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A 21st Century Look At A 20th Century Abortion Law

21 Weeks

I’ve been Pro-Choice since I read Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game, in which, the government limited the number of children parents could have, based on some sci-fi reason of intelligent selection, only parents who had especially bright children could get a waiver to have a third child who might save the world. I figured if the government could make birth choices — well, then they could control birth choices. China controls birth choices. The United States controls birth choices. I don’t like the idea of that at all. I think parents should make birth choices. Since mothers carry the responsibility of birth, and the primary responsibility of raising said children if dads choose to skip out, then mothers should be allowed to make the choices around the carrying of the child.

So, I’ve been Pro-Choice. I’ve been a supporter of Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade holds that the termination of pregnancy is lawful until the viability of the fetus or if the mother’s health is in danger. 

Changing Viability

With current science, the viability of the fetus is changing every day. Meaning, younger and younger babies are living outside of the mother’s womb. More babies are being saved with medical intervention. Michelle Duggar’s 19th baby, Josie, at 25 weeks, weighed only 1 lb. 0.6 oz., and she lived. Not only has she lived, but she’s thriving after the first year of a lot of medical intervention. Premature babies that never would have lived in 1973, when Roe v. Wade became law are living full, meaningful lives.

My perspective has changed from when I read that book as a freshman in college, as a 16-year-old kid. I, now have these little kids, five and nine. They aren’t just “cells,” as I have heard some pro-choice abortion activist try to minimize them as. They are people. It bothers me. They aren’t hypothetical anymore.

A 20th Century Debate in a 21st Century Reality

The debate should be different than it was in 1973. Yet, somehow it’s not. I find this incredibly frustrating.

In 1973, there were hardly any birth control choices that were reliable. Condoms sucked. The birth control pill was like 75% effective. There was no Nuva Ring, no Depo Provera shot, no Norplant, no Ortho Ethra patch.

In 1973, having a baby out of wedlock probably did ruin your life or at least drastically change it. Your parents might kick you out of the house or disown you. They sent you off to relatives to avoid the shame you would bring to the family. You would get kicked out of high school, you might be forced into a terrible marriage. You would likely not go to college. You would likely be doomed to poverty. Certainly there was a terrible social stigma.

Today, I’m in my late 30’s and have known lots of girls who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock and it’s been long enough that I’ve seen it play out. Here’s the thing, — it hasn’t ruined their lives. . . . I know it’s crazy, right?

In fact, some of these women are the best mothers I know. Some of them married the baby-daddies and have solid marriages and went on to have other children and have careers. Some have been kick-ass single moms. Some had abortions and went on to have other children out of wedlock and went on to be great single moms. Some gave their babies up for adoption and went on to have families. Some had their babies, were single-moms for a time and then married and had more children and normal lives.

Having a child did not ruin their lives. Didn’t ruin one single life. Not their’s, not their baby’s. Isn’t that funny? It turned out to be a total fiction, meant to scare us into not having sex, I guess.

This year two women close to me chose to go through unplanned pregnancies, one very young and one in her 30’s. Several relatives of mine also went through the same experience. It was beautiful to watch how warmly those babies were received into this world. It was wonderful to watch how the mothers were warmly embraced and supported during their pregnancies and after. It was an honor to participate in. Was their road harder? Harder than my own road of witnessing 9/11 in my last month of pregnancy and experiencing devastating postpartum depression with my first planned pregnancy? Maybe. Maybe not. Is their future less bright because of their unmarried status? Maybe. Maybe Not. When I look at their future I have no problem seeing a very bright future in front of any of them. I don’t see a scarring social stigma of unmarried, unplanned pregnancy attached to them anymore. In fact, what I see is motivation, they have been motivated to stop playing childish games and get a move on in their futures, enroll in schools and seek out their futures with ambition and energy that they had not exhibited before.

Need I mention that the President of the United States is the son of a single mother, the product of an unplanned pregnancy? Probably not. Though I do think it’s relevant to the conversation at hand.

The Morning After Pill

But, the real turning point for me has been the invention of the Morning After Pill. With the invention of the Morning After Pill, I simply don’t see the need for most abortions anymore. The Morning After Pill prevents the egg from dropping so no pregnancy can occur. You can use it five days after sex and no pregnancy will occur.

Which means if rape, a date rape, a bad decision, the condom breaks, a drunken episode you wish hadn’t happened, something you don’t quite remember occurs or  you get slipped a roofie, you can take this medication and though grief may be had, babies will not.

See, for me, this should make everyone happy. It’s a brilliant and necessary compromise. This should be legal and available for everyone regardless of age and without parental consent. It should be over-the-counter without a prescription, right next to the condoms on the shelf in Walmart.

The Pro-Lifers have a point. It’s Life. Life is essential. Life is beautiful and lovely and worth protecting. So are women’s choices. So are women’s rights. So are women’s bodies. Sore women’s dignities.

But, the reality is that girls and women will make bad choices sometimes. The reality is that men and boys will violate girls and women sometimes.

There has to be something available for women and girls in these cases. But, that something doesn’t need to extend into the lives of babies. If something happens, women and girls should know . . . they can do something quickly and efficiently.

We can educated them about what needs to be done, so they are ready and they can quickly go to any store and get the Morning After Pill. We should educate about it, like we educate about the use of condoms. Let’s just be done with this 30-year-old unsavory, hostile and embarrassing battle that has run its course and has gotten very, very stale.

Before you think I’m speaking from my Ivory Tower, in my younger years, I assure you there were plenty of times when I woke up and my first thought was, “Oh my God, I made a terrible mistake!” But, I assure you, it was my very first thought. And after a date rape, I did take the Morning After Pill, and it wasn’t pleasant, but it was better than the alternatives.

Hope & Reality 

Will the Morning After Pill resolve every single instance in which every single woman might want to seek an abortion? Of course, I am not that naive. But, I don’t want to keep having an outdated 1973 conversation about abortion given 21st Century medical advances and a lack of social stigma about untraditional pregnancy timelines and circumstances; my tolerance for legal 2nd trimester abortions is gone because I consider them “viable” as defined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade; I no longer believe many of the hypothetical fictions and “justifications” often touted by Pro-Choice advocates are acceptable reasons for getting an abortion; I think we can do a hell of a lot better job educating about birth control methods and providing access to them; we should be making better use of and educating about the Morning After Pill; and I think we should be romanticizing the hell out of adoption as a beautiful option.

Comments Note: You are welcome to leave a comment on this post. However, due to the history of hostility on both sides of this debate I request that comments left follow this form, Agree/And (agree with something in the post, then make your statement as an AND statement rather than a BUT statement). For instance, “I agree that science and medicine has changed the viability of a fetus, and I also feel that the Morning After Pill won’t resolve the issue of mid-life pregnancies in the case of women who . . . “

Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com.  She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at traceesioux@gmail.com.

23 replies
  1. REBEKAH BUNN says:

    As the mother of an child born at 29 weeks this article is especially meaningful. We spent two months in the NICU with parents of babies 24 weeks and up. There were some even younger that were fighting to survive and I am sure medical advancements in the future will allow the survival of younger and younger babies. It made no sense to me why the medical staff was working night and day to save these children while on the other side of the city these babies are aborted. Technology and stigmas HAVE changed and the conversation on this subject IS outdated. Thank you for the post.

  2. Elisa says:

    What a fascinating and refreshing discussion about abortion. It’s true that both technology and societal norms HAVE changed in the last 30 years. Thanks for shining light on this.

  3. Ella says:

    I think perhaps you are living a middle class life, with middle class friends, people who have resources even if a pregnancy was unintended.

    I recommend reading this study (PDF): http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3711005.pdf
    “Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives”

    I think it’s important to understand that the majority of women who have abortions in the US already have at least one child, and in many cases they’re weighing the impact of another child not on their own lives, but also on the lives of the children they already have. A single mother working a low end job and just getting by supporting her kids may face huge financial consequences if she needs a 6-8 week leave from her job that will reverberate for her family indefinitely.

    Birth control should be free – all forms of it. Mothers should not be choosing between filling a monthly prescription and buying clothes for the kids.

    We need free preschool for all families regardless of income and we need everyone to be covered for prenatal care and well-child visits.

    Certainly there is much we can do to make abortion less needed. And, we have – increased rights for women has made other choices more available. But there is no need or value in doing so by restricting its legality.

  4. Ella says:

    The morning after pill costs $50. That may seem like a pittance compared to the cost of a child – and it is – but there are a lot of families who can’t put their hands on $50 in cash within any random 24 hours. That this is so is one of the great tragedies of our nation at the moment, of course.

  5. Tracee says:

    @Ella,

    Currently, I do live a middle class life. However, during my teens and 20s, I did not, and I received free birth control and the Morning After Pill from Planned Parenthood (at very short notice). Most communities have some sort of community women’s health center in which women can receive birth control services for free or low cost. Nevertheless, the average price of an abortion is $550, which makes the Morning After Pill at $50 a much cheaper option. Should they become available over the counter I imagine they’d be price about the same as a home pregnancy test.

    My friends who had babies this year survive on low-income $9 jobs and public assistance, which puts them in a terrific position to get grants and loans for higher education, which they are doing. They will rise to the occasion and become middle-class in due time, they are motivated to do the best for their families.

    Surely, you’re not suggesting that low-income women are not responsible or smart enough to be responsible for their own reproductive health. I find such an attitude condescending and minimizing. I believe women and girls are much smarter and capable than you give them credit for. They are not helpless. They are not stupid. They are not doomed. They can, if need be, protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, they can find a Morning After Pill, seek an abortion or raise a baby. Women from every single socio-economic class, educational background and age do so every day.

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