You Say That You Dislike Abortion
(those who dislike abortion should be in favor of reducing the need for it)
by Pam Green, © 7/23/08
It just never ceases to amaze and disgust me that those people who most rabidly oppose legal abortion are also just as rabidly opposed to doing anything to reduce the need for abortion. If there were no unwanted pregnancies and no other types of problem pregnancies, there would be no abortions. The way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is either to prevent the pregnancy from starting or to alter surrounding conditions so as to make it wanted and advantageous for the pregnancy to be carried to term. The Anti-Choice position holders are generally opposed to doing either of these, and thus their positions actually increases the incidence of abortions.
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Many people say that they dislike or abhor abortion and yet most of them are firmly opposed to logical steps that would prevent the need for abortion. Indeed many of them strongly support measures that inevitably increase the incidence of need for abortion. It's time for people todo some serious logical thinking about their priorities and then choose accordingly.
By the way, I cannot recall ever hearing anyone say that they like abortion for its own sake. No one is saying that having an abortion is such a wonderful experience that one should do it for fun or for personal enrichment. No, it's something that is accepted or approved because it is seen as the best solution to a serious problem. It's seen as the least undesirable of the available choices. This is the same as choosing any other medical treatment that is unpleasant because the consequences of not doing so are far worse.
What has been shown to come out of making a decision to abort or not is that quite often thinking through the situation results in the woman involved making a serious evaluation of her life and her goals in life. Up to now she may have pretty much skated through one day at a time, but now she has to give serious thought to long term consequences. So it can be a very maturing experience. Still and all, it's not the only way or the best way to have that kind of maturing self-evaluating experience.
Follow-up studies show that few women seriously regret having had an abortion. The great majority remain convinced that this was indeed the best solution or the only solution to their crisis situation. Most would make the same choice again. I don't know if any similar studies have been done as to whether those unwillingly pregnant women who chose or were coerced into carrying to term have later regretted that decision. Given that those who don't give the offspring up for adoption quite often wind up living in poverty for many years as a result, it would not be surprising if they had some second thoughts or even bitter regrets. (Indeed given that fully mature and comfortably affluent parents sometimes have serious regrets over the children they intentionally begot and bore, it would be amazing if less well situated women coerced into parentage did not sometimes have similar or greater regrets, especially if they had to give up something of great value such as continuing their education to completion because of the burdens of caring for the child or if they had to live in poverty while rearing the child..) Certainly those women who did give offspring up for adoption will sometimes go searching for that child later on, which implies some degree of uncertainty or regret over the decision.
For those of you who, like our current (as of 7/23/08,) but soon to be ex- Presidential Incumbrance, flunked Biology in high school, let me point out the brain-dead simple obvious fact that abortion only takes place because a pregnancy has already occurred. Pregnancy is the one and only cause of abortion. to be more specific, it's a "problem pregnancy" that causes the need for abortion. If there never again were any problem pregnancy, there would never again be another abortion.
A pregnancy can pose a serious problem for one or more of several reasons. The most common of these reasons pregnancies are a problem are preventable, though other less common ones are not preventable. Here follows a division of reasons that I think facilitiates discussion of potential preventions. Ideally the pregnancy itself would be prevented, but if it has already occurred then (if one is trying to reduce the need for abortion ) one has to think of ways it might be possible to make it a welcomed pregnancy rather than a problem or crisis.
I will deal first with the analysis of causes of unwanted pregnancies and how such pregancies are promoted by the Anti-Choice fanatics and how such pregnancies might be prevented from occuring.
After that, I will discuss the extent to which various kinds of problem pregnancies might be transformed into accepted or welcomed ones and what the price society would have to pay to accomplish this..
(Update note : recently there is a new non-surgical method of female sterilization called "Essure" that permanently blocks the fallopian tubes. This could be a realistic alternative to vasectomy, as it gives the woman assured sterility regardless of who her partner is.) (Later UPDATE : it turns out that Essure is NOT safe for the woman. The coil that is inserted is quite likely to later rupture the Fallopian tube, with severe consequences. As of 2018, there are class action suits in progress. There's probably a cautionary tale here for women : the medical profession is all too willing to use women as experimental animals, trying methods whose safety has not been adequately proven.)
Now the worst of the Anti-Choicers like to trivialize the issue of the pregnant woman's health, even to the extent of saying that "it's meaningless because it can mean anything at all" or saying that "it's just a matter of the woman's convenience". Well pain or suffering or impairment to someone else's body or mind can always be ignored while the same or a lesser inconvenience to oneself is usually taken quite seriously. This is especially true when the issue is mental health, where someone who has not known serious mental suffering or aberration can say "snap out of it":. Of course if the unwilling mother , who probably already has more children than she can manage, is forced to bear yet one more finds that this turns a barely endurable situation into an unendurable one and she suffers a real mental breakdown and drowns the kids or shoots her husband , she will be prosecuted and probably convicted of murder.
This is just one more application of the Anti-Choice dogma that women seek abortions for "trivial" or "convenience" reasons. Abortions for truely trival reasons are pretty rare, but surely when it happens, isn't it proof that this woman is not going to be a loving and patient parent, willing to subordinate her own interests to the demands of parenting ?
Same arguement only more so for the Anti-Choice arguement that women seek abortions for "selfish" reasons. Of course someone else's desire to have this woman unwillingly bear a child so the sire can have offspring or so some other person can adopt the child, that's not considered "selfish" on their part.
To consider this aspect we have to consider WHY the situation creates a problem for the pregnant woman (or for someone else whose interests might influence her decision). Some reasons MAY be amenable to amelioration IF society is willing to pay the price of that amelioration.
These possible ameliorations mostly fall into two categories :
GUARRANTEED FINANCIAL SUPPORT solutions : making child-rearing financially beneficial to the woman.
An acceptable support solution that would empower the birth mother to choose to rear the child would require enough financial support that the child is reared in a decently comfortable way that does not marginalize the child's future and does not require the mother to live in poverty or hold down two jobs just to stay afloat. Adequate support would have to include that child day-care services be available sufficiently to enable the mother to be gainfully employed or to continue education leading to gainful employment. Without day-care or a parenting partner who is staying home to do the day-care, the mother will have to stay home and that would require further financial support.
The needed financial support can come from either the child's father (whether he was an intentional father or an accidental one) at least to the extent of 50% of the total cost of the child's rearing or else it must come from society, ie from the taxpayers. In the many cases where neither of the two parents has the needed earning power to fully support the child, and where their combined income is inadequate, the additional support must come from the taxpayers. Currently a great many accidental pregnancies are in that category where substantial taxpayer support would be required.
The sire of the child should bear primary responsibility for his half-share of the child's rearing (including day-care costs) and the mother the other half. However when that fails to be adequate, then society would have to supply the deficit. If all or almost all fathers can be coerced to pay adequate child support , the burden on society and taxpayers might be relatively light, especially if those fathers currently unemployed were to be assigned one or more jobs so that they were paying support. This would require a great change from our current system in which many sires remain anonymous and pay nothing and others are assessed a pitifully small portion of the child's actual needs and too frequently fail to pay even that pittance.
Unless support is liberal enough that the mother is able to live in a comfortable fashion, she will NOT be willing to be stuck with the job of child rearing. Or she might be willing , but simply be unable to actually do it. Lacking adequate support, the child is reared in dire poverty and becomes high risk for eventual gang and later criminal activities, imprisonment for which will cost society far more than liberally subsidized rearing would have cost. (Note : the current cost per year of keeping a convict in prison in California is somewhere around $46,000 ; that's more than yearly tuition at almost any University.)
Sufficient child rearing subsidy support payments to the mother might well pursuade some portion of women to continue an otherwise problem pregnancy and rear the resulting child. Generous child rearing subsidies have been tried and are in use in some European countries. These same countries also have few or no obstacles to abortion. Thus they would be the proof or disproof as to whether sufficiently high subsidies would lower the incidence of abortion among accidentally pregnant women. These countries also have early teen sex education and universal access to contraception, so their incidence of accidental pregnancy is much lower than that of the USA, but still we could look at what percent of those pregnancies end in birth and rearing by the birth mother, how many in birth and surrender for adoption, and how many in abortion.
Unfortunately for the position of Fiscal Conservatives , a position also very common among the Anti-Choice crowd, if liberal child rearing support paid by the taxpayers were the rule, there MIGHT indeed be some or even many women to whom the lifestyle of Subsidized Motherhood appealed. We might indeed find some or many women found the career of being a Welfare Queen (insead of the current position of Welfare Peasant) to be appealing. Is the Anti-Choice costituency really willing to tax themselves as much as this system would require ?
GUARRANTEED ADOPTION solutions : finding competent parents willing and able to rear the child.
The Anti-Choice contingent professes to believe that there are willing, loving , competent, and financially capable parents waiting eagerly to adopt every child whose birth can be coerced from an unwilling woman. Anyone who remembers the era before Roe v Wade knows that this is not true. It's probably even more untrue to day than it was then, because people seeking adoption have more options than they had then.
The truth is that only certain kinds of children have adopters eagerly awaiting them. Most adopters want infants rather than older children, healthy and mentally normal children rather than ones with significant health problems or mental deficiencies. Most do not want babies with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, drug addiction, AIDS, Downs Syndrome, or a host of other physical or mental problems. Most do not want older children who come with the "baggage" caused by former neglect or abuse. Many want only a child who is or appears to be of the same racial category as themselves, although one may hope this preference is fading and indeed I know a number of adopters raising children who are clearly not in this category. It's hard to say how many adopters will only consider a child or one gender rather than the other , and it's unclear whether these sex preferences would balance out.
(Update 2018 : it's recently become known that Fetal Alcohol damage is much more common than previously known and that the damage can be far more extensive than previously known. The child with the distinctive facial features of severe FAS is unlikely to be adopted. However many children with FAS are not identifiable as infants.)
The truth is that there are many many thousands of (already born) children who are currently languishing in the foster care system without any real hope of ever being adopted. Some of these are the leftover babies whom no one adopted during their infancy. Some are children who, whether products of planned pregnancy or unwanted pregnancy, later had to be removed from neglectful or abusive parents. These children are living the lives of second or third class citizens. Most of them will never be adopted and never have parents who are really their own. They will later be tossed into the street the day they hit age 18, with a grossly incomplete education that does not equip them to compete for well paid jobs. Why do Anti-Choicers want to create more and more infants while these equally deserving older children are doomed to remain unadopted ? Why are these already existing children not considered "precious human potential" they way the Anti-Choicers profess to view every fetus currently inhabiting an unwilling woman ?
(One might also add, why do the Anti-Choicers allow people the vanity of in vitro fertilization while there are so many deserving children waiting to be adopted ? Why do the Anti-Choicers allow (and even applaud) IVF when they condemn stem cell research and abortion ? Every attempted IVF produces a dozen to several dozen new conceptions (fertilized eggs, zygotes) of which at least half will be inviable (will die regardless) , only one to several be inserted into some woman's reproductive tract to survive or die as best they can, and the rest be frozen in limbo for year after year or be tossed out into the garbage can. Why is that one fertilized egg that survives the process to emerge as a newborn child considered so much more valuable than all of its sibling zygotes ? Why is it permissible to generate dozens of zygotes who will die in order to get that one surviver ?
So what can be done to encourage adoption to an extent that would take care of the children already here in foster care, the added neglected or abused children who should be removed from neglectful or abusive parents to loving and responsible ones, PLUS all the future unwanted fetuses that the Anti-Choice crew would like to compel the births of ?
There are already some tax deductions or tax credits for those who adopt. Tax deductions or credits are noticable only to those whose incomes are high enough that this makes a significant tax savings. One might ask if someone who adopts for motives of financial benefit is necesarily the kind of loving parent that should be encouraged. But since the tax benefits are fairly small, this is probably not a problem. The current tax benefits merely serve to offset some of the legal costs of adoption. That's a reasonable enough policy. To actually motivate large numbers of people to adopt, the benefits would need to be a lot higher. Perhaps the combination of a very high annual deduction for an adopted child with the cessation of any deduction for one's own natural born children would motivate people to adopt rather than breed their own. But then we are again faced with the issue of what kind of parents are we really recruiting. Paradoxically, such a plan might well serve to make people less willing to bear their own children, thus increasing use of contraception and abortion for their own non-deductable pregnancies.
The promotion of adoption of unwanted U.S. children could be increased by elimination of other alternatives . This could include prohibiting IVF and Surrogacy gestation. We could also prohibit the "importation" of children , ie prohibit adoptions of children from outside the country, leaving their natal lands to deal with their own issues of abstinence , contraception, and abortion.
IRREVOCABLE PRENATAL ADOPTION
We could provide by law for a form of adoption one might call Irrevocable Prenatal Adoption. This could be done as private adoption or as an enrollment in a pool of commited adopters (the Hobson's Choice method).
As private adoption , this scheme would allow the prospective adopters to unbreakably commit themselves to supporting a particular individual pregnant woman and adopting the fetus in utero and thus taking total responsibility for the child at the instant of birth. Where the mother already had other children or other dependants, the adopters would also have to take out an adequate insurance policy for the benefit of those dependants in the event of the pregnant woman not surviving the birth and a further health care and living expenses policy for the woman's benefit should the birth leave her in impaired health. Also the adopters might have to be willing to make a substantial payment to the pregnant woman to persuade her to carry to term rather than to abort : at the very least this should be equal to a year's pay for a demanding job. This form of adoption would allow a specific adopter to make the deal with a specific pregnant woman. The catch of course is that these decisions have to be made very early in the pregnancy if an abortion is to be dissuaded. Except for the features of Irrevocability on both sides, and the financial features mentioned, this type of private adoption already takes place. Currently the doctors and lawyers are very well paid and the pregnant woman gets very little out of it : probably if calculated on a per hour basis for the length of pregnancy, she is getting a fraction of minimum wage for a very demanding type of work. Making the payment to the mother really substantial could be a real incentive. Unfortunately it could also be an incentive to conceive in the first place, then if the adoption falls through there is one more unwanted and probably highly resented child or one more child abandoned to the Foster system. Thus it is essential that such prenatal adoption be legally irrevocable, regardless of the condition of the neonatal infant.
Note that currently there are laws against "selling" a child and laws that prevent substantial payments to "surrogates", while not inhibiting huge payments to doctors and lawyers. This is just one more manifestation of the general contempt for the work of pregnancy .
At present the only legal way to achieve the equivalent of an Irrevocable Prenatal Adoption of a fetus would be for the adopting couple to adopt the pregnant woman herself. Adoption of one adult by another adult or (married) couple of adults is legal and essentially irrevocable. The fetus when born would then be a grandchild by adoption of the adopting couple. So would any prior children of the pregnant woman. The problem of course is that such an adoption creates a life-long relationship between the pregnant woman and the adopting couple. That's a huge commitment for both parties. And the adopting couple being grandparents of the fetus would have rights regarding that child that are secondary to the rights of the birth mother and the rights of the child's sire if he should claim those rights
. I don't see very many people going this route.
HOBSON'S CHOICE ADOPTION
As a scheme of enrollment in a pool of committed adopters, the adopters would have to unbreakably commit themselves to adopting by lottery the next baby born out of the pool of enrolling or recruited pregnant women. The adopters would NOT get to choose which infant they received and would not be able to reject whichever infant fell to them. The pregnant woman would be assured that a pre-qualified adopter would be taking over all responsibility from the instant of birth , but she too would NOT get to choose which adopter got her infant nor reject any particular adopter. I call this the Hobson's Choice system (after a livery stable that had the rule that each customer took the next horse in line or else was turned away altogether). The financial and insurance protections for the birth mother and her dependants would need to be comparable to the private adoption scheme. Pregnant women would be enrolled only to the extent that there were enough adopters already enrolled. If the supply of adopters were too low, then extra pregnant women would be turned away and would then make their own choice as to abortion or other options. If the supply of adopters were excessive, then perhaps the inducements to pregnant women might be increased. Or perhaps children already in foster care would be enrolled to make up the deficiency ; if so, the adopters would NOT get to choose whether they received an infant or an older child. Each foster care child and each newborn would simply be given by lottery among the waiting adopters.
If either or both of these adoption schemes were implemented, then surely every genuinely sincere Anti-Abortionist would rush to enroll as an adopter ! The Hobson's Choice method could be expanded to include every sincere Anti-Abortionist who was willing to put his money and his muscle (labor) where his mouth is. Enrolling as an adopter would and should be the required proof of sincerity.
(If you suspect that I am being sarcastic in saying that sincere Anti-Abortionists would rush to enroll, you are quite correct. How many of them have voluntarily adopted a child ?)
Perhaps we could even have a national referendum in which every person who voted Anti-Abortion would be automatically enrolled in the Hobson's Choice pool of adopters. That would solve the arguement for once and for all. If a majority of voters enrolled as adopters, then abortion would be largely unnescessary and could be limited to cases where the woman's life or health were in danger. The defective children and those produced by rape or incest would be assigned to adopters by lottery like any other children. (Note : I am indebted for the inspiration for the referendum idea to Robert Anson Heinlein, who envisioned a similar manner of referendum for the decision to go to war : those who voted in favor would be the first to be drafted, those who failed to vote at all would be next to be drafted, and those who voted for peace would be last to be drafted and thus in most cases would not be drafted at all. See his post-humously published utopian novel "For Us, the Living".)
The most realistically effective way that those who dislike abortion could act to deccrease the need for it and thus decrease its incidence is to vigourously promote honest and accurate contraceptive education to every school-child (and to every home schooled child) with such eductaion starting some years before the earliest possible onset of fertility, and also to provide universal access to contraceptives with whatever subsidies might be needed to ensure that such access is truely universal. This would empower girls and women to avoid unwanted pregnancy to as great an extent as possible. Further, by enacting the strongest possible laws to identify males who sire conceptions that result in child birth and to inescapably require such natural fathers to provide fully one half of the total support of these children, such laws would provide the absolutely strongest incentive to all males to utilize contraception and thus avoid causing unwanted pregnancy to the greatest extent possible. Avoidance of all or nearly all unwanted pregnancies from consensual sex would prevent the need for the vast majority of abortions. These are all things that could be done right now by legislation and that would be fiscally sound (would save far more tax money than they cost) and would pass Constitutional scrutiny.
Pregnancies and need for abortion due to rape, incest, and child molestation can only be prevented to the extent that these disgusting crimes can be prevented. Gelding of offenders would greatly reduce repeat offenses and would probably deter some initial offenses. However short of gelding most boys at an early age and keeping the intact ones confined on stud farms, I don't think we will ever totally eliminate rape, incest, and child molestations by men. (Note : while the gelding most and confine the rest on stud farms plan probably would be fiscally sound and would make society far more peaceful, I suspect there would be some Due Process and Equal Protection problems under the US Constitution. Even if gelding was not imposed until the male had committed some act of violence, there'd probably still be some 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) issues. While this plan would make a good science fiction story (and indeed has done so ) , I am not proposing it seriously.)
The percentage of pregnancies that are surrendered for adoption rather than aborted or retained for rearing by the birth mother could probably be increased by a system of Guarranteed Adoption or Irrevocable Prenatal Adoption. However this would require recruitment of far more adopters than are likely to volunteer. Short of creating an Adopter Draft system, I doubt this can be achieved. It might also require payments to the birth mothers as an inducement to commit to adoption. (Note : an adoption draft system might face Constitutional challenges, probably on grounds of the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude. On the other paw, the now-unused military draft of young men to fight and possibly die was never ruled violative of the 13th.)
The percentage of pregnancies that are carried to term and reared by the birth mother could be increased by a system that guarranteed generous financial support for all such children, including a day care system. To what extent the shift to rearing by the birth mother would come from pregnancies that would otherwise be aborted versus pregnancies that would otherwise be surrendered for adoption is difficult to say. In any case the cost to taxpayers would be likely to be extremely high. Those European countries that have generous child support and day care systems are countries where taxes are very high by US standards, and that is in spite of a system in which accidental pregnancies are far less frequent than in the US because sex education, contraception, and abortion are readily available to all , including to teens.
It would appear to me that there may be some conflict between schemes of Guarranteed Child Support as tending to cause a decision to bear and rear versus schemes of Guarranteed Adoption as tending to cause decision to bear and surrender for adoption. It's not certain that either scheme would really influence many abort versus bear decisions, but only affect the choice between birth mother rearing versus surrender for adoption. However it's likely that in most cases the child would benefit from either of these two approaches by receiving better financial support and probably more willing and affectionate rearing circumstances.
I will save for another article the extended analysis of why abortion is NOT going to be widely illegalized again.
At most, an overturn of Roe v Wade would turn the issue back to the states. In many states, the immediate result would be strong legislation protecting safe and legal abortion. In some states the right to choose to abort might well become part of the state Constitution, either by writing it in explicitly or by state Supreme Court. (Since the California state Consitution already includes an express right of Privacy, it would be very simple for the state Supreme Court to use the same phrase as Eisenstadt v Baird to declare that "there is no more private decision than whether to bear a child".) Those states that do put greater restrictions on abortion or make it illegal will find that those not able to afford to cross the line to the nearest legal state will become a serious burden on the state Welfare rolls. That may well cause the taxpayers to vote legality back in. (Update 2019 : this would require voters to act rationally, and that is highly doubtful.)
On a national level, given that the very widely popular Equal Rights Amendment failed of ratification due to a small but vociferous minority, it is difficult to believe that a Fetal Supremacy Amendment (making the fetus supreme over the woman carrying it) or any similar Amendment could possibly pass in the face of a far from small and very vociferous opposition from women who understand the threat to themselves as well as opposition from some portion of men. Likewise it is unlikely that a special Amendment forever legalizing abortion would pass, but that is not really needed.(Update 2018 : maybe such an Amendment really IS needed !)
I will save for another article an analysis of why simply rendering abortion illegal again is NOT an effective way to eliminate abortion or even much reduce its incidence. The realities of 2008 are far far different from those of 1973 and earlier.
Most women are not simply going to roll over and become broodmares again : they know better and want more out of their lives.
The vacuum aspiration menstrual extraction device , a safe means of early abortion, is not all that hard to make and to use.
The French Abortion Pill, RU486 is not that hard for a competent hormone chemist to make and it is widely available in other countries. The same DEA and War on Drugs that has so spectacularly failed to keep heroin and cocaine from being imported and to keep marijuana from being grown and to keep meth and other designer drugs from being manufactured will be equally UNABLE to keep RU486 from being imported or sythesised and sold black market to the large number of women who would be customers if legal abortion were shut off. (Update 2018 : just do a Google search on "abortion pill" to find that this is widely available for sale on the Internet. Almost all women sttill young enough to be fertile have grown up as "digital natives" who understand using the Internet very well.)
And the coathangers and knitting needles will always be available to the truly desperate. But given the huge numbers of women who are MDs and DVMs, I think it far more likely that safe underground illegal abortion would be far more widely available than it was in the pre-Roe v Wade era.
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