Ross Douthat's Must-Read UPDATED

Ross Douthat's Must-Read UPDATED January 3, 2011

Totally tied up with work obligations today but wanted to put Ross Douthat’s must-read column before your eyes today, for discussion:

The American entertainment industry has never been comfortable with the act of abortion. Film or television characters might consider the procedure, but even on the most libertine programs (a “Mad Men,” a “Sex and the City”), they’re more likely to have a change of heart than actually go through with it. Reality TV thrives on shocking scenes and subjects — extreme pregnancies and surgeries, suburban polygamists and the gay housewives of New York — but abortion remains a little too controversial, and a little bit too real.

This omission is often cited as a victory for the pro-life movement, and in some cases that’s plainly true. (Recent unplanned-pregnancy movies like “Juno” and “Knocked Up” made abortion seem not only unnecessary but repellent.) But it can also be a form of cultural denial: a way of reassuring the public that abortion in America is — in Bill Clinton’s famous phrase — safe and legal, but also rare.

Rare it isn’t: not when one in five pregnancies ends at the abortion clinic. So it was a victory for realism, at least, when MTV decided to supplement its hit reality shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” with last week’s special, “No Easy Decision,” which followed Markai Durham, a teen mother who got pregnant a second time and chose abortion.

MTV being MTV, the special’s attitude was resolutely pro-choice. But it was a heartbreaking spectacle, whatever your perspective. Durham and her boyfriend are the kind of young people our culture sets adrift — working-class and undereducated, with weak support networks, few authority figures, and no script for sexual maturity beyond the easily neglected admonition to always use a condom. Their televised agony was a case study in how abortion can simultaneously seem like a moral wrong and the only possible solution — because it promised to keep them out of poverty, and to let them give their first daughter opportunities they never had.

UPDATE: It seems to me that we really have to do a better job of championing mothers who choose to have their babies knowing they will allow them to be placed in adoptions. In this MTV special, the mother says–as too many do–that she could not bear the pain of carrying a child to term, and then giving it up, and that fortifies her decision to abort. We need to help these women understand that if knowing that they are separated from their living child is a grief to them, that grief is compounded when they are separated from that child by death, a death wrought by their permission.

The “I can’t carry to term then allow someone else to raise the baby” notion is a fundamentally flawed bit of moral reasoning–one that flourishes because, in this age of moral relativism we are discouraged from teaching sound moral reasoning. The dictatorship of relativism must be defeated.

Read the whole article and then read Kathryn Jean Lopez, writing on the same issue.

And then, discuss! Please remember that if you don’t embed your urls, you’ll be thrown into moderation or spam and I’ll be too busy to be able to fish you out quickly. You can learn how to create a link via this simple tutorial.

Related: David Mills on The “Cosmo” life

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