George Pyle: Women are free to choose abortion. Or they are not free.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Salt Lake City on Tuesday May 21, 2019 was part of a nationwide series of protests to bring attention as a number of conservative states pass laws aimed at getting abortion before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mike Lee wants the Constitution of the United States to see women as subservient to men.

It is the only way, he told a half-friendly crowd at a town meeting he sponsored in Draper the other night, to head off, “a radical pro-abortion agenda.”

Clearly, that’s how the senior senator from the state of Utah, and a great many other people, see it. They just may not always be as blunt or as honest about it.

Lee remains opposed to the passage of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, arguing that there are many standing court opinions that support a legal equality of the sexes. (Even though a good part of his political career, and that of the party and the president he serves, is devoted to overturning those very court rulings.)

But adding the ERA, he says, would go a large step further and require levels of abortion rights that he and many people oppose.

It really is that stark. By this way of thinking, women cannot be equal before the law because, if they are, they will have the right to choose abortion. Because that would not be good, to these minds, equality before the law is something we cannot tolerate.

Well, all that equality stuff is risky. It causes black people, and then women, to think they should be allowed to vote. It moves ethnic minorities to think they deserve a fair shake from the criminal justice system, the educational system and public accommodations.

Next thing you know, Koreans will be winning all the Oscars.

What’s a self-respecting white patriarch to do?

Yes, there are undoubtedly a great many women who also abhor the idea of abortion. Some of them even put their lives where their mouths are and reach out to help lonely and abandoned women, adopt babies, even the ones that aren’t pink and perfect, and other supportive stuff.

Great. Once we get about a 10 million more people like that, the problem will be well on its way to being solved.

But a society that cannot be bothered to solve the problems of the born -- poverty, disease, homelessness, inequality -- is cheating when it focuses its attention on the unborn.

And all the efforts now being put into laws to ban abortion, to place extra burdens on the women who are considering or have chosen that constitutionally protected option, are based solely on the belief that women are incompetent, easily misled and not to be allowed to chose their own course in life the way men (white upper-middle-class men) expect to.

There is simply no other explanation for it.

There is a degree to which none of us is fully competent to make all these major life decisions. What education to pursue and which career to follow. Who -- or if -- to marry. When -- or if -- to have children.

In many cases, by definition, those are decisions we haven’t made before and don’t have the experience necessary to make wisely. Yes, we can look up to parents, teachers, religious leaders, old friends -- or askance at acquaintances who have gone astray -- to guide us.

In the end, they are the choices each of us make for ourselves. And own the consequences. That’s what freedom means.

If women are not free to choose abortion -- or any method of contraception that may allow them to avoid that circumstance -- then they are not free. The end. Full stop.

The only question is whether or not you are bothered by that.

Of course, just because something is legal doesn’t mean it has to be common or even widely socially accepted. We could work to build a society where women are free and equal, well educated, fairly paid, have easy, if not altogether free, access to all kinds of health care, respected and loved.

Start building your low-abortion society from that end of the telescope and you may have earned a chance to succeed.

A long time ago, at a minor league basketball game in a small town a long way from here, there was an attractive young woman in amazingly tight clothing whose job it was to promote the local sports bar. She carried a big sign around the court during time-outs.

It said something like, “See me later at Gator’s.”

The 5-year-old boy seated next to me asked, in all earnestness, “Why would anybody want to do that?”

That, if you will excuse the flippant memory, is what a great many women in a truly female-friendly society will ask come the day when abortion is generally legal but rendered increasingly unwanted and unnecessary by culture that provides real care for all humanity.

It’s not that you can’t. It’s that nobody would want to.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is glad that his most difficult choice is when to switch from coffee to beer.


Twitter, @debatestate