The National Education Association's Even-Handed Abortion Policy

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The National Education Association says that claims that they are pro-abortion are false, that in fact they take a very even-handed position on this issue. Here's their statement from their web site, which I quote word for word:

NEA is often accused of having a pro-abortion policy. That's not the case. NEA Resolution I-13, unchanged since 1986, states, "The National Education Association supports family planning, including the right to reproductive freedom." The right to reproductive freedom encompasses both the right to choose abortion and the right to choose childbirth. NEA has spent tens of thousands of dollars over the past 20 years defending the rights of NEA members to choose childbirth over abortion and to exercise other family rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. The Association has funded legal cases on behalf of pregnant teachers who were fired for refusing to have an abortion.

Let's first deal with the factual part of that statement. They say they have fought in court to defend teachers who were fired for refusing to have abortions. They then list four such cases.

One case concerned a teacher who was fired for getting a divorce. Another was about a teacher who was told she could not breast-feed her baby on school grounds. It is not clear what either of these cases had to do with abortion. As the first teacher was not pregnant and the second teacher's baby had already been born, it is hard to see how anyone could have been trying to force either of these women to have an abortion.

It may well be that these women were treated unjustly and that the NEA should be praised for coming to their defense. They certainly make it sound that way, though I'm reluctant to take a position without hearing the administration's (or whomever's) side of the story. But whatever the actual merits in each case, they had nothing to do with abortion.

The remaining two cases were about women who were fired from teaching positions because they became pregnant outside of marriage. Nowhere in the NEA's discussion of these cases does it say anything about the school board or anyone else attempting to force either woman to have an abortion. Perhaps what the NEA has in mind is that these women could have concealed their pregnancies from school authorities if they had had abortions early in their pregnancies, and thus avoided any conflict over their out-of-wedlock pregnancies. But it's surely a long way from saying that I could have concealed facts that got me into trouble with my boss by doing X, and saying that my boss tried to force me to do X. Like, "No one would ever have known that I was stealing company property if only the warehouse had burned down before the auditors showed up, therefore, my boss was trying to force me to burn down the company's warehouse."

Again, it may be that these women were treated unfairly, but they had nothing to do with abortion.

I'm sure if the NEA really had defended a teacher who was being pressured to get an abortion by the school board or the principle or whomever, they would have mentioned that case in this list instead of these "sort of kinda maybe have something to do with abortion" cases. So I think we can take it for granted that they have never done anything of the sort. Their initial statement was simply untrue and they apparently hoped that people would just skim over their "supporing facts" and not realize that they did not in any way back up the original statement.

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt and take their explanation of their position at face value: They defend both the right to have an abortion and the right to not have an abortion. Shouldn't that satisfy both sides? As they put it:

Why does NEA have a policy in support of a woman's right to reproductive freedom? The reason is this: that policy protects the constitutional rights of all NEA members, both those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life. So the next time you are out recruiting new members, and a teacher says, "I'm not going to join the NEA because it's pro-abortion," ... ask her this simple question, "Do you believe that a teacher who gets pregnant should be fired for refusing to have an abortion?" When she says "No," hand her a membership form and say, "Welcome aboard. You support NEA's policy on reproductive freedom."
Really now. Even if their policy really was this even-handed: Suppose someone said he defended both the right of a man to molest children, and the right of a man to not molest children. Would you consider that a neutral, even-handed position? Assuming you are not a child molestor yourself, would you support such a policy? I doubt it. Child molestation is morally wrong and clearly harmful to children. Anyone who defended a child molestor under the banner of "freedom of choice" and "neutrality" would be just as evil as the child molestor himself. Likewise, abortion is morally wrong and clearly harmful to children. Anyone who defends abortion under the banner of "freedom of choice" and "neutrality" is just as evil as the abortionist.

Intererstingly enough, the NEA has demonstrated that they understand this sort of absolute moral thinking on other subjects. The NEA strongly opposes vouchers, charter schools, home schooling, and other alternatives to state-run education. I have yet to hear anyone say that he thinks all parents should be forced to home-school their children. Rather, proponents of these alternatives routinely say that they favor educational choice. Why doesn't the NEA endorse this position? Why don't they defend both the right to a public education, and the right to a non-public education? Whether the NEA opposes non-public education because they have carefully studied all its forms and concluded that they result in an inferior educational experience, or whether you are so incredibly cynical and distrusting that you suspect that just maybe their major concern is that these alternatives take jobs away from their members ... In either case, they have concluded that non-public education is bad, and should be discouraged or outright prohibited.

Funny, that's exactly the same position that pro-lifers take about abortion, and that the NEA finds so incomprehensible.

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Posted 12 Sep 2000.

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