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Katherine Ernst
Screwy NARAL
What do feminists really want?
14 July 2005

If the militant feminist, pro-choice movement is known for anything, a sense of warmth is not it. These are the women—excuse me, womyn—who will happily follow lefty Hollywood hack Whoopi Goldberg on a march through Washington, the “Keep the U.S. Off My Uterus” crowd, the Bush-hating, humorless bunch who might flatten a man should he attempt to open a car door for one of them. So when part of the gang has a night of feminist fun, rest assured it’s not dinner and a movie topped off with a swell game of Parcheesi.

No: tonight the Washington state chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) has planned what promises to be an unforgettable evening of pro-choice ecstasy—the “Screw Abstinence Party”—and they want you to be a part of it! Please, dear citizen, “PRINT OUT FLYER AND BRING ALL YOUR FRIENDS!” so you can watch while Seattle’s “hottest sketch comedy group [perform] a sex ed class for adults” (Edgy!), while “sex-positive purveyors of adult toys offer tips on ‘Sexy Safer Sex’” (Ooh . . . Dirty!), and you can listen to Lady Jane DJ spin “the latest in Hip-Hop and R&B.”

But don’t dare get your knickers in a twist, fellow Conservative, or you’ll be snapping at some not-so-ingenious bait. With the exception of Planned Parenthood, perhaps no other liberal organization has been as dangerously effective with pro-abortion demagoguery as NARAL. As any judicial scholar worth his or her salt will tell you, Roe v. Wade is the Adam and Eve of modern-day judicial activism—a case where seven liberal justices, fueled by ideology and emotion, found a constitutional right to a procedure that, oddly enough, the Constitution is silent on. And yet, NARAL has successfully shifted the debate from the legal merit of the Court’s opinion, states’ rights, and the rugged terrain of bioethics to the creation of a faux-threat: the Right-Wing-Christian-Boogeyman who aims to eliminate “women’s rights”—even in cases of rape and incest (as NARAL’s broken-record scare talk wrongly claims). Indeed, the Washington branch of NARAL’s website has a picture of the current Supreme Court: those Justices who would uphold Roe have halos over their heads, while Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas model devil horns. The group even wrote a mock want-ad for the current Supreme Court vacancy: “Seeking a right-wing yes man. . . . Narrow mindedness and interest in turning back the clock on women’s rights a plus.” So clever!

Hence, the “Screw Abstinence” trap. The organizers would love for the Right to rise up, put on their stuffiest shirts, and flood the media with Sodom and Gomorrah-style sound bites (the party is for those age 21 and older); such a stark juxtaposition allows NARAL to avoid making any intellectual defense of their hyper-abortion platform and paints Conservatives as out-of-touch prudish, Scarlet Letter Salemites. If NARAL can get a Conservative offended at the prospect of those over the drinking age not abstaining from sex, they have reached the pot of gold at the end of their liberal rainbow: proof that what abortion foes really seek is to make everyone save it for marriage—or even for procreation in marriage. But it’s not the prospect of young adults engaging in sexual relations that should give anyone pause, but rather NARAL’s implication, in this party invite, that abortion is their favorite form of birth control. “Let them know you keep it real when it comes to your sexual health and decision-making,” the online invitation boasts. “Keep it real?” Is this their wimpy attempt at appealing to the MTV generation, or is P. Diddy writing their press releases? “Come laugh, learn, socialize and buck the system,” they add. “Buck the system?” Cuban or Iranian dissidents “buck the system”; 20-something Seattleites (complete with thrift-store T-shirts and iPods full of Tori Amos tunes) at a liberal party are not exactly “bucking the system,” but acting as cliché as they can. This is NARAL gratifying itself by playing smoking-in-the-girls-room on a political stage; a way to feel cool and rebellious against Principal Bush and Dean Conservative. It deserves not fear but only a raised-eyebrow sneer.

Those on the Right cannot be blamed for feeling a little Schadenfreude in all this, either; Justice O’Connor’s retirement, coupled with Bush’s soon-to-be-tested resolve in picking an originalist nominee, is causing a near crack-up in Liberalville—as illustrated by “Screw Abstinence.” Despite the tired, old mantra that liberals want abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare,” the pro-choicers’ actions are demonstrating otherwise. (“Screw[ing] Abstinence” doesn’t exactly help the “rare” part.) And selling “I Had An Abortion” T-shirts (Planned Parenthood) or “I ♥ Pro-Choice Boys/Girls” wear (NARAL), and fighting common-sense parental-notification laws (which, polls show, a vast majority of Americans favor) won’t help to win many people over, either. NARAL and its ilk have become politically tone deaf. The lack of public support for their militant abortion-on-demand fantasy-land, plus the weakness of their legal argument, has made them intellectually lazy: they have been reduced to flippant T-shirt vendors and feminist yentas armed with placards and coat-hangers.

So fret not the end of civilized society when the guys and gals of NARAL throw their party tonight. “Screw Abstinence” is, after all, a last gasp for air; a way to attract the young and hang on to relevancy as the rest of America continues to erode out of their kooky hands.

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More by Katherine Ernst:
Thus Spoke Zlatanustra
You Say You Want a Revolution
The Audacity of Humility
More . . .
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