An argument in favour of abortion
In the midst of discussing the NSW fetal personhood laws over on my facebook page, an old friend of mine (who’s also a Christian) fairly bravely waded in to leave a contrary opinion. I respect this woman a lot, despite our polar opposite views on religion and morality. Anyway, it is her view that abortion is harmful to both the unborn and to women. Fine, she’s entitled to that opinion. But this was my response to her, and I thought it was valid enough that I wanted to share it here. I haven’t often seen this particular argument presented, but I think it’s extremely pertinent to the reality of life - that cause and effect are key when it comes to discussing the impact and outcomes of abortion. To wit: that lives ‘lost’ and mourned by the anti-choice side actually pave the way for actual lives to exist. Lives like mine.
"What I know is this. That abortion will always be a fact of life, as long as women are capable of getting pregnant and not wanting to be. And the consequence of outlawing abortion, regardless of your motivation or religious beliefs, is that women will seek unsafe and potentially fatal methods of ridding themselves of that pregnancy. If they don’t die, they may be rendered permanently infertile because of these botched attempts. (For example, did you know that there are 800,000 illegal abortions sought in Pakistan every year, and many of these result in either death or infertility?)
The need for women in the developing world to have access to family planning (which includes contraception AND access to safe and legal medical and surgical abortions) is paramount in improving the health and well being of both mothers and children. The maternal mortality rate is shockingly high, and often attributed to pregnancies that are dangerous to carry to full term, or to women whose bodies have simply wiped out because they have endured more births than one body can stand (or is built to stand). The mortality rate for children in these regions significantly increases when they lose their mother. Protecting and valuing HER life over that of a potential one doesn’t just save her, but it saves her family.
And then there’s the philosophical viewpoint. Anti-choice advocates, regardless of their intent often argue about all the lives lost due to abortion. But life doesn’t operate in a vacuum - our choices don’t stand alone, and simply subtract from a reality that’s already written. There are women who have had abortions and gone on to have other children. THOSE CHILDREN WOULD NOT EXIST IF THEY HADN’T BEEN ABLE TO EXERCISE THEIR CHOICE EARLIER ON. Women like my mother, for example. If she hadn’t had an abortion early on, sure, a different life would be walking around now. But my mother wouldn’t have met my father, and she wouldn’t have gone on to have my sister, my brother and me. That’s three actual lives that anti-choice advocates would like to exchange for the imagination of one. I want to make that really clear - I would not exist if abortion weren’t available to my mother. And while I’m sure some people would be perfectly fine with that, I assume [my friend’s name] that you wouldn’t rather exchange my life for a potential one?
I have the most beautiful nephew now. He is perfect in every way. When I look into his eyes, I feel the purest kind of love. I look forward to watching him grow and seeing the kind of person he turns into. I am completely swept away by the beauty of him. And if my sister hadn’t been able to exercise her choice all those years ago, he wouldn’t exist either. Sure, another child would. And I would love them too. But I have THIS child to love now, and that is every bit as special to me as any that I could conjure in my imagination.
Abortion is an intensely personal decision for women, and it is undertaken with a range of different emotions (not all of them sad, merely determined). Limiting it will not save children’s lives. It will harm women’s lives. It may kill them. This is the crux of the issue - that in fighting to save imaginary children, the Christian lobby is prepared to prioritise them over the very real lives of women. If I hadn’t had the abortions I had in my 20s, I wouldn’t be working in the job I am. My opportunities and happiness would have been curtailed. I happen to believe in the work that I do, and I think that in some tiny way I make a difference to something or other. That’s important to me, and I am eternally grateful that SA gave me the legal right to access an abortion that was safe, legal and free. This is what I want for all women. Because I AM pro-life. I’m pro the lives of women and I’m pro the lives of the children they choose to have.”
I’ll also note that I may go on to have children. And if I do, they will be loved. I will know that their existence will have been made possible because of the choices I made so many years ago. They will be a gift, and looking at them will reveal them to be the only possible outcome that could have made sense.