How the pro-life movement can make win-win situations out of abortion debates
I don’t particularly like the pro-life movement.
First, let me be clear: This is not a discussion about whether a fertilized egg is a person. This is not about whether a woman’s privacy and bodily autonomy should be valued over the rights of her developing baby. This isn’t even about the most basic goal of the pro-life movement – to reduce, or eliminate, abortion.
My lack of warm and fuzzy feelings about the pro-life movement is not as much due to the principles it holds as to how it attempts to uphold those principles.
To all pro-lifers reading this: I respect that you have your beliefs, whether religiously based or not, and respect that many of you spend a great deal of time and effort to end what you consider a moral wrong. But honestly, what are you doing? Mostly, trying to get abortion made illegal or reducing it through cumbersome laws and statutes that limit access. And the problem is this: It isn’t going to work.
I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret. Women will seek abortions regardless of their legality. Your putting up a bunch of red tape or flat-out banning the procedure isn’t going to stop what women were doing before Roe v. Wade. They may be going to seedy, back-alley practitioners instead of trained medical professionals, may ingest dangerous chemicals and may even attempt to perform abortions themselves. But women who seek an abortion will not be stopped based on a law. How can I respect a movement using highly controversial measures that may violate others’ rights when those measures are not effective to begin with?
But the pro-life movement could do a lot to gain my respect and the respect of countless others. Instead of chasing the idea of making abortions illegal and kicking up a massive dust storm of needless controversy, choose to support other measures that will more successfully lower the number of abortions.
Abortion is the result of unwanted pregnancy. Birth control lowers rates of unwanted pregnancy, therefore lowering demand for abortions. Further, a growing amount of scientific evidence is showing that birth control, such as the morning-after pill, prevents fertilization rather than egg implantation, and so it is not in fact an “abortifacient.” When the pro-life movement supports widespread and affordable access to birth control, I will respect it more.
Many women seek abortions for economic reasons. Many women receiving abortions fall near or under the poverty line. Many women already have children and very literally cannot afford another child. Even if they give the child up for adoption, the mother may not be able to pay for the expenses of pregnancy and the possible health risks that may further limit her ability to work. When the pro-life movement supports updating the archaic maternity-leave laws of the United States, better insurance for pregnant women and children, affordable daycare and programs aimed at helping the non-aborted children who are often born into poor socioeconomic conditions, I will respect it more.
When the movement stops using childish tactics that are often tasteless or flat-out inaccurate and offensive to provoke an emotional response, like comparing the highly divisive and personal issue of abortion with a universally accepted evil like the Holocaust, I will respect it more.
When the pro-life movement stops condoning leaders making offensive statements about how those sluts just need to keep their knees closed, about how women seeking abortions are lazy and self-entitled whiners who just don’t want to change their lifestyle, I will respect it more.
To all pro-lifers: I am not trying to change your personal or religious views on the morality of abortion. But I would like you to take a step back, take some time and truly consider if what you are doing is the best way to stop abortion from occurring.
The pro-life movement does not need to be at odds with those who are pro-choice. Pro-choice individuals do not want abortions to occur; they just want them to be an option. If you drastically reduce the number of women who seek that option instead of taking away the choice entirely, you will not only be more efficient but also end the infighting that has plagued women’s reproductive issues for decades. It would be as close to a win-win situation as an issue like this can get.
Michaela Thurston is a sophomore majoring in psychology.