Disclaimer: I am definitely pro-life. I believe the most conservative of all pro-life beliefs: human life begins at conception. *
(Alienating every even-barely progressive friend: check.)
And yet, the recent abortion ban laws being passed in the US sicken me. They show a horrifying disregard for life while masquerading as a noble defense of it. More precisely, they show an utterly contemptuous disregard for the lives of women in general as they purport to defend the lives of the unborn in particular. Abortion should not be banned in the US today, and it most vehemently should not be banned in this way.
(There: now I've alienated everyone.)
How can I both be pro-life and pro-choice? It's simple, really: I believe the best way to incredibly reduce or eliminate abortion is precisely the opposite way the pro-lifers are currently going at it. In fact, they could not do a better job of completely alienating everyone else if they tried.
I 100% believe we could all—from the most liberal to the most conservative—find common ground to rally behind, but instead both sides get into shouting matches over incredibly inflammatory flawed statements and end up figuratively shooting their own selves in the foot.
If you truly want to reduce and eliminate abortions, let's talk. Let's look at hypocrisy, misogyny, and ACTUALLY supporting the things that can guarantee to prevent abortions.
*See end of article.
1. No one WANTS an abortion.
Let's get one thing straight. No one WANTS to get an abortion. No one wants to undergo an invasive, potentially risky medical procedure that is definitely avoidable. No one WANTS this.
(Ah, see, this can be our common ground! This can be what we rally behind! For almost no reasonable person would say that abortion is the ideal or best choice. There. Common ground.)
The reason pro-choicers are so adamant about keeping abortion an option is because of a host of other reasons that influence the necessity for abortion being an option. Pro-choicers aren't adamant about abortion being legal because they're horrific baby-killing monsters who take great joy in destroying the most vulnerable of us all. They see it as a necessity for the reasons listed below.*
*And this is just a partial list.
2. Personal hypocrisy.
I can't even name the number of Republican leaders over the last several decades who have vocally opposed abortion but personally supported or even encouraged people in their lives to get abortions—especially when those aborted pregnancies would have been costly to them personally (such as, the pregnancy of a mistress). Representative Tim Murphy's case (where he asked his mistress to have an abortion) is just the most recent in a string of hypocritical stances by the most prominent, legally-influential GOP leaders who oppose abortion—until it actually affects them.
"Well—it doesn't matter if they're hypocrites and doing the bad things," someone might protest—"it just matters that they're supporting the right things!"
Really? That's not the stance Jesus took. (You know, Jesus—the guy whose teachings a lot of pro-lifers endorse.)
We see countless times in the Gospels where the leaders of the day came to Jesus to demand him to legislate morality and actions, and each time Jesus' focus was on calling them out on their hypocrisy. Just look at how Jesus handled the situation of a woman caught in literal adultery (a potential death sentence for women at the time), or how he preferred the company of the most actively "sinful" people (tax collectors and prostitutes) over the hypocritical but technically ethical leaders. Of all the people Jesus condemned, he condemned the hypocrisy of the leaders the most.
If pro-lifers truly want to reduce and eliminate abortions, they'll recognize the weariness and frustration pro-choicers are experiencing when it comes to the hypocrisy of the faces of the pro-life movement. If you want to reduce and eliminate abortion, the laws being passed need to be supported and upheld most especially by the leaders in the pro-choice movement, and secondly by everyone in the movement. (Spoiler alert: pro-lifers have abortions too.)
"It doesn't matter if the GOP are hypocrites, it just matters if what they're saying and legislating is the right thing!"
Mm…Jesus seemed to think it mattered.
3. Ethical hypocrisy + flawed logic
The entire premise behind abortion bans is that life begins at some embryonic state—usually conception (sometimes implantation or heartbeat are offered as alternative life-beginning timestamps)—and deserves full protection at that point. Okay, great.
But if life begins at conception, why aren't fertilized embryos in IVF clinics being equally sought after and protected? In fact, why aren't they being protected even MORE so? After all, these eggs were deliberately fertilized (rather than the case of a woman seeking an abortion, where [regardless if you think the consequence of sex automatically equals acceptance of pregnancy risk], we can safely assume she did not wish to deliberately fertilize her egg). IVF clinics often fertilize more eggs than are used and freeze the remaining eggs till they're implanted, disposed of, or donated.
If life begins when the egg meets the sperm, why the virtual radio-silence on the part of pro-lifers over equally viable fertilized eggs, that just don't happen to be inside a woman's body? Do pro-lifers only care about life when it's inside a woman? Whether or not the following statement is true, this silence on IVF makes it feel less like pro-lifers take an ideological stance passionately defending all life, and more like they take the stance that (inadvertently or by design) controls women.
Another note of ethical hypocrisy and flawed logic are the exceptions made for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Even the most pro-life Republicans will often make allowances for these three situations.
But this begs the question: if life truly begins at conception, why does it matter how that conception occurred? That baby is still a person, regardless of if it was conceived by rape or incest or will kill its mother by being carried or born. We don't have any laws that say "thou shalt not murder thy girlfriend, UNLESS she cheats on you, in which case it's totally okay." Pro-lifers making sweeping statements about life but then being willing to make exceptions calls into question the true nature of this ideological stance. Is it really about protecting the babies? Or is something else going on?*
Whether or not it's meant to be a concession to just toss the pro-choicers a bone and save as many babies as possible in the meantime, or whether it truly is a darker more hypocritical perspective, this pro-life exception triad doesn't carry continuity.
If pro-lifers want to reduce abortions, they need to acknowledge that this ethical and logical inaccuracy tells pro-choicers that there actually are times when life doesn't matter, really—but we're the ones who get to decide that. This arbitrary legal determination of when life is important and when it isn't is alienating to people who want women—the ones most impacted by this legislation—to be the ones making this determination for themselves.
If you want to reduce and eliminate abortion, having an ethically and logically consistent stance for when life starts is crucial, even if it's harshly inflexible. This wishy-washiness frustrates and alienates people who disagree on the minute particulars of when life starts.
This perfectly leads us into—
*There's actually a LOT more going on here that deserves its own article, but for now, mentioning the exception triad will have to suffice.
In all these abortion bans, where are the expectations of men? Where is male inclusion and responsibility for the life he has caused in these laws? After all, 100% of pregnancies result from a man's choice to have sex and his subsequent enjoyment of it. A woman's enjoyment of the act is not even a factor in pregnancy biologically. Pregnancy can occur during rape—you cannot get more anti-enjoyment or choice than that.
Furthermore, a woman can make safe birth control choices (such as using a condom) that men can negate, such as "stealthing", which involves a man taking off the condom during sex without his partner's consent and actually happens.
For those in the back: this all means there are multiple ways for a woman to become pregnant against her will, while, for all intents and purposes, it is impossible for a man to impregnate a woman against his will.*
So it seems pregnancy could be said to be even more a male responsibility than a female's. Where, then, is the male responsibility in these bills? If a woman is required by law to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, where is the man's equivalent?
There is nothing in these laws about mandatory child support beginning at the time that abortion is banned. Nothing about the man being equally responsible for childcare, diaper changings, and college savings. If abortion is truly and indifferently about life, then the onus should be equally on the man and woman: after all, it takes two to make a baby. The deafening silence in regard to male responsibility further aggravates the pro-choice belief that these laws care more about oppressing and regulating women than they do about the ideas themselves.
Putting the burden on women for a decision that men have an equal (or greater) part in is misogynistic in the worst way. Keeping women on the hook for life-altering consequences and demanding little or nothing of men in return is the same sort of sexism that has oppressed women for centuries.
Whether or not these laws are meant to be misogynistic, that's how they are interpreted, both from people's personal standpoints and a legal standpoint. Most decent people will agree misogyny is horrible and that men and women should be held to the same ethical standards. In order to make a pro-life difference, pro-lifers need to acknowledge the incredible sexism behind these laws.
If you want to reduce and eliminate abortion, there needs to be equal responsibility placed on men. Actually no, there can never be equal responsibility—women already have the far greater sacrifice by virtue of pregnancy alone. But from a financial and time-investment standpoint, pro-lifers need to start demanding men step up to the plate. If women can't back out of a pregnancy after 10 weeks, men should be equally held accountable.
Until abortion bans have sufficient requirements on men to be responsible in supporting the baby, these bans will do more harm than good by furthering a getting-off-scot-free approach for men while demanding a life-altering, potentially devastating consequence for women.
I'll say that again. Until these abortion bans require men to be just as responsible for pregnancies as the women they are legislating against, they will only worsen the situation by reaffirming the misogyny of the pro-life stance.**
*In fairness, I will state that there could be exceptions in case of male rape. To those who will be argumentative, one could also acknowledge that women could use sperm from a used condom without their partner's consent, or lie about being on birth control. But these exceptions are presumably so incredibly rare that they only deserve a mention as a nod to the most argumentative—and a man can still use a condom (acceptable protection against the latter) and dispose of it himself (acceptable protection against the former).
**Does pro-life legislation have to be misogynistic? No. But it is right now. So the onus is on the pro-lifers to change the misogyny first, rather than impacting a vulnerable minority (the pregnant women) as an unhappy consequence in the meantime. Protecting the minority—you know, just like Jesus did. When the religious leaders came demanding the death penalty for an adulterous woman, Jesus stood up to them, unequivocally defending the woman. Only after he had called out the leaders for their hypocrisy and turned them away did he turn to the woman and address her.
5. Pro-lifers OPPOSE immediate abortion preventative measures.
If pro-lifers truly believe life begins at conception (and not before), wouldn't they be bending over backwards to prevent an unwanted conception from taking place? Wouldn't they be throwing themselves into making sure sexually active people had information about and access to birth control?
With how much funding gets put into practically everything else our government does, why not put a comparatively meager amount toward making birth control free? After all, this would save the lives of aborted babies if those lives never started in the first place.
But this is not the case. Even getting your birth control covered by your insurance is not a guarantee (and what of the people who don't have insurance, or are on their parents' till 25 and don't have parental support to get birth control?), let alone having access to free birth control. And when given the opportunity to actually reduce abortion rates by forty-two percent by merely funding IUDs, the Colorado GOP voted against such a program.
Again—if you really cared about life, and you have a program that has already virtually halved your abortion rate, why would you possibly DEFUND it—if life is what you really cared about? THIS is why pro-choicers don't believe it's actually about life; this is why it seems it's about controlling women first, protecting life second. IUDs are more effective at preventing pregnancy than having one's tubes tied, which is just an insane success rate, and Colorado's example is an incredible argument for IUDs' effectiveness in eliminating abortion.
Some pro-lifers might use the argument that some birth controls are abortifacients, as one of the backup methods of some birth control is preventing a fertilized egg (in theory, a living human being) from implanting in the uterus. Okay, fine. IUDs and condoms don't do this.
So even if those other birth control methods are "bad" because they're actually a sneaky version of abortion—sure. For the sake of argument, I'll give you that.—but then why not bend over backward to provide a birth control method that is more effective at preventing pregnancy than literally having your tubes tied, and not an abortifacient?
"We can't do that because it's encouraging people to have sex!" First of all, people are already having sex—and second, that's not even true. We live in the United States. People know about sex. And if they want to do it, they're going to do it.
You might not personally agree with birth control (if you're Catholic, conservative, or etc), but we should all be able to get on board with agreeing that prevention is better than abortion, no matter how religious or conservative you are.
The fact that leading pro-choice individuals are not only NOT vehemently supportive of birth control, they're actually the opposite (neutral about it or opposing it) shows such a complete disregard for the very life-ideal they are espousing as to leave every pro-choicer disgusted by this hypocrisy and complete indifference toward women.
6. Pro-lifers oppose LONGTERM abortion preventative measures.
Let's say there's a woman who is unexpectedly pregnant in our current world. We've seen that our laws allow little to no guarantee that she can rely on any support from the father of the child; a pregnancy and baby is a financial/emotional/physical burden on anyone, but especially someone who wasn't prepared for it.
Wouldn't pro-lifers want to make sure that—if there was the slightest chance this woman would be willing to carry to term—that everything possible would be done to help support that choice and mitigate the inhibiting burdens?
At the barest minimum, let's just convince this woman to carry the baby for nine months and then give the baby up for adoption. This baby is already going to be a burden by mere virtue of being a fetus inside her body. Pregnancy alters a woman's body, often negatively and irrevocably. Even the healthiest of pregnancies carries with it the risk of lifelong complications and death.
So we're already doing a big ask in just wanting this woman to be willing to continue a pregnancy she didn't expect, plan, or want. But we do want to make this happen. How can we help support this choice?
Covering her medical bills—both during and after pregnancy—seems the barest minimum. Also guaranteeing paid leave from work for recovery after childbirth, and maybe ensuring her baby would be likely to be adopted into a loving home. But none of those things are true. Medical bills related to childbirth can cost thousands of dollars not covered by insurance. The US's maternal leave policies are among the worst of most developed nations. And the US has over 100,000 children in the foster system currently waiting to be adopted; thousands and thousands of children age out of the foster system every year because they were never adopted.
And this is just if we ask the woman to make a measly nine-month commitment.
What about the incredibly brave women who are willing to actually accept this life-altering situation and take on the responsibilities of mother—but aren't sure if they even can from a financial and practical standpoint (let alone emotional)? Wouldn't we want to make sure that no woman aborted her child because she couldn't afford to support the baby—but maybe if she had the proper support, would have kept it?
That would mean guaranteeing health care for the woman AND child—covering all the costs as related above, and then the cost as the child grows. Making sure the woman was able to have access to a job that could provide for her and her child, and making sure she could afford quality childcare. Ensuring she would have sufficient food and shelter and clothes.
I don't need to tell you that none of these are a reality. In fact, in the recently proposed Alabama abortion ban, Senator Linda Coleman-Madison proposed an amendment that would require Alabama to merely provide free prenatal and medical care for the mothers who would now be denied an abortion. Her proposal was overwhelmingly voted down.
If pro-lifers really care about life, at all costs—then, why aren't they willing to shoulder a bit of the cost? If life begins at conception and is truly worth defending—then why doesn't it matter enough to actually try to empower women to make a life-affirming choice?
No one wants to feel their only option is an abortion. But the pro-lifers' seemingly utter indifference—no, worse than utter indifference: their opposition at so many things that might help encourage women to not get abortions—casts doubt on their stated motivations and bolsters their seemingly misogynistic, uncaring motivations. And hopefully, few people would want to support policies that are blatantly sexist and selfish.
7. When you ban abortions without addressing underlying causes, women DIE.
Let's say pro-lifers are successful and pass abortion bans without addressing the practical and ethical hypocrisy of their leaders and their stances, without addressing the misogyny of all the current abortion ban bills, without addressing the need to support women as they undertake the tremendous task of raising a child. If these abortion bans are passed without addressing these underlying concerns, we know for a fact that women will die.
The legality of abortion isn't the real issue here. The data shows banning abortion leads to more abortion-related death. Deaths are far more common in countries where abortion is illegal -- and this isn't even TOUCHING on the women who could and will be prosecuted and punished if abortion is made illegal.
Remember the argument against gun legislation and restriction? Banning something won't stop someone from getting it if they really want it. Same with abortions. History shows us that if a woman feels it's best to get an abortion, its illegality won't prevent her from doing it—it will just be far more likely to risk her life.
So by banning abortions without addressing the reasons why women feel driven to get an abortion, GOP lawmakers are as good as saying they are totally fine with the occasional woman dying—as long as they maybe save some babies.
Remember that whole thing about the pro-lifers seeming like their bills were misogynistic, seeming like they didn't actually care about supporting women, seeming like they only cared about life when it was inside a woman's body and it actually wasn't about life itself? It isn't "seems" anymore. It IS.
8. Pro-lifers' singleminded focus on their goal is destroying their chance of reaching it.
What is the end goal of being pro-life? To protect all life, presumably. Great! That's a goal that presumably most of us could get behind in principle.
Then why is the practice of this principle so alienating? There are so many pro-life laws that pro-choicers would be willing to compromise on, embrace, and even wholeheartedly support. Hell, even just giving women IUDs—just one thing out of all the things suggested here—has been shown to reduce abortions by almost HALF. Why aren't pro-lifers giving the pro-choicers the anti-abortion support the pro-choicers have been asking for? Why are pro-lifers focusing on the admittedly most obvious but also most divisive pro-life stance, deeply alienating anyone who might be willing to work with them?
NO ONE WANTS an abortion. No one wants to need one. We can all agree on this one. It's remarkable how, when no one WANTS to have an abortion—abortion is still such a controversial subject. It could so easily be drastically reduced just by education and birth control—and we're not even touching on the social and legislative measures that could be taken to ensure women who still got pregnant could be supported to carry a pregnancy to term.
Why is abortion still so controversial? Because the pro-lifers are conducting their war against abortion in a way most perfectly designed to alienate and aggravate even the people who might want to oppose abortion.
This is why I am personally as pro-life as you can get, yet vehemently opposed to the latest abortion bans being passed. Until the systemic evils of hypocrisy, misogyny, and utter lack of support to help people choose life are addressed, these bills are only going to deeply hurt and even kill women.
I am as happy as the next person over the prospect of fewer abortions—and I am just as heartbroken when I think of a baby being aborted. But I can't support the incredibly anti-women way these bills are being passed.
Women are people too—we have lives worth defending too.
Let's address these far more deeply rooted issues and actually start reducing abortions—while supporting women at the same time.
*Regarding life beginning at conception: I've seen many well-composed arguments against the belief that life begins at conception and am very much willing to acknowledge there may be other viable markers to life—implantation, heartbeat, brain development, fetal viability, etc—or more specifically, to when a life is worthy of legal protection, since that is really what people are referring to when they talk about when life begins.
But for two decades I was raised in and surrounded by the unyielding belief that life begins at conception. There are many beliefs in which I grew up to which I no longer hold; this hasn't become one of them yet. But actually exploring when life begins and my own personal complicated emotional/spiritual/biological beliefs tangled up in that issue is a separate subject on its own.