I am pro-choice - although, just barely. I recognize that there is an impulse, whether it be informed by instinct, religion, or something else entirely, that would direct a pro-life response, and I can empathize with that instinct, despite being an atheist.
But, it must be said - either way, the answer to the dilemma is not an obvious one, and when examining the opinions across the spectrum of ideas concerning abortion I find a lot of people acting as it is.
In a parallel world, conservatives could very well be the pro-choice party.
Why? They always speak about the free market. They understand practical jurisprudence. They understand the economics, the burdens. They used to speak more of family values - if they care so much about the family, why have more families born out of reluctant childbirths?
Liberals could be pro-life. They love to speak up for those who have no voice. They are protectors of the defenseless - who better to protect than the voiceless child? And before you become an older conservative, you are almost guaranteed to be a young liberal first. I believe you could provide a rationale for the flip-flopping of the two parties’ stances on abortion.
But remember - they both have gods to serve.
The conservative base has to recognize its religious majority. It must be the voice of those who oppose abortion from largely religious principles. Conservatives cannot afford to make (nor would they at this point) any concessions on their pro-life stance, for fear they may lose support.
“If you are going to stop fighting for an unborn child’s life, I might as well vote for a democrat”.
The liberals have a similar problem. They must prove loyal to the pro-women faction of their constituency. They cannot afford to abandon the feminists, who see abortion rights as strictly a women’s rights issue.
So, here we are. Party politics… but what about solutions? Well, there are no solutions - only trade-offs.
Abortion is a hard issue - it has philosophical, ethical, moral, religious, and societal aspects that can all be considered and used to formulate a stance. One does not need to be in possession of a uterus to have an opinion on the matter.
But perhaps we are starting the conversation too late in the game. Abortion is a consequence of pregnancy, which is a consequence of sex - and how we treat sex is something our society must examine in a more critical way.
Examining our societal attitudes towards sex could be an essay in itself, so in the spirit of brevity, I’ll say - it is not very good. Sex is everywhere, all the time. Our commercials and billboards drip with sexual innuendo at every turn. The culture of pornography is no longer reduced to the web - it’s fully mainstream, and some porn stars are just as well known as any other pop group - politicians, actors, athletes, etc. It seems everybody wants to fuck like a porn star and, in theory, why wouldn’t they - sex makes us feel good - and in that way, it can be quite amazing.
But porn is not benign, and neither is sex necessarily. Sex has consequences. Physically and emotionally. Our relationship with (the act of) sex can be a large part of our human experience. It can lead to love and marriage and children, but it can also lead to trauma and jail time. It can lead to a healthy full life of sexual expression, or it can leave you with sexually transmitted diseases.
It can also get the woman pregnant.
But how often does pop society remind us of the consequences? For the hard left, sex is a no-risk, no-consequences sport. Orgies in the street, have at it! It’s only sex! For the hard religious right, sex is to make babies. Turn out the lights. Lay down flat. Think of Jesus the whole time. These are crude caricatures but rooted in some truth.
With such disparities in our views of sex, abortion - a product of sex and pregnancy - is of course going to be highly contentious. Babies come from women, and they could never come from a man. It is not fair - but what are we going to do, carve mother nature from the center of the earth and cancel her for it? I don’t think abortion is strictly a women’s rights issue - the fact that only women can give birth is just the way things are, and this shouldn’t make half of society shy away from discussing the subject.
What must be understood, too, is the more feminist notion of bemoaning child-rearing as a chore rather than a privilege. Well, of course, it is a chore. The woman’s body goes through changes - pain, sickness, worry, stress. Pregnancies get messy, intrusive, and the act of giving birth itself can be excruciatingly painful. But it is also a privilege. It is also a beautiful thing that only a woman can do. It can be viewed, as many women do, as an act of love, a manifestation of the maternal instinct to bear and raise, to love and protect a child.
But as long as being pregnant represents a burden, a life stunting exercise, condemning you to the consequences of the patriarchy, then you’ll likely celebrate abortion as not only individual freedom of choice, but as the manifestation of your own existential freedom. And this, I believe, is a mistake.
And I think “celebration” is the appropriate term to use. I think it is fair to say that abortion is an issue that indicates a much deeper societal problem concerning sex, and the celebration of abortion indicates this as well. What some folks seem to confuse is the “freedom to do something” with the “act of doing so”. The two are not always one and the same. There are things we are free to do, but ought to try to refrain from doing.
And this perhaps is the crux of my position.
Those who are against abortion must acknowledge the largest contributor to abortion is technically the woman’s own body. Sometimes the woman’s body understands that a child won’t make it to birth, or if it does make it to birth, the child won’t make it very long afterward. In such cases, the woman’s body will shut down the pregnancy, terminate the process, and flush the body out.
In many cases, abortion is simply an organic process rooted in pragmatism. Mothers need to start off with healthy babies. Sometimes technology can help, but the mother’s womb isn’t privy to that knowledge. It has to regulate what children are worth the strain on the future mother. Yes, mother nature is cold in this way.
So if the pro-lifers can recognize that abortion can be considered pragmatic in some cases, surely the discussion is open to where abortion can be pragmatic in other scenarios too, on the level of the individual and the societal. That’s a fair starting point, in this author’s opinion.
For the pro-choice crowd, you have concessions to make of your own. Don’t confuse “abortion” with “celebration”. No, getting an abortion is not a good thing. The baby inside you has potential, and you’ve opted to terminate that potential. Many of these aborted children are the product of casual sex, done irresponsibly.
And so we conflate the freedom to abort with the freedom to have as much sex as possible sans consequences. On a personal level, that might be justified, but on a societal level, those problems become magnified, as we more and more let the carefree attitudes towards sex dictate the direction of our society.
The pro-life folks need to realize abortion is inevitable. Women and men will continue to have sex, and women will continue getting unwanted pregnancies that need a resolution. There will also be pregnancies resulting from rape and incest that no reasonable person could justify following through with birth. You don’t want women going back to broomsticks and coat hangers, or back-alley abortion clinics under the threat of legal consequence. If these practices must continue, why not regulate them, so they can be done safely?
The pro-choice folks need to understand that it is no cause for celebration, and aborting a pregnancy should be performed with a large dose of introspection. It should be done solemnly, regrettably, unfortunately, and rarely. If not for some modicum of respect for the potential inside you that you are going to terminate, then at least out of respect for a deeper meaning and the process of life-giving and an understanding that sex is not necessarily benign. Neither are our attitudes about it.
Pro-life folks should concede that sometimes an abortion just makes sense.
Pro-choice folks should aim to use abortion as little as possible.