Note: This dueling op-ed was printed in a Journal issue on Apr. 20, 2022, before the Supreme Court ruling on abortion. For the opposing side of this dueling op-ed, click here.
Pew Research reports that roughly half of the U.S. population considers themselves pro-life, while the other half consider themselves pro-choice. However, I believe the “pro-choice” side is the one that truly supports life.
A number of states have introduced and passed draconian abortion bills in recent months, including Missouri. If enacted, Missouri’s bill (HB2810) would punish doctors and women seeking abortions with a Class A felony, which includes the penalty of 10 years to life in a U.S. prison.
Pro-life proponents often argue that an embryo is a human life because “life begins at conception,” and that the sanctity of life must be protected. So, they support legislation which grants the state the responsibility of charging and imprisoning women for having or attempting to have an abortion.
I find this argument quite interesting because it implicitly argues that the life of an unborn child is somehow more sacred and valuable than the life of the mother.
The reason these people make such arguments is because the woman is supposedly tainted by sin, not only for considering an abortion without the consent of the father, but for considering abortion in the first place. On the other hand, the unborn child has never sinned and is “pure.” Its life is therefore more valuable and more worthy of being saved from their point of view than the “murderous” mother.
There are several reasons why women might seek abortions: the mother was a victim of rape, is addicted to drugs or alcohol, is not financially prepared to support a child, medical complications, etc.. Rather than focus on eliminating or combating the societal ills of sexual assault, drug and alcohol addiction, poverty and medical issues, pro-life supporters have nothing to offer except the brutality of American prisons to doctors and patients.
In 1980, 25 out of 1,000 women of ages 15-44 had an abortion. According to the CDC, that number has fallen to less than 12 as of 2018. Abortion has been decreasing in the U.S. despite its widespread legality.
What has not fallen is the poverty rate or number of children which are food insecure, which Feeding America reports is one in six. What has increased is drug and alcohol addiction. A truly pro-life position would focus on combating these societal ills.
Some pro-lifers contend their positions are better for expecting mothers, citing coercion and regret amongst some women who received an abortion. These issues can be better resolved by focusing on coercion itself, as well as creating more efficient family-planning education. Criminalization will not resolve these issues whatsoever.
As many proponents of the pro-choice position have noted, the criminalization of abortion doesn’t end abortion – it only makes them less safe. Women seeking an abortion despite its illegality will turn to unsanitary and unsafe black-market practices to receive their abortion.
Pro-lifers have also noted increased rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for women who have had an abortion as a reason to criminalize it. This is not backed by reality, as a study from the National Library of Medicine shows that women who elect to have an abortion have the same rates as those who declined.
Pro-choice proponents have pointed out that states such as Missouri require a pelvic examination before an abortion can be performed. Critics have referred such measures as “state-mandated sexual assault.” If we want to reduce trauma for mothers, why not start with laws such as that?
As a married man, I have questioned what I would do if a doctor told me my wife’s pregnancy had met complications and we must choose between saving the unborn child or my wife.
As an atheist, I find the choice to be quite easy: I would save the life of the woman I love over a child I have never met. I won’t view my wife as a murderer for wanting to live. Ultimately, I believe, the decision should rest solely with her.
It’s not pretty to imagine such grim scenarios, but in an imperfect world, people have to make such decisions all the time. What makes the abortion topic so heated is the fact it isn’t “black and white” and that it is personal.
It’s painful to imagine what these people must experience if they can’t support a child, survived sexual assault or face severe medical complications which endanger their lives during pregnancy or childbirth. That’s precisely why the only pro-life position is to be pro-choice. We can never solve these depressing realities by imposing our own value-systems on others, and we certainly can’t improve our society by criminalizing mothers and doctors.