Saturday, November 3, 2012

The A-Word

As we approach election day (and a collective sigh of relief when it's all over), there are some issues that I have found myself to be wordier on than others. Those are getting their own posts. This will be the last time (probably) that I post about these; I am, frankly, tired of being argumentative and trying to make my point. I will make it here, and I will be done.

I’ve been trying to write this particular post for about a week, but there is so much to say, and I want to make sure I say it right.

As with any controversial subject, it’s easy to get heated, but if you choose to comment, please be civil. To me and to everyone else who participates in this conversation. I respect that everyone has their own beliefs and the basis of those beliefs may be hinged on a variety of reasons. My biggest problem is when I hear religious-based arguments; this has become a federal issue. I respect religion, but it has no place in government. The founding fathers made that very clear. I respect that you may have a different opinion than me; I ask that you also respect my opinion.

First, a disclaimer: it’s important to understand that pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. I withhold judgment and opinion on abortion itself; I acknowledge that it’s often necessary. It’s not a choice to be made lightly, and for every woman who has ever chosen that option, she chose it because it was the only one she had left. It’s a horrible decision to have to make. No, the purpose of this post is not to argue in favor of abortion; it is to explain why abortion should remain legal.

I’ve discussed this before, and a lot of what I have to say feels redundant; but I don’t want to leave any stone unturned.

Outlawing abortion will not make it stop. You’re na├»ve if you think it will. Overturning Roe Vs. Wade will be just about as effective as Prohibition was. People will do it anyway, they will do it illegally. Desperation will make people do just about anything - legal or otherwise. I, for one, would much rather have it be medically safe and regulated. Older generations of women will tell you that they remember the days when they used coat hangers. That's... horrifying, to say the least. Keeping abortion legal will not encourage people to run out and get one; it will keep it as an option for those who have no other choice. There are always circumstances at play that the outside world has no way of knowing or seeing, and no right to judge. Unless you’re walking in her shoes, you won’t understand what led her to that decision. A decision you want to take away just so you can feel like you’ve done your job as a responsible Christian, no doubt.

Occasionally, an abortion becomes medically necessary to save the life of the mother. I would rather that it be a decision between a woman and her doctor than between a woman and her politician. Unless you are a physician, the only uterus that is any of your business is (a) your own or (b) one that you have personally impregnated. Everyone else needs to stay out of it. It’s none of our business.

There are a lot of pro-lifers/anti-choicers (pick your semantics) who scream until they’re blue in the face about the rights of the unborn child. I would love to know what makes the life of an unborn baby more important than the life of the mother. The argument of personhood is for a more philosophical person than I, in terms of whether a fetus is a sentient being that has liberty, or at what point they become a Person. I'm not saying they are, I'm not saying they aren't. I've heard arguments for both and I'm siding with neither. But I will say this: the woman in question is a functioning member of society who has just as much right to life and liberty as an unborn fetus. Placing all of the rights with the fetus ABOVE her safety and well-being, well, that makes her a second-class citizen.  Taking away her right to choose is taking away her liberty. If you're going to be pro-life, it should be all life, those already in existence (the woman) and those in pre-existence (the baby). You can't pick one over the other. Life is life. The woman is not less than the baby. If abortion – especially medically necessary abortion – was outlawed, wouldn’t that infringe on the mother’s right to life? (Besides, if she died, the baby would also likely die, and that would be two lives lost.)

And you know what? A lot of those types of abortions? The medically necessary ones? Are wanted, planned pregnancies, and it's devastating enough to have to make that choice, without having to face the possibility of going to jail.

Obviously nothing in the world is so black and white as to say "this is wrong" and "this is right" but how are you deciding that the rights of the baby are more important than the rights of the mother? How do you decide that? Who designated you the right to play God? (Let’s also for a minute take note of the high overlapping Venn diagram of those who oppose abortion but support the Death Penalty. Or those that are willing to kill doctors who perform abortions. It seems all lives do not merit the same right to be lived as others. Which is fine, if that’s your opinion. But don’t deny that your views on life are inconsistent.)

There will always be the questions that arise over the case of rape and incest. Politicians are generally heartless in that respect – those who deny that such pregnancies can even occur, or those who say the woman should be grateful for the gift of a baby. (I wonder if their views change if their daughter were to get knocked up in such an instance?).  A baby that would come from a rape would be a constant reminder of this thing that happened to her, without her permission, without her consent.

The most cited reason for abortion is that the woman can’t afford to raise a child. She couldn’t afford birth control, perhaps, because the same far-right that is so vehemently opposed to abortions is also (ironically) opposed to accessible birth control. What makes you think she’d be able to afford a child?? She would not be able to provide a quality of life for the child that she never planned or wanted, but she better dare not ask for assistance from the very facet of society that would force her to have this child. It’s the same folks who oppose sexual education, contraceptives, and abortion that tend to the be same folks who speak with disgust about welfare. I don’t see how you can force a woman to have a baby she can’t take care of and then refuse to help her when she does what you wanted and keeps it. It’s seems hypocritical and cold, to me.

To quote George Carlin’s “Sanctity of Life”:  

"Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re pre-born, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked."

[Read the entire transcript here. I never gave that man enough credit when he was alive.]

All right, you say. The woman can just give the unwanted kid up for adoption, problem solved. First of all, pregnancy is brutal on a woman’s body, and in the case of a rape, it’s not like she was simply being irresponsible and now has to face the consequences. Adoption sounds like a great answer, but it’s tricky. Our foster care system is already overloaded, and guess who foots the bill for that? If you guessed TAX DOLLARS, you win a prize.

If you figure, also, that the majority of the children in the foster system are neglected children or whose parents were heavily involved with drugs… these children are damaged and in serious need of loving homes, but everyone wants a healthy baby, so they remain wards of the state. If you want to get on your religious high horse, do what Jesus would do, and make room in your home for one of these babies that has been sentenced to an adolescence as a ward of the state. I want to say this as delicately as possible, but: imagine all of the unwanted/abandoned/neglected babies that the system would need to care for if abortion were made illegal. You can argue for these theoretical babies and their right to life, but what kind of life would you have them be born into? It wouldn’t be the same quality of life as yours or mine. I feel like an asshole saying it, but a lot of kids were spared the agony of a young life of being unloved and mistreated because their mother made a very specific decision.

To quote a post I read recently (and will quote again later): "Banning abortion doesn’t make those pregnancies wanted."

Let’s take a step back for a minute. There is a way to fix this. There is a way to not put these women in these situations. We can reduce the abortion rate, and it starts with reducing the rate of unwanted pregnancies. But it means we HAVE to make birth control and other contraceptives more accessible, and more affordable.

It’s an automatic solution for avoiding circumstances in which an abortion would even be considered. If you educate the population on the consequences of unprotected sex, and make contraceptives more readily available, the rate of abortion will naturally decrease. I'd rather the government (or SOMEONE) give away free condoms or free birth control and have the public be educated and safe, because then we wouldn't even be having this conversation about abortion. The best way to cut down on unwanted pregnancies is to prevent them. It seems like a no-brainer, but we keep going ‘round in circles.

The insurance companies should be happy; birth control is infinitely cheaper than paying out for the birth of a child and subsequent health care for the child. Fewer tax dollars spent on welfare and the foster care system. Fewer dollars spent waging war between the pro-life and pro-choice camps. Fewer heartbreaking decisions, fewer lost potential lives.

(For those of you who consider birth control to be “abortion lite” – consider how the Pill actually works… it prevents ovulation, which means there is no egg being released to be fertilized, effectively storing it in the hatchery for future use. Meanwhile, those not on the Pill release an egg every month that is lost during menstruation. One could argue that a woman NOT on hormonal birth control is committing “abortion lite” every month by destroying viable eggs that can never be recovered. Of course you wouldn’t, because that’s silly, but so is likening birth control to abortion because it’s even less abortion-like than a naturally occurring monthly cycle. And that is as much time as I will devote to dignifying that “theory” with an answer.)

There is an essay making its way around the internet written by a woman named Libby who was firmly in the pro-life camp because she wanted to save the lives of unborn babies. Through an impressive amount of research, she realized that the only way to do this was to side with the pro-choice team. The entire piece can be read here, but there are a specific point I want to call out.

For those so opposed to the Affordable Care Act (dubbed not-so-affectionately “Obamacare”) and the fact that it covers birth control and contraceptives, consider the following paragraph. (Again, she did much more research than I’ve ever bothered to do.)

“Obamacare stands to cut abortion rates by 75%. And yet, the pro-life movement has been leveraged in opposition to Obamacare, and most especially in opposition to the birth control mandate. They don’t believe women should be guaranteed access to free contraception even though this access is the number one proven best way to decrease the number of abortions. That access would, to use the rhetoric of the pro-life movement, prevent the murders of 900,000 unborn babies every year.”

(Personally, I never expected birth control to be free… I expect a small copay, as with all my other prescription drugs. But I do think it should be covered, without question, without a permission slip – it’s preventive care if ever there was such a thing. Birth control, by definition, is the epitome of prevention.)

And for the love of God or whatever deity you believe in… STOP calling girls sluts because they happen to take birth control. For starters, you don’t know if they’re taking it for pregnancy prevention or some other issue (and it’s none of your business anyway). Also: it takes two parties to make a baby. I had one person comment on my facebook page one time, quote: " Do you really think that many girls are having sex not knowing they might get pregnant? Like, they don't know how babies are made?" After my head finished exploding, I snapped back at him. It takes two to tango, here. Girls are not the ones trying to get into their own pants and teenage boys, especially, are notorious for being horndogs. He then claimed he wasn’t finger-pointing at the girls. Fine. He could have easily said "don't boys know they can get girls pregnant?" or "do you really think that [that many couples] are having sex not knowing they might get pregnant?" It's not just on the girl. This is, again, assuming that the aforementioned sex is consensual. (In the event of a rape, I'm pretty sure the girl knows what the consequences could be - and there's not a damn thing she can do about it.) Thanks to the rise of “abstinence only” sex education – which clearly does NOT work – teens aren’t learning all of the risks associated with having sex. Prevention prevention prevention. It’s the key to all of this.
Also, just to cover all of the usual points – it’s easy for men to preach about the immorality of abortion. But if a man doesn’t want a pregnancy, he can just walk away. Women don’t have that option. They bear the responsibility of the bad choices made by both parties (or the repercussions of a violent criminal act, in the case of rape.) Therefore: I really don’t feel that men get to call the shots here. ESPECIALLY if the woman was not participating in consensual sex to begin with (again, in cases of rape.) She made no decision to have sex and she was not responsible for the outcome. Unless you're going to blame her for being fertile. In which case, that kind of makes you a sexist asshole.

“Well, maybe these people shouldn’t be having sex, then.” Do you honestly think this is a solution? It’s human nature. Married or unmarried, people are GOING to have sex. It’s been happening since the dawn of time. It’s especially prevalent in our current culture. No, that’s not an option, nor is it realistic to think it could be.

Ironically, the same politicians preaching morality are frequently the same ones caught having affairs. Neither here nor there, just an interesting observation I've made over the years.

Quoting Libby again, in her follow-up post, she makes a really good point:

“For these commenters [the ones arguing that sex is about making babies], being pro-life is not about saving babies, or at least not primarily about saving babies. Instead it is about making sure that sex has consequences. But why? Why must sex have consequences? When an obese person becomes diabetic we don’t deprive him of insulin and tell him his diabetes is his own fault and he just has to deal with the consequences. Should we deprive people of coffee because if you’re tired it’s your own fault for not getting more sleep? We do things to mitigate the consequences of our actions all the time. Birth control and abortion are just one more way of doing this. If someone argues that sex must have consequences – that sex and baby making must always go hand in hand regardless of the technology we have developed to separate the two – they are simply trying to impose their personal beliefs on everyone else.”

Ironically, she was apparently accused of several commenters of changing her stance and encouraging birth control so that she could basically rationalize her own promiscuity… when in fact, she’s married with two kids. ZING.

I don't even know why, in this day and age, we are still arguing about this. The only reason I can think of is that all of the old rich white dudes are power-hungry and they know that this is a hot-button topic that will get them votes. Quit playing games with my heart uterus, guys.

I really wish men were capable of getting pregnant. What a different world we would live in...

In summary, because I'm sure most of you skimmed this, because it got kind of long: outlawing abortion will not make it go away, a woman has just as much of a right to life as an unborn baby, people are going to have sex anyway because this isn't the 50s, and we can reduce the number of abortions by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies by making birth control more available and affordable, the end.

Reproductive issues should be handled by the medical community, not the political one. Quit trying to legislate my uterus, it is not yours to control. I will not vote for any candidate that expresses a backwards view of women's health and is so blase about defunding women's health programs. Ironically, the same programs that can cut down on the original issue of abortions.

Not this year, not ever.

And, truly, this is the last I hope to ever have to post about this.


chimes said...

*standing slow clap*

This is one of the best written arguments I've read about reproductive rights.

I am with you 100%, as you already know. I don't plan to ever have to make the choice of having an abortion, but then again, I don't think anybody does. It's not something I would choose for myself except in the case of life or death, or potentially rape (that one is in question for me because having an abortion is sometimes just as traumatic as having a child when you're talking about mental repercussions).

You left out an important point. There are those who have abortions when the child is going to be severely affected by something that will likely ruin the quality of life.

And the fact that most pro-lifers are also pro-death penalty. Figure that one out.

Ashley, The Accidental Olympian said...

All of the above. Amen.

The fact that in 2012 we continue to talk about this topic, and that as the years go on the conversation seems to be getting more and more insane (the body has a way of "shutting down rape" or that a child that is the product of rape is a "gift from God". WTF times 12) confuses me.

How is it that we're moving backwards instead of forwards? How in the world was there a time in our country 50+ years ago that people were smart enough to create Roe vs Wade, making such an informed and reasonable change in our world, and NOW things are getting so colossally fucked up?

I just... there are such reasonable things in place in our country. Separation of church and state, the fact that I'm a woman, therefore I should know about the needs and rights of my own body, and yet we continue to have these crazy conversations.

All any of us can do is refuse to be quiet about this topic, continue to vote for our rights, and how that this weird subset of aging white men who think they know what it right for our bodies get voted out and slowly die off.

Dear God, please just die off already.

Steph A said...


You know, i think i've gotten to the point where this issue isn't even worth thinking about to me anymore. I can't do a lot about it, and i will never agree with the other side. So fuck it, i'm done. I give my money to Planned Parenthood every month and any politician who's "pro-life" automatically loses my vote. Simple.

Honestly, i think this issue is a shining example of how religion is toxic, and how people who tolerate it allow this kind of bullshit to exist. But that will probably never change and it makes me pointlessly angry, so this is why i need to not think about it all too much.

One note: it's even more richly ironic that pro-lifers support the death penalty because the crime rate plummeted when abortion became legal. So guess who those criminals are. The unwanted.

JenBetweenDots said...

1 100% agree with everything said here, and in the comments. The fact that this is such a hot topic in the election frightens me. Hasn't anyone seen the movie "If These Walls Could Talk" about women giving themselves abortions when it was illegal - terrifying!