In having a discussion with someone a while back who is anti-abortion she said, “Isn’t it interesting how when they don’t want it, it’s a fetus, but when they do want it, it’s a child”. The implication being that the argument on when personhood occurs is arbitrary. Aside from the fact that she’s wrong, because a lot of people, even when they want a child and get pregnant, they still don’t think of the fetus at 14 weeks as a person, she made an important point without realizing it. There is a big difference in our attitude when want to have children (even if it isn’t exactly planned) and when we don’t. Meaning that the important question to ask is, if we don’t want the child, why would someone get an abortion? Given that it has happened since we existed as a species, either there are a significant proportion of psychopathic humans who love murdering babies, or there is a natural and logical explanation for it.
In my last post, I talked a little bit about the fact that we are wired not only to procreate, but also to sustain ourselves and our community. Community is much different than it was in hunter-gatherer days and in some ways it is much worse. Western society especially can be very individualistic and so support may come from nowhere else but yourself, and you’re often lucky if you have a partner who is willing to support you if you become unexpectedly pregnant. To our Paleolithic brains the worry about the scarcity of resources to care for our child is going to make us look for options other than not having the child. If you feel like you have inadequate resources to care for the child, you will likely not want to carry it to full term. I read a blog just recently about how great Christian communities can be when someone loses a job in helping them through that, but it’s a very different story when a teenage girl has a pregnancy out of wedlock. She risks being shunned by family and friends. And I don’t mean to just single out Christians, because there are great many other cultures that stigmatize girls for getting pregnant outside of marriage. So no matter how supportive a community might be in other aspects, when an unwed girl gets pregnant she is often treated much differently.
When you look at countries that have the lowest rate of abortions you find that these are societies that give adequate health care to pre-natal mothers, give financial support to mothers once their babies arrive such as 1-2 years of maternity leave for the mother, and even a good deal for the fathers. Women have free access to birth control, and there is a lot of emphasis placed on sex education and proper child care. Is it any wonder that such countries have low abortion rates? The country I’m in right now is Poland. Poland has banned abortion for social reasons and only allows for abortions in the case of 1) Risk to the health of the mother 2) serious birth defects 3) Cases of rapes and incest. I can say that there is at least some compassion here as many in the U.S. do not even want to give women these options. That being said, as this article indicates, the policy was put into effect (in 1993 before which abortions were allowed for social reasons) with little forethought in supporting mothers and thus abortions have not stopped and have simply had to go underground and try to terminate pregnancies less safely. And this is the important point. Making abortions illegal does not stop abortions. This article is a bit old, but looks at abortion rates worldwide. In countries where abortions are illegal they have a hard time getting data on the number of illegal abortions, but use techniques based on estimates of how many women have to be hospitalized after getting an illegal abortion. There are about 5 times more women getting illegal abortions than those hospitalized after the illegal abortion. And despite a country like Brazil having several hundred thousand women hospitalized it does not deter women from having abortions. When abortions are banned they still happen and are unregulated. They happen more expensively if you want it done right, but for most people, they will simply not be able to afford it or the more qualified person will simply be too far away or too booked up, and women will use a cheaper, less qualified, and less sanitary, less safe method for the abortion. Perhaps heard of “coat hanger abortion”, this was a reality when abortions were banned in this country when some women would try to terminate their own pregnancy. A follower on the last blog post said she knew someone that used abortion as a form of birth control and had multiple abortions. I agree wholeheartedly that this is a terrible situation, and one does have to wonder what would be wrong with someone who thinks that it is a valid form of birth control. It seems fairly clear that such a person is not mentally sound, but one therefore must also ask the question, if abortions were illegal, would such a person be deterred from having multiple abortions? Once again we must go back to the question, why would a woman want to terminate her pregnancy if the drive to reproduce is so strong in life, and if we can answer that, what are the necessary conditions to deter women from having abortions?
If you were paying attention to the last post and this one you will realize that one factor is of primary importance to the brain in determining whether to keep one’s baby. The first is to feel supported. This means feeling supported by your family and community and feeling that you have the material resources available to care for your child. Now it’s probably true to say that there or many women who may have the resources or have the support, but simply perceive that they don’t but perception is also relevant. Just because you may see someone as having more options than they have, we build our own realities. Furthermore, no matter how much we may love and be willing to sacrifice for our child a perceived strain on being able to proffer our own survival or drain the resources of our supporting community will impact our decision. For instance a woman might think that they could have the baby, but they would need financial help, and while she might know her parents would help, she also knows they would have to blow through their retirement nest egg to do so. And it’s important to remember that there are other factors that come into play. Perhaps the father of the child is abusive. Perhaps the parents will simply kick the mother out of the house for shaming the family. A woman using abortion as a form of birth control might be doing so to continue her heavy drinking, drug use, and wild unprotected sex lifestyle. Is this the type of person we want to raise a child? Becoming pregnant can be a transformative experience for some, but for others simply makes matters worse and now there is a child in the world with a parent or parents ill-equipped to care for it.
Personally I feel there is a lot of vitriol aimed at the pro-choice crowd, but I don’t think any of us are opening up a bottle of champagne every time there is an abortion. We have common ground, and we’d all like to see a respect for life that is equal to the respect for women who have unplanned pregnancies. Shaming, blaming, and scorn only exacerbates the feelings of isolation and a lack of support and simply doesn’t help. So if you love babies and you want every child to have a chance at life here are some things you can do to help:
- Fight for all women to get a minimum of 1 month maternity leave. In that first year, she shouldn’t have to worry about money while doing the very difficult job of trying to adjust to having a new person in her life. And if you can give the father 6 months paternity leave, that would be awesome too.
- Fight for universal health care. Don’t like the APA then improve it. This helps all women have easy access to birth control.
- Make sure the education system treats sex openly and responsibly. Enough with this abstinence only stuff. It doesn’t work. Make sure your kids can get actual information about sex. Instead of pretending it’s not going to happen to your kid because you taught them it is a sin to not have sex until marriage, accept that they might have sex and make sure that if they do they don’t get pregnant. Fight to make sure your kids are informed.
- My cousin had 3 children by the time she was 19, and my aunt, like a champ stepped up and supported her daughter. I am sure she sacrificed a lot for her child, but knew that if she wanted those girls to have a chance, and her daughter to have a chance to improve her station in life she was going to need help. Let’s stop shaming our daughters, our sisters, and friends for getting pregnant accidentally and make sure they know you are there for them no matter what.
- As a community of people against abortion, use your combined resources to not lobby the government but start funds to help young mothers, adopt babies yourself, and spread the word about adoption as a viable options and convince people that their child will not end up in the foster care system because it spends the first part of its life without being adopted. There are a lot of myths about adoption out there, and for some people it is very costly compared to having your own and having it covered by health care. Help parents who might want to adopt with the cost, so that pregnant women know that the option is there for them. I think there is a lot of positive and negative information about adoption out there, and we can do better to make the system more efficient and make women who have unplanned pregnancies more confident about giving their child up for adoption. I do think things are getting better.
- Fight to improve the foster care system, so that children who end up being born to unfit parents have a chance at something better.
When we treat women as only having value for the ability to procreate we also commit a heinous crime to the living. When we create laws that takes away a women’s right to decide what happens to her body this, to me, is also immoral and is harmful to women. Especially given that it does not deter abortions from happening. Can we really force someone to raise a child? Especially when we make no provisions for how they do so? And speaking of the how, what about the fact that we hold no parents responsible for what crimes their child commits? Parents are free to teach their children to hate, lust for power, oppress, be greedy, etc. What of the parents of Dylann Roof, Timothy McVeigh, or an Adam Lanza? You might argue that these are unique cases, but I bring them up to show the possibilities of what can happen when parents are ill-equipped to raise a child. What harm to the world have such parents caused, and none are accountable for how they have raised their child. Are these not crimes as well? What are the results of having parents who raise a child who genuinely feel like they should not? The foster system is full of children removed from parents who neglect and harm their children, and the system tries hard, but ultimately many who go through that system end up committing crimes and not having productive lives. It is this multitude of people who increases the financial burden on others as well, increasing the need for taxation. Something the conservative crowd that is often anti-abortion is also against. If we are also against paying for all these unwanted children brought into the world, what is the option? Letting them starve? Letting them live in the streets? Is this demonstrative of this love of children that would have scorn those who have an abortion?
Perhaps these crimes are no worse than aborting a fetus, but coming together on this divisive issue requires that we find a solution that tries to minimize all these crimes. It requires us to minimize the overall harm. It is completely simplistic to simply tell someone they shouldn’t have sex, or they should have used protection. It’s quite possible that the reason you have been able to make good decisions in your life, and others have not is because of completely different set of variables in their environment. There could be a multitude of reasons why that person feels like they have inadequate resources and insufficient energy to raise a child. But all of us who are pro-choice and pro-life must come together to deal with this issue. The things I outlined above are a good start and reflect the values that are held in countries that have low rates of abortions. Of course most of the people I know are pro-choice and you need only to talk to them for a short time to know that there desire to preserve life is as great as anyone. In some ways moreso as they are anti-war and anti-death penalty and often fight for the preservation of life in many important issues we face today. As a result I refuse to refer to those who are anti-abortion as those who are pro-life. We all value life in our own way, so let’s work on solutions that meet that common goal. As someone who has a child now, that I love an immeasurable amount it is hard for me to imagine life without him now. Abortion seems all the more tragic, but I also know there are many couples who regret having children when they did, or at all, and it makes me wonder if they would have been better served waiting until a later time, or not having children at all. Hindsight is always 20/20 and of course I know if I didn’t have my son, I would never know what I was missing. Most women, not surprisingly don’t regret having an abortion. Somewhere in the Bible I believe God says to “Be fruitful and multiply”. We have certainly multiplied, but we have yet to ensure that all people on this planet can be fruitful. It is the being fruitful that gives people the freedom to multiply. To feel fruitful, mothers-to-be need to feel supported by their spouses, but their family, by their community, and by their government. It may never be possible to stop abortion completely, something that has always been part of our nature, but we have the ability to reduce it greatly if we work together and create the environment that mothers need to keep and support their child.
Blogging about abortion is the one way ticket to getting people to hate your gets, but it is important to talk about, even very divisive issues, and hopefully I have made a case for how we can all work together on this issue. I will finish off this series by talking about the choice to not have children at all, which seems to be increasingly common these days and why having a family with children is not the ultimate life goal in today’s age.