Wednesday, March 19, 2014

All the Other Good Reasons to Have an Abortion

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My first year of college my roommate and I had a conversation about abortion. We were both politically pro-choice, of course, but were both also bothered by the idea of personally getting an abortion. We both casually agreed that if we were to have an unintended pregnancy, we would carry it to term and put the baby up for adoption.

Ah, the naivete of youth.

A few short months later, she had a boyfriend, fell in love, lost her virginity, and got pregnant. She also got an abortion as fast as she could find a clinic.

When she told me about the abortion, I could tell she was afraid I would morally judge her due to our previous conversation. But within minutes of taking it in, I realized, I (who by that time was also in a relationship and sexually active) would have done the exact same thing.

I would have done the same thing for probably the same reasons as my roommate (and several other women I know who have had abortions under similar circumstances); our lives were great! We were 18 and out on our own for the first time. Being in college was exciting and challenging; there were so many interesting people to meet, so much to learn, so much to do. Sure, we were in love, but we weren't planning any weddings. (And neither of us married those boyfriends.) We had nothing, but also nothing weighing us down. We were free to explore a multitude of opportunities.

Nine months of pregnancy followed by the birth of a baby would take it all away. Such an event would change the course of our lives forever. Neither the opportunity to become a young mother dependent on her parents, nor to be a human incubator for someone else's adoptive child were the least bit appealing. Nor were all the health risks of pregnancy.

Of course I didn't feel that my roommate had done anything wrong. Any more than I feel it is wrong to be a sexually active woman. Even if we take precautions, unintended pregnancies happen. In fact half of the pregnancies which occur are unintended. During the early stages of pregnancy (when 90% of abortions are performed), an embryo is nowhere close to sentience or viability. Early term abortions are generally safe (posing less health risks than seeing a pregnancy through) so why should any woman be ashamed of choosing to abort an early term pregnancy?

The answer is, she shouldn't.

Typically in debates and discussions over abortion laws and regulations, pro-choice advocates bring up rape and incest. In other words, the most extreme circumstances under which a woman is morally justified in getting an abortion.

I understand why this rhetoric is used. It makes the point that when push comes to shove, most of us agree that the woman's health, life, rights, and dignity surpass that of an embryo or fetus.

But while it might be politically effective to highlight rape and incest, it has the unintended consequence of giving the impression that abortion, even early term abortion, needs a moral justification beyond that the woman simply doesn't want to be pregnant and give birth.

I can't help but think that the emphasis on rape and incest as a justification for abortion contributed to the naive feelings my roommate and I had about abortion before the issue hit home.

Anti-abortion activist Kristine Kruszelnicki, apparently suffers from the same sort of naivete. Except she takes her naive conclusions and puts them into trying to rob women of our reproductive rights. In her guest post on Friendly Atheist, she writes:

If we all work together to come up with real choices for women — better birth control, better maternity leave, subsidized daycare, a living wage, flexible work schedules, better schooling options, more attractive open-adoption and temporary foster care options, etc. — abortion may roll itself into the world of obsolescence, regardless of its legal status.

(As an aside, don't let that "regardless of its legal status" line fool you. Kruszelnicki's organization Pro-Life Humanists works to limit access to abortion at any time for any reason. They want abortion to be seen in the eyes of the law as equivalent to killing a toddler. Just scroll down to the subheading "Personally pro-life, but don't change the law?" here to read just how extreme and threatening their cause is to women's basic reproductive rights.)

Even if every social reform Kruszelnicki lists were achieved, countless women would still choose abortion because we don't want to be pregnant and have a baby. We should have the right to that choice.

About half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy, and more than a quarter will decide to have an abortion at least once in our lifetimes.

Given those staggering numbers, it is obvious that abortions are not only chosen by women who are low-income, poorly educated, scared, or alone. They are chosen by women of all walks of life.

Abortion is for  the musician working a day job to pay the bills while spending all her free time in rehearsals, concerts, and promotion.

Abortion is for the dancer who trained for years and has just achieved her dream of being accepted to a prominent company.

Abortion is for  the newly trained doctor fulfilling her first residency (where the cap on hours is 80 per week.)

Abortion is for the ambitious lawyer working insane hours as she eagerly aspires to make partner before she even considers starting a family.

Abortion is for the archeologist who is about to travel to Africa for an excavation.

Abortion is for the woman in a crappy relationship, and for whom an unintended pregnancy was just the wake-up call she needed to face the fact that this guy is bad news, so walk away.

Abortion is for the married mother who has decided with her husband that their family is complete, and that adding more kids at this point could very well fuck up the good thing they've got.

That last example applies to me. And also Elyse of Skepchick, who so eloquently offers this statement:

If I were to get pregnant today, I wouldn't have to think about it. I would have an abortion. It's not that I'm "not ready" to be a mom. It's not that I'm waiting for the right time. It's not that I'm single. It's that I simply detest being pregnant and I don't want more kids. And my husband (quietly) detests when I'm pregnant and doesn't want more kids. There will be no crying. There will be no hand wringing. There will be no thoughtful contemplation. There will be no more kids. Not in my body. 

My sentiments exactly.

I shouldn't need to have been raped or gotten knocked up by my uncle to get an early term abortion. The truth is, any reason a woman has for getting an early term abortion is a good enough reason to defend our right to make that choice.

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