When it comes to controversy, there is no topic quite like abortion. Best friends can fast become sworn enemies, exchanging hateful rhetoric and stinging venom in a debate that has been around as long as mankind. Christians, as a group, took a stance on contraception and abortion in a document known as the ‘Didache’, around 48AD. That is not in dispute in this post, nor is that the topic of discussion.
I am not writing to hammer and drill the same tired speech, proclaiming how abortion is wrong. Shouting accusations and judgements has done next to nothing to endear either side of this movement to the public. It has smothered dialogue, leaving nothing more than polarized enemies. In the interest of moving this legal and social discussion forward, I will outline the biggest mistakes that I believe each side is making. It is my hope, regardless of your political or religious affiliation, that these critiques will resonate with you, as a reader. I am not debating the moral status of abortion. That is not in question in this post.
Without further ado, the greatest mistakes in the abortion debate:
Graphic Posters: The reality of abortion needs to be recognized, especially by those considering it; however, it does not need to be seen by the general public, who may or may not be very young, be very sensitive to death, have experienced a miscarriage, or may be unable to handle these images. I cannot tell you how many times, in college, I saw the devastating images of dismembered fetal humans. It did nothing to change my mind, and it seemed a strange tactic. Why weren’t there pictures of starving children or any other type of victim being paraded through my college quad? I will tell you why. This is not an appropriate way to get your message disseminated. People do not parade posters bearing the pictures of the dead body of Gerri Santoro (cautiously view these images), trying to raise awareness about what happens when women try to perform their own abortions. This is just in bad taste, and it does NOT facilitate dialogue.
Vilifying the women in crisis: As a sex, women have struggled for every legal right and faced opposition in the workplace. We face prejudice and rape culture, objectification and slut-shaming. We have been seen as lesser in almost every major civilization, save a few brilliant tribal areas which elevated women. We bear the brunt of the responsibility when it comes to bearing and rearing children. When a pregnancy occurs, a man can walk away, but a woman must grow the child in her body. Ideally, she will go on to nourish the baby with her body (I’m shooting daggers at my pump right now!). Men’s contribution to reproduction is pitiful, frankly (love you, Hubby 🙂 )! With all of this, we do nothing by saying that the women who choose abortion are murderers and monsters. It divides us, when we need to stand together. We need to be there for one another and empathize with each other in a way that half of the population cannot. Instead of vilifying another woman, look at her as a human being, the same way you want her to look at her unborn child, and see what brought her to this choice. This is the way to meaningful dialogue.
Legal restrictions: Restricting abortion through legal means hurts the poorest of the poor. Rich women will always be able to obtain whatever it is that they wish, be it the latest Hermes bag or an abortion. Make no mistake. It only hurts the most vulnerable women. I have had the experience of speaking with a few women who procured both legal and illegal abortions. The legality had no bearing on whether or not they obtained them. It only effected the quality of the procedure and their later outcomes. One woman explained that she procured an illegal abortion from an unlicensed physician and was later found to be infertile, as a result of an infection. Legal restrictions did not stop her.
Assuming Religious Motivation: As an atheist and a pro-choice woman, I assumed that all pro-life women were these sad, subjugated, little women who were brainwashed into believing in an awful woman-hating God. The fact is, there is a significant sect of the pro-life movement that is atheist. Many are motivated purely by science. Nothing physically changes within a baby, at birth. Nothing special happens, at any point during a pregnancy, demarcating the designation of humanity upon the unborn. Acknowledging this does not make you religious; it makes you objective and scientific. In juxtaposition, at conception, a unique, irrepeatable, genetically distinct genome is present. Essentially, everything that person is and ever will be is present, at that moment. That is the science that drives many on the pro-life side. It does nothing to imagine them as scientifically illiterate morons. This isn’t how you create dialogue.
Lowering standards: The conditions and legal protections surrounding abortion care are abysmal. We are not helping women, by allowing them to be treated in dirty or unregulated facilities. We aren’t helping women by not informing them of the risks or by allowing these procedures to occur in a place one wouldn’t even consider getting a mani-pedi. Lying to women about scientific facts surrounding the procedure is something that would result in serious legal repercussions in ANY other healthcare setting. I personally know two women who were lied to about fetal development at the time of their procedures. Who exactly are you helping when you lie? What motivates that? This does not create an environment of trust, and it does not facilitate dialogue. Lying is not ethical. Abortion may be one of the safest procedures for a woman to have, but we MUST recognize that many complaints are never filed because of embarrassment and stigma surrounding the procedure, and statistics are not reliable when doctors are politically or monetarily motivated to generate pleasing results.
Money: One of the saddest realities of this whole situation, is that someone is profiting off of these women’s crises. Monetarily profiting off of an abortion should be illegal. I know this sounds crazy and radical (maybe best proposed by Bernie Sanders?), but the number of former abortion workers (see Abby Johnson) who claim that they are pressured to boost “sales” and are taught to “sell abortions” is not small. Some facilities have been caught giving bonuses for making sales goals. We need to recognize that money can corrupt any situation, and maybe, this is one area we need to remove this incentive. If money wasn’t so enmeshed in this decision and the political conversation, a more meaningful dialogue could be achieved, and women would be better for it.
In closing, I would leave you with the challenge of not demonizing the other side. It is easy to hate your opposition; it is much harder to try to understand them. Humans are unique because of our ability to extensively communicate and reason. Let us act as humans. Do not demonize the people who should be your ally. BOTH sides want what is best for women. Recognizing this may go farther than we could ever dream.
PAX VOBISCUM, NERDS!
I welcome meaningful dialogue in the comments. Hateful, vulgar, or derogatory comments will not be permitted.