Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Choice Matters

All this talk about Planned Parenthood and funding and whatnot has got me to thinking about the abortion debate and how it has colored politics here in the states.

The budget road block has come down to the medical care that Planned Parenthood provides, and how that care sends conservatives 'round the bend.

Yes, medical care. Because that is what Planned Parenthood does. It provides necessary medical care to millions of women and families. Only 3% of their provided services include abortion. No matter how much people may try to make abortion a political issue, it is still a medical procedure performed between a woman and her doctor. Period. We do not have public discourse on any other medical procedure. None. There is no reason to have it on this one. Ever since humans made the connection between sex and reproduction, we have been finding ways to avoid reproducing while still enjoying sex.

Even in the United States, abortion was universally legal until the 1820s. It was primarily outlawed due to a desire for population growth (since infant mortality was also incredibly high at the time). Even once it was outlawed, there were women that did not want more children. This led to illegal abortion and infanticide. My personal view is that the people who are against abortion now, who feel that abortion should be made illegal in any and all cases, do not either know, nor remember what it was like prior to Roe v. Wade. They do not remember the thousands upon thousands of women who were seen by emergency rooms across the country that either died or suffered horrific complications due to self-induced or poorly performed abortions. They don't remember how abortion being illegal was dangerous for women.

Making abortion illegal, restricting women's access to it, guilt-tripping them about their decisions, does not make it go away. It just forces desperate women to go underground and possibly incur injury against themselves out of that desperation. Women who seek abortions do not do so lightly. It is expensive (costing anywhere from $375 to over $1000), invasive, and painful. The idea that women, especially poor women, just run around and get abortions willy-nilly is just ridiculous. Additionally, the concept that there is some magical line later in a pregnancy that makes that fetus more precious is ridiculous as well, and laws built around this concept can lead to heartbreaking consequences. Much wanted babies, that end up dying for reasons beyond anyone's control. Why on earth would you force a woman to become a walking tomb?

Freakonomics was ballsy enough to point out that maybe, possibly, legalized abortion may be good for society in that it reduces the number of unwanted children. Children that are not wanted are vastly more likely to be abused or neglected, putting them at higher risk for crime involvement. Their hypothesis is that the 1990s crime drop was due in large part to the passing of Roe v. Wade 20 years prior. An entire generation of kids were vastly more likely to actually have been wanted pregnancies, thus reducing the likelihood they would get involved in crime.

There are anti-choice advocates that try to claim abortion hurts women. How? How does abortion hurt women any more or less than any other surgery? Wait, could it possibly be that it is not the actual procedure that hurts women, but the protesters that surround clinics, telling women and doctors that they're murderers, whores, sluts, going to burn in hell, and that they are all around horrible people? Could it possibly be those people that cause some women to feel bad about their decision? Even so, they'd be in the minority of women. Most women who receive medical abortions feel relieved afterward, like a burden has been lifted off of them.

Early term abortions are relatively easy to get, but sometimes tricky to get early enough. Many women don't even know they are pregnant before the 12 week mark. Late term abortions refer to anything after that mark, including the "Late Term" abortions most commonly referred to in the media, which specifically refer to procedures occurring after 20-22 weeks. Typically, women who receive those operations very much want their child, but something goes horrifically wrong that threatens the life of the mother. There are very few doctors that perform these extremely controversial operations, of which Dr. George Tiller was one (whose murder was an act of domestic terrorism, I don't care what anyone else says).

There are also those on the anti-choice side that spout "What about adoption?!" Really? The adoption system in the US is horrifically overburdened, with less than half of children in the foster system being adopted. Also, what the people who advocate adoption seem to neglect are the nine months of pregnancy that need to occur prior to that adoption. That's nine months of doctor's bills, possible missed work, health concerns, and the emotional toll that takes on a woman. The most common reasons women have abortions are socioeconomic; there is a problem with money involved. Whether it be they already have too many mouths to feed, can't afford a child at the moment, can't afford to miss work to have a child (or possibly lose their job), and so on. The adoption option ignores these factors. If a woman might (or is guaranteed to) lose her job due to pregnancy, or doesn't have the money to afford a child, what on earth makes you think she can afford those nine months of pregnancy? Who is going to foot the bill? I can promise you it won't be the people who want to end legal abortion.

I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that actually likes abortion, including the most die-hard pro-choice advocate (such as myself). While procedures such as the abortions that take place after 20 weeks may be squicky to me, I also understand their importance and necessity. (Side note: Those billboards showing 'aborted fetuses'? No one wants to see that any more than they want to see the fat from a liposuction procedure. Shock tactics are an emotional appeal and disjoint images from reality. And while they like to cite 'medical texts' as their sources, I've personally never seen any medical text that used US currency such as a dime to show scale. They like to use rulers in the science world.) There are those that tell women if they don't want to get pregnant, don't have sex! Well guess what? Married women have sex. Married women get pregnant. Married women get abortions. What are you going to do? Call her a slut? For having sex with her husband? Because that makes sense. Additionally, telling people not to do something for which we are hard-wired for is ridiculous. The vast majority of women who get abortions, do so because their primary form of birth control failed. It happens. The goal of organizations like Planned Parenthood is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place. If there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, then there will be fewer abortions. Better sex education (that is not based on abstinence), increased access to birth control, and cheaper birth control would all add to a decrease in the number of abortion sought.

The reality is this: In science, there is no black and white delineation of life. It is a continuum, with many shades of gray. It should be the decision of the woman as to whether she becomes or stays pregnant. Unfortunately, the majority of anti-choice rhetoric in this country (and all of the arguments I have personally heard) center around religious forms of morality. The fact is, whether people like it or not, this is a country in which there is a separation of church and state. Your personal religious views can not and should not dictate secular law in this country. No matter how much people may try to make medical abortion a political issue, and an issue in which people shove their noses into other people's business (not that we don't make a habit of that anyway), abortion is still a private medical procedure that should remain between a woman and her doctor. There is no other health procedure over which there is this much controversy. This is not even a debate in the rest of the western world. For some reason, we in the US feel the need to be the moral police of our neighbors.

A woman has sex, and her birth control fails. She gets pregnant. It should always be her choice as to what she does with those circumstances. Not anyone else, nor should it be up for public discourse.

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering if you'd be willing to read a copy of Don Marquis' secular argument against abortion. I don't agree with it, but it's a pretty good argument that doesn't rely on religion. I'm pretty sure I have a copy around here somewhere.