I wrote a column about guns once - and my friends told me I was crazy and putting my life in jeopardy.
Wanting to write about abortion may be the same. Another hot button issue – such that it has led to violence at abortion clinics and the murder of doctors.
My prompt to write about it is, of course, the leaked revelation that the Supreme Court is about to strike down Roe v. Wade.
A Trivial Procedure
From the medical point of view, an abortion is a trivial procedure. Especially in the first ten weeks when you can take abortifacient medicine by mouth (mifepristone to block the production of progesterone then misoprostol to cause the uterus to contract). Even surgical abortion is much safer than childbirth.
There were 630,000 odd abortions performed in the US in 2019 – down 18 percent since 2010 according to the CDC. About 50 percent of these were in women in their 20’s.
What gets people fired up about abortion – and is likely to cause offense at my calling it a “trivial procedure” – is the belief that this embryo/fetus/baby has some special value (the term you use depends on the level of gestation – but for brevity I will refer to just “fetus”).
I agree that aborting a viable fetus is not the same as removing a gall bladder or a fibroid. Abortion is obliterating something that, given the right circumstances, can grow into a fully-fledged human being. A person - who some believe has a soul, and terminating is murder and is defying God will.
There are different opinions about when the fetus actually becomes a person. Some say as soon as the ovum is fertilized. Others when the fetus is “viable” – meaning when it can survive on its own outside of the uterus. This limit is currently about 24 weeks – although at this gestation it usually requires a lot of medical technological help.
In deciding Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court said a woman could choose to abort her fetus up to the time of viability.
Weighing the Pro’s and Con’s
I am not aware of anyone who is pro-abortion, or who doesn’t think it is undesirable. The protagonists of Roe v. Wade are pro-choice. That the woman should have the right to decide if aborting the pregnancy is the better option.
The reasons women want to abort their pregnancy is usually because it will cause an undue social/financial burden. And research supports this.
Of women denied abortion, only 5.6 percent finish college compared with 30 percent for American women overall.
Approximately 80 percent of those denied abortion report not having enough money to meet basic living needs. Such women are three times more likely to be below the Federal Poverty Guidelines two year later. They are also likely to suffer higher rates of blood pressure and pelvic pain.
These adverse effects are likely to have a disproportionate impact on the poor and underserved, who are more likely to be non-white. And who, incidentally, are the women most likely to have an unwanted pregnancy.
To quote psychologist Henry David who did research on women denied an abortion, the child “appears to be born into a potentially handicapping situation.” An interesting observation supporting this is that there was a sharp drop in crime during the 90’s which has been attributed to Roe v. Wade – women who were able to plan their families had better adjusted children.
Another downside is that banning abortion is likely to lead to far more dangerous “back-street abortions.”
One of the arguments against abortion is that the fetus feels pain. But the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology say pain is not felt until the development of the brain’s cortex, which is at 26 weeks (only 1.4 percent of abortions take place after 21 weeks).
To Err is Human
This catchy title is what Institute of Medicine named their report about medical errors, making the point that people (even doctors) make mistakes.
It has a connotation of forgiveness that I think relevant to women getting pregnant when you consider half of them are only in their twenties - I don’t know about you; I certainly did a lot of dumb things in my twenties. Luckily nothing that would handicap me or my family for the rest of my life.
Another point worth making is you can’t achieve an unwanted pregnancy without a father.
Even if not actually raped, a lot of women are coerced into having sex/getting pregnant by some horny guy. So maybe the man’s role and his responsibility need to be taken in to account in the enforcement of punitive (dare I say draconian) laws more conservative states are enacting?
Then there are so many other points to consider in this debate.
Why aren’t opponents of extinguishing the life of the fetus also against other life ending phenomena like the death penalty, wars and guns?
If you’re worried about women getting abortions, shouldn’t you make birth control easier to get – not harder as is the case in conservative states?
Isn’t restricting abortion the ultimate in government/legal over-reach and impingement on that personal freedom so many people seem to rail about?
If this is an issue of personal religious/ethical beliefs, why is support or opposition split exactly down party lines (as with the vote on an attempt to codify abortion rights nationally – excepting that Democratic aberration Joe Manchin)?
Denying abortion doesn’t seem like it will be a source of adoption for the 2 million odd, qualified couples, waiting to adopt – less than 4 percent of unwanted pregnancies result in adoption.
My Bottom Line
Whether or not you believe the fetus has a soul, is sacred, is God’s creation it seems to me it is a decision that should be left to the mother’s religious/philosophical beliefs.
This usually incredibly difficult and anguished decision is a very personal calculus. Trying to decide if ending this rudimentary life for the sake of not screwing up the woman’s life, or that of her family
Should this decision be beholden to the religious/philosophical views of politicians and Supreme Court judges – the majority of whom are white men, and very distant from understanding the consequences of being a poor, ethnic woman denied an abortion?