Religion

Cory Booker Gets Something Wrong and Right about Abortion

Cory Booker arrives to speak to reporters after the fourth Democratic presidential debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)
God works even through a politician’s tweets.

Cory Booker recently tweeted something he couldn’t possibly have read. It was a link to a Glamour magazine piece about men and abortion, and he wrote: “Women shouldn’t be solely responsible for sharing their personal stories as evidence of their humanity. When reproductive rights are in danger, it’s on all of us to join the fight. Thanks to these men for sharing how abortion has impacted their lives.”

First of all, the wording: “evidence of their humanity.” It was a little like an Elizabeth Warren tweet around the same time, in which she said, “Access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional right. Every time we deny access to safe, legal abortion, we put lives in danger.” Note that she drops the word “rare.” Bill Clinton made it a part of our political rhetoric, even while vetoing a ban on partial-birth abortion, saying that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” The phrase captured most Americans’ discomfort with abortion and was an acknowledgment that it is not a good.

And of course, in abortion, there is no question that we are dealing with people’s lives. It’s Planned Parenthood, with abortion as a business model and a chokehold on politicians, that dehumanizes. It’s our coarse politics that pours salt on open wounds. It should be an unwritten campaign rule that if you’re not going to say something life-giving about abortion — something that acknowledges pain and touches on hope and healing — then don’t say anything at all. It’s simply not a humane reaction to reading that Glamour piece to say “When reproductive rights are in danger, it’s on all of us to join the fight.” Michael Wear, who did faith-based outreach in the Barack Obama administration, has written that the Democratic party needs to express some moral lament about abortion. Tweets like Booker’s and Warren’s seem to do the very opposite.

Because abortion has become so core to the Democrats, it probably was a little brave for Booker even to acknowledge the existence of men in the scenario — and some responses to the tweet expressed outrage that he, without a uterus, would share an article that included testimony from a man who wished his girlfriend had consulted him before getting an abortion. There was some real human misery revealed in the Glamour piece.

The testimonies in the piece run the gamut. One man even expressed his belief that “abortion is wrong.” He regretted that his girlfriend didn’t talk to him before getting an abortion. He said, in part:

I’m hurt that that baby never had a chance. I’m hurt that my girlfriend thought that was the right decision to make, especially without consulting with me. Because even though America says this is a women’s issue, it’s as much a man’s issue because it takes a man and a woman to make a baby. And that’s something that we’re both going to carry the rest of our lives, the memory of what could have happened. I think about that baby — not, like, every day or every week — but I think about that baby a lot.

And there’s also this in the feature:

It was so scary through the whole process. Getting the sonogram and seeing that she was actually pregnant, [I was] more sentimental than I thought I would get about it. Seeing that life that’s there, it doesn’t make it any easier than we thought it was going to be. A lot of old-school tropes really came into play, like, Are we killing this kid?

And:

One of the little things that starts to get to you is all the thoughts of what could have been with the baby. In your brain, you know this isn’t the right time. In your heart, you start imagining and dreaming about what could have been.

And there’s a description of a child who was delivered and left to die. It’s an excruciating story to read. A woman who identifies as a man tells of being gang-raped — what was called a “corrective” rape by the cruel perpetrators. The point is that these are piercing stories, some of them. Even the shortest reflection, a seemingly callous remark, appeared to betray an impact the speaker couldn’t quite communicate.

It is not only politically unwise to ignore this, but it’s as if we’ve aborted our human compassion, any sense of empathy, and any reverence for human life to read those stories and simply go on as is, with our same old miserable, intractable abortion politics. George Mason University law professor Helen Alvaré uses the word “immiseration” to describe what abortion has done to women; it’s also a cultural condition. And so, of course, we would see it on social media, which has been known to exacerbate some of our worst tendencies. But we can and need to do better. And even if Cory Booker — or his staff person who thought that tweet was a good idea — missed the humanity bleeding all over the Glamour piece, he managed to prompt a much-needed reflection.

This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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