I recently spent several hours arguing about abortion. The conversation started when a man I’d known during college scoffed at the idea that Republicans are anti-woman and said “actually, it’s the progressives who have the truly anti-woman position, what with their support of the abortion industry that harms so many women.” I read that statement and couldn’t just leave it.
I explained to him that what harms women are the situations to at they find themselves in, not abortion itself, and that if abortion were banned women would still find themselves with unplanned pregnancies and still be unable to afford to properly raise the resulting children. I told him about studies of abortion walkaways, and explained that women who want abortions and can’t get them end up disproportionately in poverty and more likely to stay with abusive partners.
I told him that the prevalence of abortion correlates not with where it is banned but rather with things like widespread birth control access and a strong social safety net. I explained that if he wants to decrease the number of abortions, he should not ignore these things and opt for a narrow focus on banning abortion. I explained that even if it was the case that banning abortions would decrease the number of them (something I’m not sure I’m entirely willing to grant), banning abortions without addressing things like unplanned pregnancies and the expense and difficulty of raising children would result in increased suffering and decreased quality of life for both women and children.
I told him that seven in ten women who have abortions say cite their inability to afford to raise a child as a reason for doing so, and that if he wants to cut down on the number of abortions he needs to address poverty. I told him that women often have abortions because they feel they can’t have another child and properly care for the children they already have. I told him he should support programs that would make it more affordable to raise children through things like childcare subsidies, universal healthcare for children, and more widespread welfare provisions for low-income women raising children.I told him that if he wants to decrease the number of abortions he should support greater access to long-term methods of birth control, which are the most effective at preventing pregnancy but are also the most effective up front. I told him that offering long-term birth control free of charge has the potential to decrease the number of abortions by as much as 75%. I explained that if we can improve women’s ability to plan when and if to become pregnant, thereby cutting down on the number of unplanned pregnancies, the number of abortions will go down.
I explained to him, in summary, that if he wants to reduce the number of abortions, rather than narrowly focusing on banning the practice he should support comprehensive sex education, affordable access to effective birth control (especially long-term methods), social programs to make raising children more affordable, protections for pregnant workers, and reducing the stigma of unwed motherhood. I explained that we know that all of these things would reduce the number of abortions, and would do so without harming women in the process, and while increasing the quality of life of children born to these women. This, I said, was the truly pro-life solution.
I said all this, and yet he told me he was against increased birth control access (he suggested women just use abstinence or NFP if they don’t want to get pregnant). He told me he was against lifting the stigma for unwed motherhood (quite the opposite—he said he thinks there need to be more shame associated with unwed motherhood). He told me he was against programs like welfare and childcare assistance (he said women have to “take responsibility for their mistakes”). He compared abortion to the Holocaust and to slavery and spoke of innocent babies murdered and came back again and again to calling for abortion to be banned.
And all I could think is, and you wonder why I see the Right as anti-woman? This is why I see the Right as anti-woman! Because people like you care more about the legal act of banning abortion than you do about taking a moment to give a damn about women—or children, for that matter!