Pro-lifers, I get you. I don’t know when a fetus becomes a human, either. A fertilized egg cell is not the same as a person – I hold that truth to be self-evident – but a baby just about to born is not just a lump of cells, either. So it’s murky, and I understand why you want to end abortion. I just think you are going about it in the exact wrong way.
You have to understand that virtually all women are anti-abortion on a personal level. We don’t think it sounds like fun. However, many of us will choose abortion over getting ostracized by our families, shamed by our friends, or losing a job or a relationship upon which we depend for shelter and food and such. Some of us will choose it after being raped. Contrary to what Todd Akin and prominent Mitt Romney supporter John Willke have argued, about five percent of rapes result in pregnancy.
Most of all, we’ll choose it over endangering our own health or safety. Homicide is a leading cause of death for pregnant women. Domestic violence is the most common health problem pregnant women suffer. Suicide is the leading cause of death among women who have given birth in the last six months or so, and common sense suggests that women who had unwanted pregnancies would be especially susceptible. These are serious considerations for any genuine pro-life stance.
Many people want to outlaw safe abortions in order to lower the abortion rate. Here’s the thing: it won’t work.
Look at the global statistics. Sweden’s abortion rate is significantly lower than ours, and their abortions are free. In Colombia, a woman can go to prison for three years for terminating a pregnancy, and their abortion rate is way higher than that of the United States. It’s worth noting that Sweden is one of the least religious countries in the world, while Colombia is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Perhaps religious beliefs do not trump economic considerations, and perhaps the shame that religion can associate with extramarital sex can actually lead a woman to choose abortion.
Think about how well an abortion ban in the United States would work: pretty much not at all. People have mobile phones and the internet. Do you really think they won’t be able to find an unlicensed abortion provider, or information on how to induce a miscarriage themselves?
Do you think the police and the criminal justice system has the resources or inclination to prosecute people who get abortions, or even provide them? They can’t even stop people from shooting one another: we had 8,775 gun deaths in the U.S. in 2010. India, which has about four times the population that we do, had 6,219 (that’s a 2008 number.) Incidentally, pro-lifers, shouldn’t you be working on this also? Or on the infant mortality rate, which is one of the highest among the developed countries? You have a strangely narrow focus.
But I digress. People who want abortions in the United States will get them, regardless of the law. If you outlaw abortion, you only make sure they get unsafe ones that endanger their own lives. This is not pro-life.
Why do right-wing politicians focus so much on outlawing safe abortions? It’s a fantastic way to get middle-class and the working poor to vote against their own economic interests in favor of the rich.
How do we really prevent abortion? The best way is to offer free birth control to those who need it.
In a study at the Washington University School of Medicine, 9,256 poor, uninsured women were given free birth control for four years. They had their choice of birth control, and most of them chose IUDs, which the people running the study recommended.
There were 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study. The national rate is 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women. The reduction in the teen birth rate was even more dramatic: 6.3 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 in the study, compared with the national rate of 34.3 births per 1,000 teen girls.
This study has a huge sample size and huge results. It verifies what I’ve always suspected: anyone who wants to prevent abortions should be fighting hard for free birth control for those who can’t afford it.
Funny story, though: they aren’t! Right-wing politicians tried to block employers from having to cover birth control costs, because of their “moral convictions.” Last June when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, conservatives complained it was an infringement on their religious liberty.
If you’re against easy access to contraception, you are not actually all that concerned about abortions. I don’t know what your end game is, actually. Not allowing women to make choices about their own bodies? Making sure sex frequently results in babies, wanted or not? Feeling morally superior to people facing choices you have never had to face? I’ll leave that for you to figure out.