I have noticed that there tend to be a few distinct issues that tend to get blended together when people discuss abortion, and I wanted to take the time to break them out a bit. Let me begin with a caveat that I’m speaking very generally here, so I’m not going to be able to cover all cases, all situations, or all people.
Generally speaking, abortion happens because of unplanned pregnancy. How does that happen?
What causes unplanned pregnancy
- Primarily people having sex. Consensual or otherwise.
- Lack of contraception access. Usually this is where the blame for abortion gets pinned, but strictly speaking a lack of contraception (plus people having sex) only leads to unplanned pregnancies. I don’t so much mean logistical access, since contraception really is widely available; rather, I’m referring to cultural access. Since I made up the term (so far as I know) I’ll explain: a lack of cultural access would be, for example, a young woman who didn’t get anything resembling real sex ed, who might have heard of birth control but might not really know what the various risks and failure rates are for various methods. All the logistical access in the world won’t fix the cultural access issues, unfortunately.
- Contraception failure (plus people having sex).
So you have an unplanned pregnancy. Congratulations! Now what? Are you going to keep it? Let someone adopt it? Abort it?
What causes abortion
- Pro-lifers shaming women for being single moms.
- Pro-choicers shaming women for being stupid enough to get pregnant.
- Coercion from partners / parents / others.
- Individual choice for reasons ranging from the serious to the trivial. Yes, some women do choose abortion for trivial reasons; there will always be people who make serious choices for trivial reasons, especially if there’s no particular obstacle to that specific choice.
- A culture that is generally not very welcoming to new life, even in the best of circumstances. How many families struggle to make it work even when they get pregnant on purpose with a very wanted child? The struggle is magnified the further you get from this ideal.
All that being said, abortion still wouldn’t be a thing without a very widespread but very incorrect assumption, which brings me to –
What enables abortion
- The belief that the right to life does not begin for humans until …. ? Depending on which pro-choice person you are talking to, the right to life does not begin until the 12th week of pregnancy, the 20th week, the 36th week, the day of birth (as long as some part of the baby is inside the mother), a few weeks postpartum, or at a particular point I didn’t mention.
Science makes it abundantly clear that a new individual begins to be present at conception; at that point there is a genetically unique individual that has never existed before in the history of the world and will never exist again. No other bright line exists for when the right to life begins, and no other point in development makes a logical bright line.
If this fact were universally recognized, and assuming we all agree that it’s wrong to forcibly end someone’s life, elective abortion would become unacceptable and virtually disappear. The average person would no more choose abortion than they would choose to kill their toddler. Of course there would still be medically necessary abortions, because even when you recognize that you have two patients in front of you, sometimes you simply can’t save at least one of them, but those abortions would no longer be of the hack-n-slash variety.
How do we reduce abortion?
The thought process that enables abortions is frankly the easiest thing to address, but even that is very difficult in practice for a wide variety of reasons, probably primarily the fact that all of the causes of abortion are still present. This impacts the general willingness to listen, as important as it is to continue to spread the word on this front.
Although I have seen some progress in pro-lifers fixing their attitudes toward single parents, unfortunately women are still generally in the position of having to give pro-lifers AND pro-choicers the finger when they say, “No, abortion is unacceptable and I won’t do it. Period.”