The debate over abortion has been raging since the dawn of time. Evidence exists of abortions being a routine occurance as early as 421 BC, when Greek playwright Aristophanes noted the abortifacient properties of pennyroyal in his comedy, “Peace.” Not-so-veiled advertisements for abortion services were common even in the Victorian era:
Abortion was finally made safe and legal in the US by Roe v. Wade in 1973, and individual states have been bickering over whether or not women really DO have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies ever since.
13 states have recently enacted laws aimed at heavily curtailing access to and ease of abortion services. North Dakota bans abortions after only 6 weeks of pregnancy! (Ohio joined the ranks just this past Sunday.) Texas is the next battleground for women's reproductive rights -- while recent legislation aimed at closing most clinics in the state failed in a highly dramatic fashion, the victory was only temporary. The Texas Legislature simply re-introduced the exact same anti-abortion bills for consideration within hours. Barring another miracle, the measures will almost certainly pass within the next 30 days and go into effect immediately.
It’s not hard to see why both sides of the issue are straight ride-or-die in their positions. But is it possible that there is a middle ground? I say there is, and I’m proof of it.
I am not an abortion enthusiast, and let's agree once and for all that there is actually no such thing. Abortion is a painful choice, both emotionally and physically. These hypothetical women who are using abortions as regular ol' birth control just do not exist. The idea that slutty ladies are running wild in the streets like harlots, screaming “WHO CARES?? I’LL SCREW ANYONE I WANT AND THEN JUST GET ME ONE OF THEM ‘BORTIONS!” is the ultimate straw man argument. Get it? The straw man isn’t even really a person -- and furthermore, his logic falls apart like a house of cards when tested by facts.
This argument is also meant to shame and marginalize women. "Why can't these ladies just keep their legs closed?" I keep hearing the anti-abortion crowd ask. I'm wondering why they don't pose that very same questions to the men who made said women pregnant to begin with.
I am, for the record, staunchly pro-life. I’ll bet you find that surprising, considering my writing in the last week regarding abortion. But I’m also bitterly, viciously, balls-to-the-wall pro-choice forever. It is intensely possible for both ideologies to exist in the same sphere -- and the debate over abortion law would be better served if the issue were to be discussed from this perspective more often.
Let’s back up for a minute to before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, making it one of the safest medical procedures in the world. I was shocked to learn recently that birth control pills were not available for all women, regardless of marital status, until 1972! Only married women were able to receive the pill until the Supreme Court intervened. The numbers speak for themselves here:
We have come so far yet learned so little in the intervening 40+years. It's foolish to think that we could ever go back to a time where women had practically no autonomy over their bodies and died as a result. It's not like the early 1900s were such a golden time for women.
The closing and restricting of clinics that provide women's services (including abortion) serves exactly nobody. It has been proven time and time again that you can't legislate morality. Just look at Prohibition -- attempting to limit access to alcohol and forcing virtue on American citizens really only accomplished one thing: delivering the entire US bound and gagged to the hands of organized crime. What people want, they will find a way to get.
What's done is done. Trying to stop access to abortion services in 2013 and beyond is like trying to put water back into a plastic bag with your hands -- it's simply a fool's errand.
I'll admit, the the furor over so-called "fetal pain" laws is what sometimes stops me cold. I tend to only believe scientific findings when discussing abortion -- polls are too easily manipulated by whichever "side" is performing the polling. Science says babies do not begin to feel pain until 35-37 weeks. But what about the miniscule possiblity that science isn't right? And that fetuses over 20 weeks old actually DO feel agonizing pain during the abortion procedure? The idea that it could possibly be true is horrifying, heartbreaking and morally devastating. But the alternatives to allowing these later-term procedures legally is less than stellar. The state of Idaho recently learned the hard way that desperate women will do whatever they have to when faced with a lack of access to legal care.
In 2012, Eastern Idaho resident Jennie Linn McCormick was charged with a felony crime for self-inducing a medicinal abortion. An autopsy determined her baby was between five and six months gestation. McCormick (who already had 2-year-old child and was living in meager circumstances) was charged after the baby’s body was found in a box on her back porch. The closest clinic that provided abortion services was hours away, and cost was an issue.
She used the so-called "abortion pill," RU-486, which she illegally obtained on the Internet. The lack of a doctor's care meant that McCormack was unaware that RU-486 is actually not meant for use on pregnancies over 20 weeks, and I find it hard to believe that her baby suffered less via the "do-it-yourself" method.
Would I myself ever have an abortion? I'd like to think the answer is no, not ever -- unless my life was in grave danger. But it's arrogant and narrow-minded to think it's out of the realm of possibility and pointless to expect others to feel the same way. If I were in need of an abortion, it would be an intensely painful, private, personal decision between my doctor and I -- and not something I'd want the government and state lawmakers involved in.
My point here is that I firmly support something I don't personally believe in -- and that is the right of all women to have safe, legal access to whatever they determine is right for themselves at whatever time they determine it to be necessary. What's right for me isn't necessarily right for anyone else -- and my God tells me to fear passing judgement on others and their actions. Who among us is without sin and would like to cast the first stone? (Yes, I am indeed a religious babe. We are not all crazed zealots speaking in tongues.)
The idea that we can stop women from having autonomy over their own bodies is ludicrous, no matter what you believe in your heart and mind. Once we allow the government this power over us, what's next? It's a slippery slope that I'm not interested in sliding down. Abortion is a terrible, tragic, sad fact of life -- but we simply MUST err on the side of the civil rights of women, and pregnant women are most definitely not public property.
The criminal part of all these proposed restrictive abortion laws is that their proponents are usually also vehemently opposed to state-funded sex education and free, open, easy access to contraception.
Let me get this straight -- you don't want women to have ample access to contraception but you also don't want them to have abortions? It doesn't take a genius to realize that one of these viewpoints has to give in order for society to function properly -- because otherwise what we are basically saying is that women are nothing more than fetus incubators.
Abortion is like a weed. You can keep cutting off the leaves, stems and flowers -- but until you attack the root cause of the problem, it will keep coming back. The knowledge that millions of unwanted babies are dying needlessly before they have a chance to take their first breath shatters my heart into thousands of pieces.
All children deserve to be wanted, loved and cherished. But the devastating reality is that many children simply aren't wanted -- and wouldn't be loved, cherished and protected, were we to force their mothers to bring them into the world by restricting her right to choose. So make no mistake about it -- the proposed alternatives to this sad fact of life are not acceptable. Abortion IS and must continue to be here to stay.
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison