How to Reduce Abortions
This is important to me. I love babies. I love that I am going to be a grandfatther in June. I love children, both first decade and teen. I love women (as a general rule,) and think men are just great for the most part. In short, I am glad to be human and that our species should continue just as long as possible. So, I am not for murdering babies, but I am pro-choice and pro-life. Those two terms mean something different to me and most people who believe that the right to have abortions is a basic civil right than the political slogans imply. If you wish me to state a position based on the commonly understood meanings of the terms “Pro-Life and Pro-Choice,” then call me “Pro-Choice.”
But, and this is an important “but,” read what I have to say about it before insisting that I am in favor of murdering babies:
Women are going to have abortions. They are going to have them for reasons known often only to themselves and the people in whom they choose to confide. A law or constitutional amendment making abortions illegal is not going to stop that, no matter how draconian the penalties. I am not even going to run through the litany of reasons that women will choose not to carry abortions to term, suffice for the sake of this posting that no matter what the laws try to regulate, women will have abortions.
My goal, and I think that society’s goal, is for the women that have abortions to survive them without seriously endangering their own lives. And this is one of those areas in which science should and can guide ethical and moral decisions.
Prior to Roe V. Wade, there were abortions in the United States. Many people will be shocked, I am sure, but it is true. However, the means and methods of these abortions were variable based on the economic class of the women who had them, and also varied greatly based on other circumstance of the carrier’s social context. Abortions were performed in secret, by practitioners who didn’t have proper facilities to deal with emergencies. Abortions were performed in places that did not meet hospital or clinic standards of cleanliness. Abortionists were often not specifically trained on how to do them safely.
This placed the life of the carrier in great danger for post-procedure infections, and women died. Women were unintentionally sterilized by abortionists who were poorly trained. It was a horrifying situation for women who didn’t have access to clinics, but they would make that decision anyway, aware of the risks.
It is important that law reflect human needs, or it will have unintended consequences (this is where it gets tricky.) There has to be a way to create a hierarchy of needs that is both ethical and moral and in ways that do the greatest good for the whole of society; and in abortion law there needs to be a recognition that no matter what the courts or the legislature decides, women will make the decision to end pregnancies. Law needs to recognize this, and protect the lives and health of the women who make this choice.
In Peru, Abortion is Illegal
Peruvian abortions are performed, despite the law. It hasn’t stopped abortion, it has made it much more dangerous for the women who make this decision. (Canadian Medical Association Journal (2009, February 3). Peru Study Shows Restrictive Law Fails To Limit Number Of Abortions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from Peru Study Shows Restrictive Laws Fail To Limit Number of Abortions.)
Clandestine induced abortion is a significant public health issue in many countries where access to abortion is severely legally restricted. Abortions are often available only in cases of rape or incest or when a pregnancy threatens the health or life of the woman, causing many women to pursue clandestine abortions, which are often unsafe. Forty percent of women live in countries where abortions are legally restricted.
As comprehensive official statistics are lacking, this study provides valuable public health data.
The researchers conducted a population-based survey of almost 8000 women aged 18-29 years in 20 Peruvian cities. They found that 11.6% of women reported having abortions and 7.5% of sexually experienced 18-year-olds – the youngest age surveyed – reported having had abortions.
The political faction which calls themselves “Pro-Life” seems deliberately blinded to this aspect of the abortion issue. I honestly feel their pain and struggle because I don’t like abortions. I would love to see an ideal society in which every baby was lovingly conceived and carried to term into a welcoming social family structure. It ain’t so, though, despite my wishes. I am also not able to make such a blanket statement that all abortion is immoral and must be proscribed by law. Human pregnancy is a dangerous period in a woman’s life even under the best of circumstances, and far too often the worst of circumstances make a choice necessary. When the choice is made, it can only be made by the woman who is carrying the baby with the counsel she chooses.
August Berkshire points out why such a blanket statement that “Abortion is Murder” is ethically impossible:
Beginning with some premises (#1-6) that few Religious Right anti-choice people would disagree with, we follow with a scientific fact (#7), leading to a couple surprising conclusions (#8-9).
- God is all-powerful.
- God is all-good.
- Everything God does is good.
- God wants humans to be good.
- If humans imitate God, who is all-good, then humans will be good.
- God created the human reproductive system.
- At least 25% of fertilized human eggs are spontaneously aborted.
- This makes God the world’s biggest abortionist.
- Humans should have more abortions.
While there may be a bit of snarkiness in this, the point is that one would almost have to consider miscarriage and nature-induced abortions to be suicide by the fetus. I don’t think that we can consider that. Death during pregnancy is far too common, and modern medicine can’t prevent all of these. If failure to prevent a crime is as morally wrong as committing the crime, then there is a serious ethical dilemma.
The far better approach to the issue is to reduce the frequency of abortions by making the incidence of unwanted pregnancy a rare thing. And how do we do this? Sensible birth control policies.
I have a daughter who is about to be 17. She recently found herself in a situation in which a boy tried to take advantage of her using alcohol. She escaped the situation, although she is fuzzy about the details when discussing them with me (she has confided more deeply about it with her mother.) If she had been penetrated sexually, it would have been rape. If she had conceived a child for lack of contraception, it would have been cause for an abortion.
Finally, I went to a Catholic High School for my senior year. There was a much sex among my schoolmates as their had been at the public school at which I had been a student the years prior. We had just as many, if not more, pregnant teens at the Catholic School as we had in the public school. Merely teaching kids that premarital sex is “bad, mkay” doesn’t prevent them from having sex. Access to solid, reliable information about sex and how to prevent pregnancy is important not just for your kids and my kids, it is important for society in order to make abortion “Safe, legal and rare.”
Consider the choices honestly. The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Poverty” and the “War on Terrorism” have been ineffective societal attempts to reduce the incidence of negative social functions. Laws in the United States against abortion would be just as ineffective as they were before Roe v Wade, and just as ineffective as they are in Peru. The added danger to women’s lives would cause far more death and mutilation to women than lives of fetuses a “War on Abortion” would do.
Safe, legal and rare. It’s the humane and sensible path.
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Cross-posted from Tangled Up in Blue Guy.