Abortion is a highly controversial and polarizing topic in our society. With threats of defunding Planned Parenthood ever present and a vice president elect with a terrifying stance on reproductive rights, it's more important to talk about it now than ever. There is a lot of gray area when it comes to this subject, yet many people see it as a black and white issue. I believe in a woman's right to choose, and abortion should always be a legal and safe option for women who need it. I also believe that getting an abortion can be a tragic and devastating experience, and the decision should not be taken lightly. Lastly, I believe that the root of the issue is not addressed well enough in the abortion debate. Whether you are vehemently pro-life or you believe in a woman's right to choose, I think we all can agree that reducing the number of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies will greatly reduce the need for abortions. Here's how to make this happen:
1. Proper Sex Ed
Countless high schools across the country teach students an abstinence-only sex education. Curriculums may leave out the mechanics of the reproductive system, or how different methods of birth control work. The creators and teachers of these curriculums do not account for the fact that students are, without a doubt, going to experiment on their own. Experimentation with little to no proper sex education can have disastrous consequences (if you don't believe me, just watch Spring Awakening). We need legislation that creates proper and all-inclusive sex education across the country. This will greatly reduce the number of unexpected pregnancies, especially among teenagers. Reducing unwanted or unplanned pregnancies will reduce the need for abortions.
2. Widespread access to contraception
In 2009, Colorado began providing women with free access to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, both long-term forms of contraception. As a result, the rate of abortion in that state fell by 42% over six years. Our government needs to provide Americans with more contraceptive initiatives like this, as well as increasing public knowledge of available options and dispelling common myths (IUDs are far safer now than they were 40 years ago). In addition, long-term contraception should be covered in health insurance plans. More access to contraception will allow people to plan their pregnancies for when they are ready. Reducing unwanted or unplanned pregnancies will reduce the need for abortions. (But remember that while most forms of contraception effectively prevent pregnancy, only condoms will protect against sexually transmitted infections. Stay safe.)
3. Tackling the subject of rape culture
Many politicians who disagree with abortion are willing to make an exception in the case of rape or incest. However, this is part of a much larger social problem that we need to tackle – not just for the sake of reducing unwanted pregnancies, but for women’s safety as a whole. We live in a culture where Brock Turner was released from jail after three months for brutally raping a girl behind a dumpster. We live in a culture where a video tape that shows our president elect bragging about sexual assault is dismissed as "locker room talk". We need a better support system for victims of rape, and we need to hold rapists accountable for their actions. If we take more preventative measures, we can decrease the prevalence of rape in our society, and therefore decrease unwanted pregnancies for rape victims. Reducing unwanted or unplanned pregnancies will reduce the need for abortions.
Before this article ends, I want to address the subject of banning abortion as a means of reducing it. The 18th amendment did little to stop people from drinking alcohol in the 1920s, and likewise, today's war on drugs does little to stop drug use. In both of these cases, prohibition only causes users to access these things from uncontrolled sources, which is highly risky and often dangerous – it does not deter people from using them in the first place. A similar principle applies to abortions. Banning abortions will not stop women from getting them. It will only force them to turn to back alley procedures that can put their lives at risk. If abortion is legal, it can be done in a controlled environment that emphasizes the safety of the procedure. Prohibition does not work.
Banning abortions will not reduce the need for abortions. Proper sex ed, easily accessible contraception and a better understanding of consent will all reduce the need for abortions. Funding Planned Parenthood, which provides many of the services discussed in this article, as well as cancer screenings and STI testing, will reduce the need for abortions. Reducing unwanted or unplanned pregnancies will reduce the need for abortions.