Home > News > Caitlin Flanagan Sounds Like Anthony Kennedy, or Desperately Seeking Social Science
104 views 2 min 0 Comment

Caitlin Flanagan Sounds Like Anthony Kennedy, or Desperately Seeking Social Science

- January 14, 2008

This is Flanagan, discussing the movie “Juno,” in yesterday’s New York Times:

bq. And that’s why “Juno” is a fairy tale. As any woman who has ever chosen (or been forced) to kick it old school [Juno’s term for a closed adoption] can tell you, surrendering a baby whom you will never know comes with a steep and lifelong cost. Nor is an abortion psychologically or physically simple. It is an invasive and frightening procedure, and for some adolescent girls it constitutes part of their first gynecological exam. I know grown women who’ve wept bitterly after abortions, no matter how sound their decisions were. How much harder are these procedures for girls, whose moral and emotional universe is just taking shape?

This is Anthony Kennedy, in Gonzales v. Carhart:

bq. Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child. The Act recognizes this reality as well. Whether to have an abortion requires a difficult and painful moral decision. Casey, supra, at 852–853 (opinion of the Court). While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.

Flanagan and Kennedy may or may not have different opinions about adoption, abortion, “partial-birth” abortion, etc. But they have one thing in common: they are willing to generalize about women’s experiences with little data to support their opinion. Kennedy acknowledges this explicitly. Flanagan has only her personal set of anecdotes (“I know grown women…”) but still feels quite comfortable with blanket assertions about how women feel, since “any woman” (ergo every woman) who has “surrendered” a baby for adoption experiences a “steep and lifelong cost.”

Maybe that is true, and maybe it isn’t. In either case, some data would be helpful. Last week I posted about the value of social science. Here is an excellent case where social science can tell us things we need to know. As I am well outside my own area of expertise, I welcome any citation to relevant social science in the comments.

Topics on this page