Abortion: Examining the conservative side of life

Emily Percival

I have been experiencing an uncomfortable feeling lately. It would best be described as a deep yearning emanating from somewhere between my heart and stomach, occurring only in the presence of small children. I’m calling it Baby Envy. I envy you your baby.

It’s not my fault; my hormones are banging around in my body telling me I should procreate, it’s what 20-year-old females with hips like mine are made for. Now, I know that this feeling should be ignored for now, but idyllic thoughts of families and babies (and the men with whom to create such things) have inspired me to rethink my position on abortion.

I must admit, in my most conservative hours (usually between 2 and 3 a.m.) I can’t get past the notion that life begins at conception; if one did nothing after the moment the sperm enters the egg, a baby would be born in nine or so months. This seems so apparent to me that I get really annoyed when the pro-choicers and the pro-lifers go at it over minute definitions of “when life begins.” As long as the pro-choice movement picks this battle, it’s going to lose. A fetus is alive; it changes, grows, develops. To abort that fetus is to end life. Can we not all agree that this: the ending of life: is something to be avoided?

I am a person who considers herself to be pro-choice, and this is not a statement I disagree with. Is there any pro-choicer out there calling for more abortions? No, they’re calling for safer ones, for earlier ones and, increasingly, for fewer ones. It is this last point the pro-choice movement should focus on.

Pro-lifers (don’t get me started on how loaded that term is) are also for fewer abortions. Of course, they are for no abortions, period, but that’s never going to happen, not through any means they are trying. So what if they overturn Roe v. Wade? That’s not going to make abortions go away, that’s going to make abortions illegal. The lowest abortion rates in the world occur in Europe, where abortion is legal and available (9 in 1000 women); more than twice that many have abortions in countries that have outlawed it, and those abortions are much more unsafe and result in more deaths for women undergoing the procedure.

Can’t the two movements work together on this point? Can’t the pro-choice movement relax its grip on its singular obsession with a woman’s right to choose and concede that something needs to be done to reduce the number of abortions?   Can’t the pro-life movement allow that abortions are going to happen no matter what and realize that in order to get as close as possible to that goal of zero abortions, they too should work towards reducing the number?

Once the argument unifies, once we have people who can say, I am for Fewer Abortions (regardless of their affiliation with either movement), then we’re getting somewhere. Then we can look at who is at risk for unwanted pregnancy (minorities, people living close to or below the poverty line) and work at addressing the real problem: women get unintentionally pregnant, and then feel as if they have no other choice but to terminate.

A. Let’s work at reducing the number of unintended pregnancies: more education about and access to birth control. The religious right is going to have a problem with this, given that they prefer to pretend that their teens and unmarried people aren’t having sex, and thus don’t need to be educated on or have access to birth control. But when 27 percent of women having abortions are Catholic and 43 percent are Protestant, it is clear that religion is not an effective barrier (neither are condoms, all the time, but we’re working on that).

B. Let’s address the circumstances that compel women to have abortions: 73 percent of women cite their inability to afford a child as a reason for having an abortion, and 69 percent say having a child would interfere with their employment or their education. What if paid family leave programs were initiated nation-wide to ensure that women don’t have to worry about losing their job because they became pregnant? What if daycare were made more affordable for low-income women? Release women who feel pinned and trapped by financial circumstances, and the rate of abortion will go down.

I am for Fewer Abortions: each side has to give up some of their ideological qualms to reach this conclusion, but we are getting nowhere in the current state of division between the movements. Compromise, as our parents and kindergarten teachers always told us, is the path to progress. I am for Fewer Abortions: for isn’t the ultimate goal to exist in a world where the legality of abortion is moot because abortions aren’t occurring? This will happen only when women are able to reproduce when they want, and are able to care for their children no matter their circumstance.