire, for that matter), I can’t help but find pro-life and pro-choice activists equally distasteful. Shining light on a shadow doesn’t make it easier to see.