but then, I’m pretty much a Godless socialist tree-hugger myself

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore have won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on bringing attention to global climate change.

I’ve seen speculation around the blogosphere this week that if Gore won the Nobel, it would be the perfect springboard for a new bid for the presidency. I think that’s more than a little na├»ve. There’s a strong streak in the American psyche, particularly but not exclusively among the right, of resistance to anything that could be construed as letting outsiders tell us what to do. If Gore announces his candidacy, you can bet that by lunchtime Bill O’Reilly and the rest will spin it as “Don’t let some Godless socialist tree-huggers in Norway decide who’s going to be your president.”

I personally think a little humility and willingness to admit that other people in the world might have something to teach us would go a long way toward making this country a healthier place. You’d think, for instance, that the pro-life movement in the U.S. would look at countries with dramatically lower abortion rates than ours and ask ourselves, “What are they doing right? What can we learn from them?” But you’ll never find an article on “Lessons from the Netherlands” in the National Right to Life News, nor an interview with Belgian public health officials in Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. Granted, that’s mostly because solutions involving contraception and sex ed don’t fit in with the agenda of most pro-life groups — more’s the pity. (At first, I mistyped that as “more’s the piety”. That too.) But I think there may be an element of false patriotism at work as well. It’s hard for many Americans, and particularly for conservatives, to admit that there’s anything the U.S. isn’t the best at. I would think having an abortion rate 2 to 3 times that of many Western European countries would be a hint, though. We can learn from other countries, and it’s not anti-American to say so. It’s as pro-American as you can get, to want to make America a better place.

6 thoughts on “but then, I’m pretty much a Godless socialist tree-hugger myself

  1. Most of these European countries also have restrictions on abortions after 12 weeks and lack the government-sponsored abortion advocacy activities we have in the US.

    When the Centers for Disease Control looked at abortion rates in Georgia and found that rural counties had low abortion rates, without any accompanying high rates of maternal or infant mortality, did they say, “Let’s see what these counties are doing right”? No. They proposed federal spending to “educate” women in the rural counties “as to the availability and safety of legal abortion”. Yup. They looked at low abortion rates with great dissatisfaction and started coming up with ways to drive them up.

    When you have this at the highest eschelons of the public health service, you’re gonna have high abortion rates.

  2. G-dless socialist tree-huggers in Norway? Where? Bring ’em over here & send them into the White House.

    A big secular and multifaith *amen* to your post.

    We contraceptive-loving, sex-loving prolifers need to get ourselves organized somehow. Or just at least get our names & the fact of our existence out there…Any ideas, aside of course from what we’re already doing?…

  3. Most of these European countries also have restrictions on abortions after 12 weeks and lack the government-sponsored abortion advocacy activities we have in the US.

    A fair point, though most abortions don’t take place after 12 weeks, so that really can’t account for the large difference in numbers. I agree with you that the CDC has no particular interest in reducing abortions.

    I think it would be interesting to find out what factors are at work in keeping the abortion rate low in those counties, and whether they are particular to the social dynamics of small, predominantly conservative Christian towns or whether some of those factors could be ported to the rest of the country.

    I’d also like to see the government get involved in discouraging abortion in ways besides just legal restrictions; for instance, even under current law, I see no barrier to the government running public-service ads encouraging pregnant women to take care of themselves and their babies, publicizing resources that are available to help them, encouraging fathers to take responsibility for their unborn children, etc. Some of this happens now in a fragmented way, but there’s never been a huge anti-abortion campaign on the order of, say, the anti-smoking campaign.

  4. I’d be all for looking at what actually are the dynamics.

    Part of it may be that there is mandatory counseling and women really are aware that there are supports available to them. I’m not sure what the protocols are now, but I know that unlike in the US, when the Scandanavian countries legalized abortion it wasn’t a walk in and sign up deal like it is in the US. I wrote up the findings of the 1955 PP conference on induced abortion. A Norwegian described the practices in his country thus:

    “I would like to add a few words about our basic philosophy. We believe that when a woman wants an abortion, there must be something wrong either with herself or with her life situation or both, and frequently she represents not an individual social and medical problem only, but that of a whole family in need of some social or sociomedical treatment. Accordingly the woman’s whole situation must be analyzed with the aim of arriving at a treatment plan based on the collabortion of the woman and her family. Sometimes, unfortunately, and abortion must be a part of such a total treatment plan, and then we recommend it. We always attempt, however, with all the means we have at our disposal, to correct the underlying situation and to help the woman and her family without resorting to an abortion, whenever this is possible. And if an abortion is found necessary, we feel it should hav a therapeutic function as part of a larger social, psychiatric, and medical treatment plan. Very rarely is an abortion as such adequate therapy; as an isolated measure it is rarely of more than temporary and symptomatic help.”

    How much is this still practiced? It’d be interesting to know. And if they’ve dropped it, how much impact does it have that generations of women were taught to treat pregnancy at a difficult time this way, as a crisis that leads you to re-examine your life and fix problems, rather than as just a cue to line up for an abortion?

  5. This is one of your all-time great posts. I’m going to link to it the next time I see someone painting all pro-lifers with the same hateful brush. Thanks!

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