I’m pro-choice. The anti-choice position — particularly the dumb contention that “personhood” begins when sperm hits egg — is illogical and unappealing. It’s not the most unappealing quality I can think of in a partner, though — that would probably be dishonesty. Your advice last week to the young woman who discovered that her boyfriend is anti-choice was terrible. You advised LIFE to tell her boyfriend that she’s pregnant in order to see if that changes his position. If a woman told me she was against abortion in all circumstances, I would think twice about dating her. If she told me she was pregnant and asked me to support the child, and then told me that she was just seeing how I would react, I would dump her.
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Pretty much everyone on God’s warming earth — pro-choice and anti-choice — thought my advice for LIFE sucked monkey ass. In my defense, I did give LIFE the option of discussing an unplanned pregnancy as a hypothetical. And even if LIFE did opt to lie — my clear preference — I didn’t intend for LIFE to drag the lie out for weeks or months. I was thinking 30 minutes tops. My fault for not including a clear lie in my response.
So what was I thinking?
Basically this: Conservatives tend to change their positions on specific “controversial” social issues when “it” happens to them. Nancy Reagan came out for stem-cell research after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Rush Limbaugh came out for treatment over incarceration for drug offenders after he got caught with his hand in the OxyContin jar, Dick Cheney came out for marriage equality after his daughter came out as a lesbian. Likewise, a lot of conservatives — male and female — are anti-choice until an unplanned pregnancy happens to them. Access to safe and legal abortion services becomes important when “it” happens to them. (Sometimes the cure doesn’t stick. Scott DesJarlais, for example, is a rabidly pro-life member of Congress from Tennessee. But back in 2000, when he was a doctor, he pressured his mistress, who was also his patient, to get an abortion in an effort to save his failing marriage. As a member of Congress, DesJarlais opposes abortion in all cases, without exception … unless “it,” i.e., an unplanned pregnancy, happens to him.)
This inability to empathize — this refusal to imagine what it might be like to have an ill relative or a drug problem or a gay child or an unplanned pregnancy — is a defining characteristic of modern conservatism. But my plan to instill a little empathy in LIFE’s boyfriend was itself lacking in empathy. LIFE’s boyfriend might have been traumatized by the lie — not just by the lie itself, but by the violation of trust. So my advice wasn’t just bad, it was hypocritical. Mea culpa.
Would an anti-choice position still be a deal breaker for you, Dan, if you had the penis and your opposed-to-abortion partner had the vagina?
The right to control your own body is a bedrock value for me — male, female, gay, straight, sex workers, responsible drug users, etc. — but my hypothetical girlfriend’s anti-abortion position would only be a deal breaker if she didn’t support the right of other women to make their own choices.
Allow me to un-prettify that: If my hypothetical girlfriend believed that the state should have the power to force a woman to give birth against her will, if she wanted to see doctors thrown in prison for performing abortions, if she believed every miscarriage should be treated like potential homicide, that would be a deal breaker.
But yes, PCM, I could see myself dating a woman who was personally but not politically opposed to abortion. I would only fuck her in the ass, however, to avoid becoming a father against my will.
Your response to LIFE was horrible. Flat-out lie and see what response you get? How about having a frank discussion to see how he really feels about abortion? I hope LIFE was smart enough to disregard your idiotic “advice.”
You and everyone else who were worried that LIFE might actually take my idiotic advice will be delighted to hear that she did not …
I was happy to see my letter in your column. After I wrote you, I had a long conversation with my boyfriend. When I asked what we should do if I was pregnant — something all sexually active couples should talk about — he said he would want me to give it up for adoption or keep it (with the help of child support payments from him) but that I could have an abortion since “the letter of the law was on my side” (we live in Canada, for which I am eternally grateful). After a couple days of thinking about it, I reopened the discussion. You hit the nail on the head when you said this was about equality and respect. Even though he claimed he respected me, he admitted that he would ban abortion if he could, essentially arguing that I am less capable of understanding what pregnancy means and the effect it would have on my life than he is. I broke up with him. I’m writing to thank you for giving me the boost I needed and to calm the nerves of the commentators who really didn’t like the lie-about-pregnancy suggestion.
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I’m glad your anti-choice boyfriend is now your anti-choice ex, LIFE, and your letter is a good reminder to everyone who reads my column or any other advice slinger’s column: It’s called “advice” not “binding arbitration” for a good reason. The people who ask me for advice are free to make up their own minds. And I actively encourage everyone whose letter appears in the column to lurk in the comments and see what you have to say.
Finally, a word to all the anti-choice men out there who were so hurt that I told their girlfriends — imaginary in many instances — to dump them. If you oppose abortion because you believe that “sexual choices should have consequences,” as more than one of you stated (was there a form letter circulating?), then you should be able to wrap your heads around this: Political choices have consequences, too. You can choose to be anti-choice, and women can choose not to date you.
Consequences! They’re not just for women anymore!
Dan Savage’s sex-advice column appears in more than 70 newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe. Write him at email@example.com. Find the Savage Lovecast (the weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.