I honestly don’t know if it is possible to debate this subject in a logical way. For every argument the pro-choice side throws up the pro-life side throws up a photo of a mangled fetus or an ultrasound, then the pro-choice side points to images of dead women and butchered reproductive organs. Obviously it is a highly emotional subject for many, but there was a time when no one would even think to politicize a woman’s choice in the matter. Abortion has existed for thousands of years, and if made illegal will simply return to the back alleys in the form of dangerous sometimes lethal procedures.
I use the term pro-birth in the title of this piece instead of pro-life for a very specific reason. Most proponents of the pro-life argument are in fact pro-birth and not exactly pro-life. As some pro-birth types who fight to save every pregnancy are the same folks who would love to see an end to food stamps, welfare, the WiC food program, Medicaid, state child health insurance programs and even Head Start, the pre-school program for low-income children. If they are so pro-child and pro-family why leave low-income households with little to no government support. They cavalierly say these families and mothers can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” when they don’t even have a pair of boots, much less any straps to pull them up with. Some of these more extreme right wingers would not only put an end to all government assistance, they would also end access to most forms of birth control and abortion in nearly all cases. Yet according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute 6 in 10 women who have an abortion already have a child, sometimes several children and the primary reason they give for having the procedure is the need to care for their existing children. According to the same report, 4 in 10 of women who have abortions have income below the federal poverty line. So many who seek abortions are already mothers desperately trying to support and take care of their families.
The myth perpetuated by some in the anti-abortion movement is that of a cold-hearted selfish single woman who gleefully terminates pregnancies at will. They have sex without marriage, and a life lived for themselves and not for the benefit of a child. To some conservatives these women are not following the rules of nature by being sexually active and not reproducing. Although modern humans especially in wealthy industrial nations are not even close to living in our natural state. Thanks to advances in medical technology we are living into our eighties, with marvels such as: antibiotics, vaccines, organ transplants, chemotherapy, blood transfusions, pace makers, and artificial joints. We also are hardly living according to nature when we ship food all over the world. We use fossil fuels, chemical pesticides and fertilizers and have boosted food production to levels that were unheard up just a few generations ago. These medical and technological advances are taken for granted yet any woman who wants to control their reproductive system is asking for something entirely unreasonable. If we can cheat death with antibiotics then why not plan our families with hormonal birth control? The single childless woman who lives her life without a man would be a far rarer occurrence if she did not have control of her reproductive rights.
Making their case even more confusing are the same conservatives who rail against the childless single mother are the same who condemn a woman who purposefully has a child out-of-wedlock. In 1992 vice president Dan Quayle lamented against a fictional character on the show “Murphy Brown” for setting a bad example by actively choosing to raise a child as a single-mother. Twenty years later the debate still rages, but what these conservatives forget is that we have always had single mothers. The tragedies of premature death, warfare and abandonment have always supplied plenty of single mothers. The real fear is women living without men, defying the male power structure and living as they see fit. The single unmarried woman becomes the ultimate she-devil, the woman who can live without a man and things like abortion and birth control make this lifestyle that much easier.
To some conservatives any woman who lives without the traditional nuclear family structure is somehow going against “the rules”. The teenager who gets pregnant and terminates her pregnancy somehow got away with negative behavior. She did not pay the consequences for her actions. The brutalized rape or incest victim must also pay penance for the sins of another and endure nine months of a pregnancy only then to raise her attackers baby or give the child away. The religious person might think that since they are “playing by the rules” that everyone around them must adhere to the same morality. Even though many religious types don’t even adhere to this strict code of moral conduct themselves. According the the Guttmacher Institute 3 out of 4 women who have abortions would call themselves religiously affiliated and Catholic woman have abortions at almost the same rate as the general population. A recent study cited in the New Scientist showed that pornography sales are actually slightly higher in Republican leaning states than in Democratic ones, one of the highest being the ultra conservative state of Mississippi. And how many examples of religious leaders do we need that have committed transgressions against their own sermons of morality. Here is a handy list of just 12 that doesn’t even include the child sex scandals in the Catholic church.
But most important the same groups that claim that every fertilized egg is a sacred human life aren’t even consistent in their message. Medical procedures such as IVF use countless embryos many of which do not result in a life birth. Most couples make dozens of eggs and try to implant a few at a time. In most cases several eggs are naturally rejected by a woman’s body and fail to attach to the uterine wall, many more remain in frozen storage. The majority of these frozen embryos are ultimately destroyed when the freezing process has degraded them or when a couple is finished with the process. The real fear here isn’t the plight of frozen embryos because after all these women are actively choosing to become mothers, at great cost and with some medical risk. The real fear is women actively choosing to not become mothers. If the pro-lifers really cared about every embryo we would see pickets and protests outside of fertility clinics.
The world is overflowing with children who are already born and living on the edge of survival. If the energy and money spent trying to save every pregnancy in the US went instead to ensuring the safety and well-being for children in the third world or even here in the US, millions of lives could be saved. Of course some on the pro-life side of the debate are active in children’s charities and even adopt or foster unwanted children, but most would rather spend their time and energy condemning total strangers whom they know little about.
I just have to go back to a bumper sticker slogan that I saw many years ago that for me puts this issue to rest perfectly.
If you are against abortion, don’t have one.
If a pro-life advocate wants to raise their children and teach them that abortion is a vile crime against humanity, no one is stopping them. However when they try to limit the rights of a total stranger and what she can or cannot do with her body they go too far.