Kathy T. has a thoughtful post about abortion today. I disagree with her (of course) but I’m not really interested so much in that as in looking at how complicated these discussions are.
Kathy T. is talking about how she maybe supports laws that would require women to look at ultrasounds of their fetuses because she’s done some research and
While I don’t believe all abortions should be banned because no law is absolute, I am deeply troubled by the sheer number of abortions performed each year. According to this Real Choices site, the number is a staggering 1.2 million in the U.S. Medscape Todayof WebMD stated in 1999 that between 1.3 and 1.5 million are performed each year. (See? I tried to cite some sources.)
Now, Kathy T. has done the right thing. She did some research. She found some numbers that, to her, to any of us, seem credible. But the feds keep track of this stuff, so we know that, in the year 1999, for instance–theyear that MedScape Today gave her the 1.3 to 1.5 million abortions number–there were 861,789 abortions reported from 48 areas. Even assuming that the other reporting areas were rife with abortions, we’re still talking right around a million, if that many.
Not that a million isn’t a lot.
But it’s less than 1.3 million and it’s far less than 1.5 million. And the number of abortions in the U.S. has steadily declined since 1990.
The other thing Kathy T. says which I think is important to address is this:
I don’t think there would be enough of them, though, to care for 1.2-1.5 million unwanted babies each year, but I don’t think all abortions will stop as a result of viewing an ultrasound. But maybe enough would so that some of these people can become the amazing parents that I know they will be.
There’s two things here. One is this idea that you either choose to have an abortion or you choose to be a parent, that those are mutually exclusive decisions. And yet, (and maybe Rachel will look into this) I find no evidence that, over all, women who have abortions have fewer children than women who don’t.
The other thing is that pregnancy is dangerous and painful and it doesn’t always work out how we want it to. Any woman who would choose to have a child is to be commended and any woman who would choose to have a child and then place it up for adoption has amazing strength of character.
The government should not be able to compel you to be a hero.
At a very basic level, you must be free to do with your body what you’d like, if you are to be a full citizen. Any kind of legislation that infringes on a woman’s right to decide what we’ll do with our own bodies–when we are not criminals–means we’re not free.
And third, babies are not magic. Yes, some women you’d think would make shitty moms get that baby plopped down in their arms and they pull it together.
But most don’t.
Babies cannot magically transform shitty women into good mothers. Forcing shitty women to have babies…
Very little good can come of that.
My point is that it’s hard to have meaningful discussions about abortion because it’s complicated. Can we trust the numbers? Is being born always better than not being born? If a woman has to be forced to have a baby, why do we assume she’ll be a fine mother? Does compulsory childbirth infringe on a woman’s freedom? If so, what does that mean for our ability to be citizens? If abortion is murder, will we start executing women who have them? And so on.
Everyone on both sides, even me, would like for this to be an easy discussion. It’s not.