Abortion is one of the single most divisive issues between friends and family members. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone thinks that their opinion is the right one. One of the unfortunate results of this is that we rarely get to engage in a meaningful and germane discussion about abortion. Each “side” gets so entrenched in their own rhetoric that we usually don’t make any strides toward developing greater understanding and empathy.
So here is my discussion opener. I think this is an important topic that deserves an open mind and some time spent in contemplation.
1. We want fewer abortions too.
Even if there were no protesters yelling at them and shoving pictures of mutilated fetuses into their faces, women who make the choice to have an abortion are struggling. It is a difficult choice, made from difficult options. The popular right-wing slogan is, “Abortion Hurts Women.” I would posit that, in many cases, the women are already hurting.
Surprise pregnancies have several causes: a married couple struggling to care for small children who find out they have another on the way, couples who use birth control and got pregnant anyway, teens who didn’t know better (most likely due to lack of education), or rape. In any of these cases, when the woman sees the double line on that pregnancy stick, she is facing a traumatic and challenging situation.
Ideally, unplanned or traumatic pregnancies wouldn’t happen. But they do. So instead of arguing what we wish would be the case, let’s take the steps we can to limit the number of unplanned pregnancies: accurate education, access to birth control, and access to affordable (or free) health advice and care.
2. We Are Pro-CHOICE, Not Pro-ABORTION
Or, to put it another way: we are “pro-access-to-safe-abortion.” We believe that a woman and her doctor (and her partner, if she wants) should be able to make the choice of when and how to have an abortion, or not. Period.
But what if the woman doesn’t want to have an abortion? Then she shouldn’t have an abortion. But what if she decides to give the child up for adoption? That would be a fabulous gift.
Abortion should be one option considered in a seriously stressful and traumatic situation. As with any other medical choice, there are massive lists of “pros” and “cons,” and no easy answer. People who say there is an easy answer are deluding themselves.
3. Banning Abortions Doesn’t Prevent Them
You know making abortions illegal doesn’t decrease the number of abortions, right? Since we share a common goal (see #1), let’s do what is proven to reduce the number of abortions. Having access to safe abortions not only is connected to fewer abortions, it’s also safer for women (obviously!).
If a woman has decided to have an abortion, you won’t change her mind by shouting a slogan in her face, or by trying to intimidate her doctor into refusing an abortion. All it does is push her to seek an abortion elsewhere, or to pursue a less-safe abortion option.
4. We Think You Shouldn’t Call Yourself ‘Pro-Life’ If You Don’t Support Children
This is one I’d really love to hash out with a so-called “Pro-Lifer.” There are children in poverty in the US, living in subhuman conditions. Do you consider that your “pro-life” effort is best spent yelling in the face of a traumatized woman, or would it be better spent fighting for potable drinking water for poor families, just as one example?
5. We Wish You Would Stop Being So Damn Glib
Can we cut it out with the personal attacks already? It doesn’t make you morally superior; it just makes you a jerk.
Here’s an idea: instead of printing a photo of a disemboweled doll with corn syrup poured over it, make up a sign that says, “I Want To Adopt Your Baby.” Try taking that one to your Planned Parenthood demonstration. Then, if a woman changes her mind, adopt her baby.
Oh, wait, you don’t want to do that? Because raising a baby is expensive and soul-stirringly painful, and a lifetime commitment? Yet you decide that some random lady should have her life completely altered because it’s your opinion that she shouldn’t get an abortion? She should “take responsibility for her choices?” Get over yourself.
(Not to mention that the “personal responsibility” argument is blatantly misogynist. I had someone tell me that, if I don’t want to get pregnant, I should only give oral. Gotta love that sexist, Medieval sexual ethos!)
Using pat platitudes doesn’t add anything to a complicated and necessary discussion. And treating the issue of abortion as if it has an obvious, foregone conclusion is insulting to everyone’s intelligence. We’re better than that.
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