The abortion debate is divisive, at best. To survive it, I have to believe that those on either side of the fence mostly want the same thing: to help women. This means that we differ when it comes to approach. So here we go: another post about abortion. Let me tell you first what this piece is NOT about.
We have been debating this issue for over forty years, and technology has advanced a great deal in the time since Roe V. Wade. This post is not about fetal development or when a human becomes human.
This post is not about dissecting terminology. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the term Legal for those in favor of keeping abortion legal, and Illegal for those in favor of making abortion illegal.
This post is also not about shaming women that have had abortions, or shaming people that, for whatever reason, have found themselves working at an abortion clinic.
Now that you know what I am not writing about, let me tell you what I am writing about.
This post is about eradicating the reasons an abortion becomes not only an option, but the option: rape, incest, violence, poverty, health concerns, mental health concerns, and less than ideal situations. This post is about the message abortion sends to women — they are not good enough.
Whether on the Legal or Illegal side of things, the goal should be to help provide support to women facing a “crisis” pregnancy. The goal should be to eliminate all the reasons a pregnancy, a life, would become a crisis. We can do this by:
Showing support for a woman that is unexpectedly pregnant is more than financially providing, or an “Atta girl!” It means decreasing the stigma of pregnancy. It means affordable child care. It means supporting mothers in their educational and career goals. It means building women up and telling them they are capable of being a parent instead of allowing them to believe they are not.
Showing support is moving away from workplace expectations that assume one-income for a two parent home when that is no longer the standard of living that is expected or attainable. It means workplace flexibility, and changing how we view productivity and employee commitments. This is not just about women and children, but single parent and two parent homes. It is about supporting the family unit and remembering that children are a part of life.
Changing the environment.
The crisis pregnancies that come from violence, rape, and incest are often the most emotional, and they have become a pawn in the Legal/Illegal war. No matter what happens with the legality of abortion, both sides of the fence must become staunch enemies of rape culture. Victim blaming must cease: women are not responsible for being raped, and rapists do not get parental rights. Women are not responsible when their intimate partner becomes abusive, and abusive parents do not deserve parental rights. To eradicate abortion in these scenarios, we must create an environment that focuses on the criminal and not the victim.
To create a safe environment means removing the so-called burdens of parenthood from squarely on a woman’s shoulders to including a father’s responsibility to his child as well. It means remembering that sex is how babies are made, and that it is impossible to separate sex from procreation. It means a father is more than a pay check, and a woman is not a whore because she had sex and ended up pregnant. A safe environment means that a child is not the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It means we acknowledge the learning curve of parenting, remind mothers (and fathers) that they are capable of raising children, and remember that parenthood does not have to interfere with career and education goals.
Some women are suffering through emotional or mental struggles. Being pregnant in these situations can be crushing in a world where women are expected to have it all together. A safe environment means chipping away at the stigma that surrounds the world of mental health. It means stripping the standards of what “normal” is, and building instead on the differences that make us individuals, and how we can best meet the needs of those struggling.
Supporting true healthcare reform.
Research has shown that many women seeking an abortion do so because of contraceptive failure. We are largely uninformed about not only the female reproductive/fertility system, but also the ways hormonal contraception can fail and harm women. To eradicate this “need” for abortion, women and their physicians must have more information. Women can learn about their bodies and their own personal “normal”. It is unacceptable to allow subpar medical care or half-truths when it comes to women’s health. True health care reform would help to eliminate the control the pharmaceutical industry has over physicians. True health care reform would support holistic care that does not damage women to make money.
Other women find abortion to be a solution to being pregnant with multiples, or with children with health concerns. If a human life has value, all human life has value, perfectly healthy or not. True health care reform would stop telling women (and families) multiples or special needs children are too much of a challenge to bear, and that reduction or abortion would be the best solution. We must fight instead for these families to be offered support and offered real solutions to life in these scenarios.
The abortion debate should not be about keeping it legal or illegal. It should be about eradicating abortion. If true support existed for women experiencing crisis pregnancies, abortion would not be needed. Women would have the emotional/ financial/medical/parenting support that they required to bring a child into the world. That is what will bring an end to abortion.
Do you remember your middle school or high school reproductive health class? When I think back to my education about periods and “How babies are made” my memories are brief. I can remember short parts of videos or awkward condom demonstrations and disgusting pictures of STDs. Does this sound familiar to you?