I’ve tackled the issue of abortion once before here at ROK. In that article I noted that while I generally dislike abortion and have maintained pro-life leanings for most of my existence, I had come to warm to the pro-choice perspective. That warming was due primarily to the acknowledgement of a few harsh realities related to the topic, most notably the fact that a lot of people simply aren’t fit for parenthood and should not produce children.
That being said, I still don’t like abortion and do sympathize with those who wish to see less of it. To that end, I’ve given quite a bit of thought to the topic and made a few conclusions regarding the solutions necessary to fight abortion.
First, let us discuss what will NOT work:
This is a common rebuttal from the pro-life crowd: “If you don’t want a baby, then don’t have sex!”
Said rebuttal is often coupled with some statement regarding the notion of sexual intercourse being tied directly to reproduction.
Both of these notions are extremely problematic due to their sheer disconnection with reality. That reality is as follows: people want to fuck. People are going to fuck. A handful of people maintain a certain set of convictions that keep them from fucking and have enough discipline to hold to that, but the vast majority of humanity does not. Man will fail the test of abstinence nine times out of ten.
Similarly, social norms in the west have moved well beyond the stage at which abstinence can be maintained. The past 50-60 years have seen casual sex become an accepted part of ordinary life. The days of societal condemnation directed at sex out of wedlock are gone, and it’s not coming back.
In addition to this, the days of sexual intercourse remaining highly correlated with the act of reproduction are done as well. You can thank the pill for this along with dozens of other contraceptive advancements available to modern women. That genie is out of the bottle and it isn’t going back. Sex for pleasure and pleasure alone is here to stay.
Long story short: Abstinence is NOT an answer, and cannot be used as a weapon against widespread abortion.
Another common argument from the pro-life crowd: “Why not just give the baby up for adoption?”
The answer? People aren’t really going to want them, especially if they are black or brown. This is aside from the fact that the system that children given up by their parents in this society is one in which they stand a high chance of suffering physical abuse, sexual abuse and developing serious psychological issues.
3. Banning Abortion
Conservative initiatives to this end have been failing left, right and center. Abortion is firmly established socially and legally and is here to stay. Conservatives can possibly make them more difficult to obtain, but they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
So, what are the solutions that WILL work? They are ideas that go to the heart of the problem, which is societal.
1. Spreading Contraception
This is a no-brainer, and every conservative with a pro-life bent ought to be behind it. Fewer unwanted pregnancies = fewer abortions.
2. Changing Societal Attitudes Toward Women in the Work Place
This is a challenging one because, depending on how you approach it, you can and will piss off a lot of people on one or both ends of the political spectrum.
Abortion at its fundamental core is caused by the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies, so we must ask ourselves this: why are these pregnancies not wanted? Often you will find an answer that relates to female academic and professional goals. Women increasingly desire larger amounts of education and longer, more fulfilling careers, and babies get in the way if they come at the wrong time.
There are two ways to deal with this:
A: Provide greater support (flexible work schedules, daycare subsidies, etc) for working mothers and young mothers in school.
B: Put a greater emphasis on ideas of “traditional” stay-at-home motherhood, and allowing or encouraging a larger number of women to head in that direction at the expense of more progressive ideas regarding female academic and professional achievement.
Option A will piss off fiscal conservatives who don’t want to waste money supporting grown women, especially single mothers. Option B will piss off progressives who will see an attempt to roll back decades of feminist progress that has seen women increasing their academic and professional achievements at a rapid rate.
One, or both, of these options has to come to pass. If younger women continue to feel forced into a choice between career/education and motherhood, then many will continue to see abortion as their only viable option in a world where it is simply too difficult for a woman to raise a family and get a degree/build a career at the same time.
Similarly, if women continue to feel ashamed and/or “unfeminist” for thinking about the idea of stay-at-home motherhood and perhaps foregoing a more serious career track at an early age in order to live that lifestyle, abortion will remain appealing. If parents and society at large continue to shame young women who would otherwise consider young motherhood and instead pressure them to spend their youth strictly on the career track, then many young women will continue to do whatever it takes (up to and including abortion) to avoid a pregnancy.
This leads me to my final point, and the most important.
3. End Societal Shaming of Young and Single Mothers, Encourage Support
This is probably the most necessary of all steps and was touched on above, but will be expanded upon here.
Again, abortion is tied at its core to the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies. Why are these pregnancies unwanted? Often because women understand the social costs of bringing a child into the world before they are “supposed to.” It is not uncommon for a prospective young mother to fear the wrath of angry parents in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, or for parents to very severely shame and/or isolate their daughters for allowing such a thing. Said prospective young mother often cannot count on the support of her parents, her community, the father or the father’s family. She can expect, however, to be looked down upon by some or all of those actors, with serious social isolation a real possibility. For many, the sheer mass of shame directed at them in this scenario is unbearable.
When you examine parts of the world where fertility rates are high and young women are not afraid to become mothers, you’ll notice one thing is prevalent above all: support. Young mothers in many developing countries can, upon getting pregnant, expect support from family, community and (to some extent) even the father and his family. These are places where there is limited government support and very limited finances, yet young women continue to get pregnant at high rates, continue to desire large families (women in many parts of Africa still desire 5+ children and often plan to mother them early, regardless of contraceptive availability) and abortion is still often frowned upon. Why?
Support. The young mother in the developing world knows she isn’t alone even though she is broke and often lives under the dominion of what amounts to a corrupt banana republic. She’s got an entire community to help her and a family to support her.
The young western mother, on the other hand, has plenty of money and a much more efficient government, but no support. This is a big reason why you’ll find more support for abortion in western nations than others—it isn’t all about religion and/or “the patriarchy” robbing women of choice. There are practical matters to consider here as well.
If conservatives plan to continue to lead the charge against abortion, then they need to start by becoming the first to encourage the support of young mothers. If you want to encourage young women to have all of these babies instead of aborting them, then you’ve got to lead efforts to make it more feasible for those babies to be raised by said women. That starts with having a more positive, welcoming attitude to unplanned pregnancies at the family and community level, and encouraging broader collective efforts to help raise those children. None of this would completely end abortion, but it would go a long way to making the procedure less common and is, in my estimation, the best option that those in the pro-life camp have available to them.
I fully intend to put my money where my mouth is. I don’t like abortion and, should I have a daughter, I’d quite prefer she not have one. How can I best ensure this does not happen? By being as open as possible with her about my willingness to support any unplanned grandchildren and making it very clear that she will not be judged a deviant or a harlot for making a mistake.
I know she will be having sex early and probably often —virgins beyond the age of 18 are not terribly common these days, and virgins beyond age 21 are exceedingly rare. I, like most parents, would probably prefer for her to be in her mid-late 20’s (done with school, established a career, etc) before starting a family, but she will be having sex well before that point. To that end, I will not attempt to encourage abstinence. While I will encourage the use of contraception, she will know that, should there be a mistake and should she find herself with child, she will be able to come home and be open and honest with me and her mother about everything. She will find emotional, logistical and financial support for herself and for her child in my home. Nobody is going to railroad her into an abortion clinic.
Of course, you may judge the above as inherently immoral, an endorsement of pre-marital sex, illegitimate birth and wanton debauchery. For those who may think this, ask yourself a question: Between consensual pre-marital sex and the abortion of unborn children, which is the greater evil? Does the notion of your daughter being sexually active between the ages of 16-25 strike you harder than the possibility of your unborn grandchild meeting an early end because your daughter was too scared to reveal an unplanned pregnancy to parents who she could not be honest with because they had shown themselves totally unwilling to support her and entirely willing to shame and isolate her along with the wider community?
I already know my answer, but I do not presume to speak for everyone else. The decision is yours.
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