How decades of life experience, and a few dozen memes, convinced me that abortion laws actually do more harm than good.
Despite my Catholic upbringing, I was a teenager before I realized what abortion actually was,
“Why is this even a controversy?” I wondered. To my 13-year-old self, it seemed obvious. Abortion was wrong.
At that age, though, I also couldn’t understand why people had sex if they didn’t want to have a kid, and I thankfully had no experience with rape or incest.
As I got older, realized life was complicated, why people desired intimacy, and that rape (especially date rape) was more common than I thought. I had a friend who’d got pregnant, and her boyfriend denied he was the father. My first boss, expecting twins, was confined to bed rest for four months. It sounded awful. She ended up losing one of the babies, which was unimaginable.
Though I still felt abortion was wrong, I became reluctantly pro-choice in my 20s. I considered it a necessary evil in a sometimes evil world. And I was fully aware how privileged I was, and how it likely informed my views. Under different circumstances — if I were desperate, poor, the victim of sexual abuse — my stance might be different.
In my 30s, I needed surgery that would render me infertile. I was given the option of freezing my eggs, so they could later be fertilized and frozen, and the embryos implanted into a surrogate. I declined, but several of my friends went through IVF. Now that was science I could stand behind — a chance for infertile couples to have their “miracle child.” Like “Karina,” my college roommate’s 12-year old IVF daughter, whose impish face smiles at me from the holiday photo card on my fridge.
Entering my 40s, I gave less and less thought to the debate. When news of the first abortion ban hit, I thought “meh.” Maybe in a different era, when opinions weren’t shared so openly, I wouldn’t have reason to challenge my long-held views on abortion. But every time I opened a browser window, I did. I’ve never been one to live in an echo chamber. And these are the arguments which helped change my mind.
So life begins at conception, fine. But the baby’s life is 100% dependent on the mother. Where are her rights in all this? You can’t use organs from a dead person without their prior consent, yet a living woman’s consent doesn’t matter. It’s the biological version of Eminent Domain, but without fair compensation. In California, surrogate mothers get $60,000 to $80,000 to carry a child, with extra fees if something goes wrong. And in America, it often does.
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Forcing mothers to bring pregnancies to term will mean a death sentence for some, on top of the death penalty already proposed in certain states for women who have abortions.
What about the father? If life begins at conception, shouldn’t it mean the the start of child support? Perhaps he should also pay his share of the “rent” for the incubation period of a child neither of them wanted.
Some have even proposed that fertile men have prophylactic vasectomies until they’re ready for fatherhood. It’s reversible, after all, much less traumatic than pregnancy, and unlike childbirth, deaths are so rare they can’t be measured.
What if the man doesn’t want a vasectomy? Can’t we still make him have it? When it comes to preventing pregnancy on a large scale, it would be much more efficient. A woman is only fertile a few days a month, and can only handle one pregnancy at a time, while a man could theoretically impregnate dozens of women every day. One man could be responsible for thousands of abortions over his lifetime, yet the laws leave his body alone.
Body autonomy is one of our fundamental rights. We extend it to corpses, but not human beings. This law is not about protecting children in the embryo stage. If it were, the same laws would apply to frozen embryos conceived in vitro. We’re not hiring surrogate mothers to protect those lives. If they’re not wanted, they’re discarded, like the healthy organs from a non-consenting donor. All of it legal. Which finally convinced me that these abortion laws were rigged.
Life can begin in a lab. An IVF kid like Karina is indistinguishable from any other. But life is only considered human if it begins in a woman.
These laws aren’t about protecting children. They’re about controlling us. Making women bear the burden of unwanted pregnancy while taking no measure to hold the fathers accountable, before or after insemination. As far as rape or incest, I’m not even going to go there. This piece is long enough.
Sometimes I feel these abortion bans are a liberal conspiracy. Propose a law so draconian, so harmful that it serves to turn off the majority of conservatives who’d otherwise support it.
Other times, I wonder if it’s a conservative conspiracy. If we can overturn legal abortion, what’s stopping us from restricting a woman’s’ right to vote, own property, keep their job after getting pregnant? Conservatives all opposed these hard-won rights, and many of those who voted against them are still around today.
Abortion doesn’t have to be a controversial issue. Let’s work toward making birth control and pregnancy prevention education available to all. Let’s improve the infrastructure to better support pregnant women during and after birth. Let’s take measures to make fathers accountable and liable for the human and financial costs. And let’s expect more personal responsibility from everyone involved.
If we could accomplish these things, we could reduce the need for abortions to such a degree they would be virtually unheard of. Like the death rate for vasectomies.
I still don’t like abortion, but I don’t like forced pregnancy, either. The decision to carry a baby should be a religious or moral one, not a ban forced on us by government officials who may not have our best interests at heart.