I know we talked about this before, but I can’t find it, and I figured that, if we’re going to have esteemed legislators hanging around here, maybe they’d like some input. (Ha, ha, ha.)
First, let’s tackle the big question: “I hate abortion and think it’s wrong. Why can’t I just work to make it illegal?”
Well, as we’ve talked about repeatedly, there is no way to make abortion illegal that respects a woman’s right to control what happens to her body. Making abortion illegal means that the State has the right to force you to have a baby, even when you don’t want to. This is just basic human rights stuff. The State cannot force you to do something dangerous and possibly deadly that then saddles you with an 18 year commitment against your will and claim with a straight face that you are free and equal to other citizens.
But here’s the other reason. Making abortions illegal does not end abortion. We know that. The Government claims that there are about 800,000 abortions a year. We’ve talked about why I believe that number might be closer to a million. We’ve also talked about where this 1.3-1.5 million number comes from and why I believe it to be so far off. We can talk about those things again.
It’s difficult to estimate what the abortion rate pre-Roe was, of course. But folks have made attempts. Folks like this claim that the rate probably wasn’t that much lower than it is now. Even if you think the number is way off, the lowest estimates I’ve seen are 200,000 a year and, if you anti-abortion folks are serious about being anti-abortion, even 200,000 ought to seem like too many.
Making abortions illegal also increases the risk to women who are desperate to end their pregnancies, and again, if your goal is to reduce the cost of human life, a strategy that endangers women ought to be off your plate.
So, what can we do to reduce abortions that will actually have the effect of, you know, reducing abortions, while still respecting that women are equal and autonomous citizens under the law?
1. Comprehensive sex education in school. Here’s how human bodies work. Here’s how pregnancies happen. Here’s how to prevent them. Emphasis not only on abstinence (which is being taught right now as “never have sex or you will be a slutty slut who will get pregnant and probably commit suicide”), but on being sure and clear and able to express what you want from your partner, if you want anything at all.
Right now, we’re teaching our kids that sex is a war of attrition, that boys want it so bad that their whole lives revolve around getting it and that girls don’t need sex the same way that boys do, and so our jobs are to keep boys from having sex or else we are Slutty Whores. Boys try and try and try and girls say no and no and no until the boys wear down our resolve and we give in.
Girls who believe that their role is to just passively wait for boys to wear them down are notoriously bad about a.) getting and regularly using birth control and b.) about insisting that boys wear condoms.
Speaking of condoms, Conservative Christians, perhaps you don’t remember what it was like to be a teenager, but believe me, when you’re up there saying “Condoms don’t work. You can’t trust condoms. Abstinence is the only way to keep yourself safe,” for every one person you’re keeping a virgin, five others are hearing, “Well, there’s nothing we can do to keep ourselves safe; why bother trying?”
We know ABC (sex ed with an emphasis on “Abstinence, being Faithful, and using Condoms”) has worked well in other countries to reduce HIV/AIDS. If it works for that, why not try it for unwanted pregnancies?
2. A society-wide emphasis on the importance of an enthusiastic “yes” from your partner. Not only would this drastically reduce date-rapes, people who want to have sex and feel good about having sex are much more likely to take proper precautions when having sex. Right now, still, we have this idea that sex in certain situations is wrong. Say like, going to a bar and picking someone up and taking them home. A lot of people do this. Many of those same people believe it’s wrong. So, rather than preparing by having a purse or wallet full of condoms, which would indicate that we knew we were going out to have sex, we don’t prepare and go out and pretend like we were just caught up in the moment.
3. Pressure all insurance companies to cover birth control. Thank god for Viagra as many insurance companies that didn’t cover birth control and tried to cover Viagra were shamed into covering birth control too. Not all, though.
4. Government funding of birth control. Oh, I know you conservatives just about fell over at that, but most folks in this country don’t have insurance, and the majority of abortions in this country are had by poor women. Providing them with low-cost or free birth control would go a long way towards reducing those abortions.
4a. Gosh, you know,if only there were some large non-profit who would provide low-cost reproductive healthcare to women and also provide free condoms and low-cost or free birth-control pills.
5. Pour more funding into March of Dimes and other organizations that are looking for cures for birth defects.
6. Provide free healthcare and a food stipend to, at least, children living in poverty, if not all children in the U.S. Right now, poor and low income women account for more than half of all U.S. abortions and, since 1990, a majority of women having abortions already are mothers. Clearly, most poor and low income mothers would be more likely to not have abortions if they could afford to have another child.
7. Along those same lines, 80% of women who have abortions are unmarried. I propose a two-fold approach here. One is that we more strenuously go after dead-beat dads for child support. The other, again bound to be unpopular with the Conservatives, is that the Government provide child support to the woman as a kind of mandatory loan. So, you see what I’m saying, Johnny is the father of Sally’s child. He’s obliged by the court to pay her $500 a month in child support. He skips out. Sally goes to court and proves that Johnny has skipped out and is not paying. The Court can take the steps to get his pay docked and so on, if Johnny can be found. In the meantime, Sally gets $500 a month from the Government. Johnny is eventually found. Now he still has his $500 a month payment to Sally and a $2,500 loan from the Government he’s got to repay.
8. Get over this idiotic notion that the morning-after pill causes abortions and insist on it being widely available to women.
Hmm. Well, shoot. I can’t think of any more than eight.
But also, I want to reiterate that these are eight things I think we as a society can do secularly. Families and churches can still insist on setting a goal of virginity until marriage and then being open to children in marriage when they come. That’s your business and, if it works for you as a religious mandate, hurray!
Folks should, of course, feel free to add on in the comments.
(Also, I got a lot of information about who’s having abortions from here, if you’re interested.)