Abortion is an issue that polarizes people. Anti-abortionists do their very best to restrict a woman’s access to legal and safe abortions all over the country. In Mississippi there is only one place in the state you can safely and legally have an abortion. The state has almost three million people. It also rates second in the nation in teen pregnancy.
Those who advocate for a woman’s right to choose will often argue that since it is the woman’s body and life that is most closely impacted by being pregnant, she should have the choice of what to do about it like any other health issue.
The problem is that those against abortion see the unborn fetus as a living being and think of abortion as murder and there is no argument to be made that will convince most of them that the fetus does not deserve every bit of protection we would give any other human life. This argument has been used again and again both in legislative buildings and in the defense of killing doctors who perform abortions. Given that this fundamental difference is so significant, I will not be arguing for or against it. What I am going to do instead is make an argument about abortion that I believe can be adopted by those who feel abortion is a woman’s right and those who feel it is no different than murder.
I know this sounds like a tall order, but I’m a liberal Democrat and my Dad is a Born-Again Christian who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and when I explained this to him, he and I agreed. I am genuinely hoping I am able to sway some more people with this because as I see it, there should be nothing controversial about abortion whatsoever.
Before 1973, abortion was not legal in much of the United States. This does not mean that abortions did not occur in the United States. They did. They occurred in unsterile environments with unqualified people who often left the pregnant woman permanently injured or dead. They occurred with women trying home remedies that often left them sick or dead. The only time they occurred with any semblance of safety for the pregnant woman was when the wealthy would hire a doctor to perform them. We know these things happened. We have hundreds of women and relatives of women who have bravely told these stories.
We also know the lengths that some pregnant women will go to in order to have abortions because there are states where anti-abortion laws are so strict that women have had to go to great lengths to get an abortion, including driving out of state, trying one of those home remedies, or getting butchered by an unscrupulous doctor. This is not something that only happened in the past. It happens today.
It is curious to me that the same conservatives who tell me that gun control will not work because criminals don’t follow laws are under the impression that laws restricting abortion will stop abortions. There’s a certain cognitive dissonance there. But if we know laws will not stop or lower abortions, maybe it is time to look at what we know works.
For starters we need to look at the cause of every single abortion ever performed: pregnancy. If we can limit the amount of pregnancies, we limit the amount of people who might want an abortion.
A popular idea among conservatives is to just tell anyone who does not want a baby to not have sex. This is a roundabout way of imposing antiquated religious beliefs on poor people. Sex is not simply for baby creation and it is not something you should only do if you have enough money. Sex between consensual partners is a human right. More to the point, we know that telling people to abstain simply does not work.
If we look at states where abstinence-only sexual education is mandated we find that there is a significant increase in teen pregnancy and STDs. This is because getting teenagers to avoid something by telling them not to do it, is like putting a steak in front of a dog and telling him not to eat it. It doesn’t work. It does not take an expert to understand why those with little cash and lots of hormones might engage in sex. It also does not take an expert to understand why a young woman who becomes pregnant who is poor might choose to have an abortion.
I would love to point to a state where there is solid nonjudgmental, non-religious sexual education, but there really isn’t one. So instead let’s take a look at Sweden where sexual education has been mandatory since 1956. Sweden’s pregnancy rate per 1,000 people is less than a third of ours.
It is clear to anyone paying attention that giving children accurate sexual education helps lower the pregnancy rate and as mentioned earlier, less pregnancies means less abortions.
Even when people are properly informed and educated about sex, they may still engage in unsafe sexual activity, especially if it is difficult to get birth control. This is why we do not just need good sexual education. We need access to free and low cost birth control. Studies have shown that when women have access to free birth control unwanted pregnancies go down. These two things lower the pregnancy rate dramatically and when there are less unwanted pregnancies, there are less abortions.
Now, let’s review:
- Abortions happen whether or not they are legal.
- Illegal abortions often put the life of the pregnant woman in danger.
- Nonreligious, non-judgmental sexual education and access to free and low-cost birth control lowers the abortion rate more than anything else.
Given these facts the only logical thing to do is provide good sexual education, free birth control, and offer safe, legal abortion services for those women who choose to have abortions.
Any other alternative either increases the abortion rate or puts the pregnant woman’s life in danger. In either case, you can’t call yourself ‘pro-life’ while putting a woman’s life in danger or deliberately blocking something you know will lower the abortion rate.
Nothing I have said here is opinion. Each of the things said here can be verified. I’ve included links and there is more information out there if you are so inclined to find it. I welcome discussion, but if you are going to say that anything in this article is not true, please cite your sources.
Ultimately, those in favor of cutting funding to Planned Parenthood or creating new laws that restrict a woman’s right to choose are at best misguided and at worst simply anti-woman. Hopefully this article helps make sense of an emotional issue.
– Jack Cameron