Is Ben Carson Right? On Abortion Rights And The War on Women [analysis]

ben carson abortion war on women jason dias
Written by Jason Dias

Ben Carson has become a polarizing figure in the U.S. presidential campaign. Here’s Jason Dias’ analysis of Carson’s stance on Planned Parenthood, abortion rights and the war on women. Commentary.

jason-dias-anewdomainaNewDomain — Ben Carson seems the tiniest bit confused. 

He said: “We’ve distorted things to the point where people believe that anyone who opposes mothers killing their babies is waging a war on women. How can we be so foolish to believe such a thing? One must be able to recognize the depravity to which we have sunken as a society when valuing a baby’s life is frowned upon.” 

Now he is not completely wrong.  People on either side of this issue tend to dismiss the others, perhaps prematurely. If your opposition to abortions is based on the premise that every child is sacred and every fetus is a child with a destiny, I wish you well in your endeavors. 

It is easy to condemn conservative hypocrisy over this issue: to hold sacred the life and rights of the unborn fetus while simultaneously advocating for the death penalty, harsher sentences for criminals, less social support. 

In other words, the sanctity of life seems to end at birth. 

But after that, total selfishness is a-okay?

It is more difficult but just as necessary to note the hypocrisy of liberals over these identical issues. To advocate for unselfishness at all these other levels and then to forget about the unborn is a tragic failure of logic. A vegetarian lifestyle that protects chickens and cows is not logically consistent with advocating abortion on demand.

The trouble with Carson’s arguments is that they are so absolutist in nature. 

Carson was a pediatric neurosurgeon, with some astonishing work to his credit (such as the first separation of head-conjoined twins). This is work along very narrow tolerances, with exactly no room at all for error or ambiguity. Truth is, this kind of work is razor sharp. 

is ben carson right about planned parenthoodOn this side of the line is life, and on that side is death. 

But life tends to be a lot more ambiguous than that.

Conservatives do not have a “war on women” reputation over this issue alone, but for a raft of socially-regressive policies that weaken the rights of women. 

Clinton made the comparison to terror groups, to Islamic fundamentalism. 

This might have something to do with sensationalist politics – the Republican race is sucking all the oxygen out of the room. But the comparison is a fair one.

Conservative politicians, the Supreme Court and business owners have gone after contraception, on religious grounds. They have attempted to limit access, have sued to limit their responsibility to pay for reproductive healthcare or perform necessary procedures, citing religious exemptions. Republicans voted against enforcing fair pay for women, and against protections around violence against women. The abortion issue gets Republicans elected, especially at the state level, but limits access to preventive health care.

Republicans keep losing the female vote and it isn’t just over abortions. It has to do with the whole platform, the entire package.

There is only one woman in the primary race right now on the red side of the table. Diversity is hard to come by, and all the candidates have to pass a purity test. Republican candidates, to advance, need to be pro-life – which is fine, except the position includes so much male chauvinism. A genuinely pro-life platform would have to include real sex education, which is empirically demonstrated to reduce young pregnancy. 

It would have to include better education across the board, because we know that the more educated a society, the later women push off their first pregnancy. 

It would have to include social and religious engagement rather than fear-mongering and brow-beating. Social service projects (like the Girl Scouts gold and silver awards) have been demonstrated to improve girls’ self-esteem and reduce rates of teen pregnancy. 

Access to contraception and reduced shaming over sex would go a long way towards genuinely valuing life.

Getting out of the pockets of rich donors would certainly help these endeavors, too. Oligarchy, valuing money, has little to do with valuing life. This is where things go so twisty and wrong, is the weird voting bloc, the strange alliances between social conservatism (which isn’t totally wrong in every way) and big business, small government conservatism. 

The friction between those blocs, the need to cement them, creates perhaps the majority of the hypocrisy at play here.

In the end, it seems that Obama was right on this issue. He deferred, saying it was above his pay grade.  It for sure is above mine. And, if we genuinely want to reduce abortions, simply vilifying women and criminalizing the practice is likely to be no more successful than the war on drugs or trying to legislate guns away. 

A real concern over this issue would result in loving social programs to educate men and women. It would address our culture of violence against women, support young women through pregnancies that they cannot afford, support children out of poverty.

On the liberal side are the people working these issues. They don’t get the conservative votes even though this is the approach that actually prevents abortions. 

Is Ben Carson right? He is not wrong. But he is not strictly right, either.

For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.

Cover image: Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore 4” by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons. Inside image of Carson:, All Rights Reserved.