Why Safe & Legal Abortion Matters to You
(why access to abortion matters to everyone)
by Pam Green, © 2016
Why does continued legality , safety, and practical availability of abortion matter to everyone ? Even to people who believe they would never ever under any circumstances need to utilize this themselves ? Even to you , the die-hard Anti-Choicer.
Let me count the ways. Because making abortion illegal, unsafe, or just plain difficult would affect everyone's interests adversely.
Why Safe &Legal Abortion Matters to You
(why access to abortion (& contraception) matter to everyone)
by Pam Green, © 2016
Perhaps you think that continued legality, safety, and practical availablity of abortion doesn't matter to you personally, either because you would never need one or would never get one under any conceivable circumstances (because you are opposed to abortion under all possible circumstances or almost all possible circumstances).. Perhaps you also think it doesn't matter to anyone you love or care about, or perhaps you just really don't care about their welfare and autonomy more than you care about abolishing abortion.. Perhaps you also don't care about the effects on society generally and don't care about the fate of any unwanted child after it exits the unwilling mother's womb.
Well , you are WRONG and I am going to tell you why.
Reasons why you might not think it matters
Because you personally are not at any risk of pregnancy.
- Perhaps you are a woman who is well past menopause. (Note : I am in that position and have been so for quite a few years.) But consider the situation and rights of others whom you care about.
- Perhaps you have had your tubes tied or for any reason are absolutely certain you are sterile. (While tied tubes are close to 100% sure, there are still possible failures. And women whose doctors have declared them sterile sometimes find out that they are not.)
- Perhaps you use a method of contraception that you believe is infailable and that so far has not failed you. But no method is truely 100%, , not over the course of several decades of exposure. Worst of all, many of the Anit-Choice crowd also want to eliminate every method of contraception that is not absolutely certain to work prior to fertilization. That leaves only the barrier methods, chiefly diaphragm and condom. (note : of course you must and should use contraception for every exposure that is not intended to result in conception. And of course condoms are highly desirable for prevention of transmission of STDs, several of which are quite horrible.).
- Perhaps you are exclusively lesbian. And perhaps you are highly skilled at unarmed combat or are always "packing heat" and thus don't need to worry about rape because you have the ability to incapacitate or kill the attempted rapist. and likewise any male attempting to impose incest on you.
- Perhaps you are male and therefore cannot become pregnant. But unlesss you are exclusively gay, there's the risk you might cause a pregnancy and be hit with 18 years of child support. Or if the pregnant woman is your wife or long term partner, you might be raising this child for the rest of your life (parenting never really ends). And that wife might later walk out and leave the children with you for you to raise on your own. Or a truely angry woman might "do a Bobbit" on you.
Because there is absolutely no circumstance that would cause you to want or accept having an abortion
- You are willing to bear and raise an indefinite number of children, whether or not you have asssistance from a parenting partner , from your own parent, or from society. You are willing to do this even if it means giving up your own life-plans and living in dire poverty and subjecting the children to poverty.
- You are willing to raise a child who has any type of serious handicap, even if this means lifetime care for that child given full-time by you. Even if it means that the child's life will be very short and full of misery (eg Tay Sachs). Even if it means the child's life will be long and full of misery (many conditions can do this).
- You are willing to drop any child you don't wish to rear off at a "safe harbor" or otherwise put the child up for adoption. You don't care if the child doesn't get adopted (adopters generally want only healthy infants, often only from a limited ethnicity or racial type) and must be raised in "the system" (and kicked out at age 18, probably without adequate job skills), or if the adopters are unkind or incompetent at parenting. You don't care if that child later finds you and intrudes into your life. You don't care whether you will ever be able to contact that child or learn what has become of the child.
Note that the more infants become available for adoption, the more they compete for the limited number of adults who want to adopt, and infant availability competes with and lessens oppertunities for older children who are "in the system". (note : prior to Roe v Wade there was a substantial surplus of infants relative to the number of available adopters)
- You are willing to raise the child begotten by incest or by rape and you will do so without resenting or blaming the child and you can accept the constant reminder of the very disagreeable (possibly worst event of your life) circumstances of this conception. You don't care that a child of incest is more at risk for heritable diseases caused by recessive genes (some of these don't show up until later in life and some are quite horrible for that child). You don't care that the child of rape might inherit the rapist's tendency to violence (something our society surely does not need more of) or even that that child's violence and "anger management issues" could turn against you as a convenient target.
- You don't care if trying to carry a pregnancy to term may have high likelihood or certainty of causing you to suffer a serious disability, organ compromise, or death. If you survive past the 24 week mark, the fetus who survives your death may grow up to be reasonably normal, though the medical expense of salvaging a preemie can be extremely high and someone, either you or your insurance or society , must be able and willing to pay. Below 24 weeks, chances of fetal survival decrease with every week and chances of permanent disability and severity of disability to that child increase. Below 20 weeks the chances of fetal survival are zero and will remain so unless technology comes up with a genuine artificial womb and umbilical because the fetal lungss cannot breathe air. Perhaps you are still willing to die trying even though your doctors have told you that you will die prior to 20 weeks and therefore your fetus will die with you.
Because there's no one else you care about
- You have no sisters, daughter, pre-menopausal mother, and no female friends Or perhaps you have some, but their own desire to control their own lives, bodies, and futures matters not at all to you and you are indifferent to their rights and their possible suffering. You don't care if they die or are damaged in a back alley abortion or attempted self-abortion.("Serves them right for getting pregnant" )
- You have no brothers , sons, fathers (any age) , or male friends who might be inconvenienced if they were to cause an unwanted pregnancy. ( "Serves them right for not using a condom !" ) You also don't care if your husband might get hit with a very expensive child support order than will be paid out of your joint resources, thus lowering your own standard of living and that of your children.
- And of course you don't care about anyone who is not your personal friend or relative or spouse.
- You don't care about the fate of any child who is unwanted or resented or abandoned or simply killed after being born. ("Let them eat cake" or "let them scavenge in garbage cans") Note that every human society that lacks acceptably safe and effective means of contraception and also lacks acceptably safe and effective means off abortion has resorted to disposing of unwanted infants. Sometimes it's done indirectly by sending them to "wet nurses" or to "foundling homes" where most of them do not survive. (Roumania was the poster child for this during the period when contraception and abortion were truely unavailable). Or they have done so more directly by infanticide. In some cultures this is done when the result of an intended pregnancy turns out to be either a defective child or a girl.
Why you must and should care
Because you do care about the effects on society or on your own tax bill
- It's difficult and expenive for society to raise children whose parents can't or won't do an adequate job of it. (Also expensive for society to help willing parents raise a seriously damaged child) Some of the costs are financial, in terms of welfare support for children and their mothers. Some of the costs are financial for extra schools and teachers (note : this is a worthwhile social investment insofar as a well educated child will become an asset as an adult, while a poorly educated one is likely to become a liability.). Some costs are both financial and social insofar as badly raised children may be more likely to commit crimes, thus harming their victims and requiring imprisonment. It costs as much per year to keep a criminal in prison as it costs to keep a bright and diligent student in a good college.(Costs of keeping someone on Death Row, usually for decades, are even higher, enough to send a bright student through medical school)
Note : the high cost of society having to rear children whose coerced-to-carry bio-moms are unwilling to rear them would become apparent if a large portion of those women were to deposit the newborn in "safe harbor" (anonymous giving up for adoption or for state to rear.) Indeed an ideal pro-abortion rights demonstration would be for each woman to bring an infant-like doll with lable "free to good home" (or perhaps "you asked for him, you've got him") and deposit these in a pile on the steps of the state legislature.
- Your taxes will go up to pay for these social costs.. Your health insurance may also go up if insurers find they must pay for an increased number of damaged children and birth-damaged mothers.
- Subsidized or free contraception and abortion are financially a huge bargain for society as compared to the long term costs of raising unwanted children.
Because the Anti-Abortion crowd also wants to reduce or eliminate contraception.
- The Anti-Abortion crowd has already tried to condemn some forms of contraception as actually being abortificants on the grounds that they do or might act after the moment of fertilization. Plan B almost certainly acts after conception by preventing implantation. The IUD may likewise prevent implantation or cause the implanted embryo to fail soon afterwards. For some methods it's not really known for sure exactly how they work except that if it's not prior to fertilization it has to be pretty soon afterwards.
We DO know beyond any doubt that the barrier methods, diaphragm and condom, absolutely act prior to fertilization by preventing sperm from reaching the ovum. So the Anti-Abortion crowd really should be endorsing barrier methods with total enthusiasm. They should be using these methods themselves , teaching their children to use them, and demanding that schools teach everyone's children to use them.
- However the underlying agenda of some (most) of the Anti-Abortion crowd is to supress women's autonomy as much as possible, to keep women "in their place", to keep them "barefoot and pregnant" (and illiterate) and to restore male control of women and male supremacy in every realm of life.
Because without the ability to control our reproductive potential , women will be right back to second class status, second class education, second class jobs, etc.
- Before access to contraception and abortion, women were often denied or denigrated in terms of access to higher education. I know this may be hard for the post-Roe and post Civil Rights Title IX generations to believe, but 50 years ago (and even more before that) women were being told by colleges and graduate programs "why should we waste an education on someone who will only marry and start having children and will then drop out of the job or profession for which we are educating her". By the way, telling the school that you wouldn't be getting pregnant because you were exclusively lesbian didn't work very well. Note : they never worried about "wasting" education on a young man who might be called up for military service and become incapacitated or dead or who might leave the country and take his education to Canada.
- Likewise, women will be denied access to the best jobs (most interesting, best paid, most prestigious, etc) and will not be groomed for promotion for that same "why waste the oppertunity on someone who will only start having children and drop out or diminish participation" rationale. Even today with contraception and abortion legal , the concept that women are really "on the mommy track", less devoted to working career than men, is used to downgrade and under-pay women's work and to view women as less worth grooming for promotion. Note : employers don't seem to worry about the "daddy track", possibility that a man might like to have equal participation in child-rearing and family life and thus might want to set limits on dedication to the job. (Nor that a man might have any other non-job interest that might be very consuming of his time and energy.)
- Without good educational oppertunities and good income earning jobs, women will be right back to dependancy on marriage and will have lesser bargaining power within their marriage, less ability to leave a bad marriage. Through much of history most women had only three choices for economic survival : whoredom, the convent, or marriage. A widow might be able to carry on the family business, avoid re-marriage, and live independantly.
Note that I am NOT saying that being married is inherrently a bad way to live, as indeed I know some very happy couples (some gay , some straight) who seem very fullfilled (both of them) and who practice equality. I am saying that being economically dependant on a spouse or being regarded as the lesser person in the couple is a bad thing.
I'm saying that being able to support yourself well (and support any children you choose to bear or adopt and even support a spouse when appropriate or necessary) is a good thing. I'm not the first to say that a woman's ability to support herself is a good or nescessary condition : Mary Wollstoncraft said it, Harriet Hardy Taylor Mill said it, Charlotte Gilman Perkins said it, and many of the Suffragettes said it, all of them a hundred years before I was born.
because Society has already invested in the pregnant girl or woman
- Since almost no human females are at risk of pregnancy prior to age of 12 or 13, by this time the parents of that girl and society generally have made a large investment in her rearing and schooling. At age 12 , she'd be half-way to the point where she can become an economic asset, a productive citizen. Of course most unwanted pregnancies occur in women who are already functioning adults, teen rates having decreased (probably because teens can find contraceptive information on the internet, even if their parents and schools have not provided honest information). Most are already productive members of society or are very close to becoming so. If society condemns these women to the "back alley", it is throwing away a huge investment and a huge source of productivity. Society may also have the burden of rearing any children the woman already had (note that many abortions are sought because the woman or couple already have one or more children and don't feel able to add another one.)
- Those states which have passed various retrictions on practical availability of abortion, such as mandatory delays (waiting periods usually coupled with mandatory anti-abortion counseling), may have already experienced some exodus of women unwilling to live under such regimes. Often these are women who are better educated and/or have job skills that make them more readily employable at jobs available in out-of-state locations. These are women who are economic assets to their communities.
I would in strongest possible terms urge women currently living in abortion-restrictive states to LEAVE and emmigrate to an abortion liberal state. If you are in a relationship with a man, your farewell note should tell him WHY you are leaving. You may or may not invite him to follow you within some particular time limit.. You may or may not leave any children you already have behind for him to raise without your help.
- On the national level, I would not be surprised if among those US citizens who over-whelmed the Canadian immigration web site in the early morning hours of 11/09/2016 were many women who intend to emmigrate to escape from the new clear and present danger to their reproductive autonomy. (Others may have been motivated by impending loss of Obamacare health insurance to move to Canada's universal health insurance, which includes coverage of contraception and abortion as well as other health care.) The number who will move in anticipation of these changes is only a fraction of those who will move if the threatened changes occur. These emmigrants are mostly those who have enough savings to afford to re-locate and whose earning capability will be sufficient in the Canadian job market.
- The net effect of out-migration of these women will be an economic loss to the country and may also create an unbalanced ratio of men to women , ie a surplus of males, that could become as extreme or more so than that in China. (That will result in surplus men having to choose between (a) celibacy, (b) unofficial polyandry , or (c) finding their latent capacity for gayness.)
If you don't care about your own welfare, please DO respect the rights of others to determine for themselves and follow their own beliefs.
The pregnant girl or woman is a REAL PERSON. She is already born. That's a more advanced and more truely human state in every way (especially cognitive and socially interactive) than is a fetus, even a third trimester fetus.. Thus she has RIGHTS that are at least EQUAL to those of the fetus. (in my view her rights are far far superior to those of the fetus, but this article addresses readers who don't agree.)
Now I hear screams from the Anti-Choice crowd that "the fetus is innocent". Well in most cases the pregnant woman is also innocent. Anyone who is raped is totally an innocent victim. Those subjected to incest are innocent victims . Those who have had an originally wanted pregnancy turn into a the disaster of a disasterously damaged fetus or into a threat to the woman's own life or health are innocent victims. Those who used contraception but had their method fail are innocent. Those who believed a man who said he was sterile are foolish but innocent. So at most the "innocence arguement" would leave the woman who failed to use contraception as "non-innocent" or "guilty" and so ineligible for the remedy of choosing to abort. The equally "guilty" man (who did not use any contraception, although condoms are readily available and the method is easy to understand and use) is not punished in the same degree, too often not punished at all..
And , by the way, if the fetus is "innocent" (and I agree that it is, regardless of how it was conceived), why should it be acceptable to punish it with any serious life-enjoyment impairing health condition ? Why punish it with a parent who resents it or abuses or abandons it ? Why condemnn it to institutional rearing in "the system" ?
Act on your own beliefs when it comes to choosing for yourself. But don't impose your choice on anyone else !
Keep abortion legal and safe !!!!!!!
And for ideas on how to make the need for abortion rare, thus completing Bill Clinton's trilogy of "legal , safe , and rare", "rare" meaning "rarely needed", see my article You Say that You Dislike Abortion
A better and more relevant quote comes from that other Clinton : "Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights."
if the government can over-rule a woman's choice to abort, it can also over-rule her choice to give birth
if government can prohibit or limit or not fund abortion, it can equally mandate (require) or encourage abortion or fund abortion but discourage or NOT fund pregnancy care and childbirth
In the aftermath of Roe v Wade, a number of cases reached the U S Supreme Court concerning whether it violated the Constitution if a state government or the federal government chose to provide funding for pregnancy care and childbirth care but did not provide funding for abortion. Those cases decided that (a) this was not discrimination based on sex , thus the law needed only to have a "rational basis" and (b) that it was "rational" for a government to decide to show preference for increased births , thus higher population growth, rather than abortion.
Now in 2017, oreventually, governments may well realize that increased population size is NOT desirable, indeed that reduced size would be desirable, and therefore "rationally" choose to provide funding for abortion (and also contraception) but not provide any funding for childbirrth and possibly also not for pregnnancy care.
As I write this , summer of 2017, Congress is debating how to "repeal and replace" (destroy) the Affordable Care Act. One of the key changes is to reduce federal support of Medicaid, reducing money available to the states to provide this care for their poorest citizens. It would be totally rational fiscally for a state to decide that spending on pregnancy prevention and termination is hugely less costly, thus a better bargain for spending their limited funds, than is pregnancy continuation care, childbirth care, and neonatal ICU and possibly lifetime care for any infants born with prroblems.
(note : employer discrimination which disadvantaged pregnancy was also upheld by the Supreme Court until passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ammending Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. note also that what Congress giveith, a later Congress can take away, and then the issues would go back to the courts)
some relevant Supreme Court decisions :
Because this may be more of a short course in Constitutional Law than most readers will want, I'm going to put this into a separate page. If you are interested, go to caselaw Material added July 2017
Related topics :
- I will be writing an article "Who Will Raise the Unaborted Child" about the real issue in human life and reproduction. Namely that an infant will not survive without at least one adult or near-adult who is willing to raise that infant to an age of independance. An infant will not attain the qualities of normal personhood, cognizance, sociability, etc without at least one adult or near-adult who does an adequate job of raising that child. While society may be able to coerce a girl or woman to conceive and gestate a child to live birth, it is impossible to coerce anyone to be a loving and responsible and competent parent and child-rearer.
- and I will be writing an article about If Roe v Wade Were Gone, ie over-turned by the Supreme Court (post-Trump appointments) or by Constitutional Ammendment. This will include ideas on what Pro-Choice people could and should do to try to prevent this and how to respond if it happens. I might divide that into two separate articles, with the prevention & response portion titled "The New Lysistrata Rebellion".
- You Say that You Dislike Abortion : about all the things that those who say they oppose abortion should be supporting to reduce the need for abortion, ie to reduce unwanted and problem pregnancies. (guaranteed to outrage the Rabid Right and Anti-Choicers everywhere).