Blog for Choice: Celebrating 40 Years of Roe v. Wade

Today, January 22, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. NARAL Pro-Choice America is inviting  pro-choice bloggers and activists to participate in their eighth annual Blog For Choice Day. Details can be found here.

I took place in my first abortion debate in sixth grade. That was the year that George W. Bush first ran for president. I wasn’t paying attention to the election at that point, but I guess the girl next to me was because one day she got on the school bus and started talking about abortion and how it was always wrong, and didn’t I agree with her? I had never given it much thought at the time, but I went home and asked my mom about it. She explained why she was pro-choice, so I went to school and told that girl all my new-found reasons for being pro-choice. Her only response to my reasons were, “Well, there’s always adoption.” I went back home and asked my mom about that, and she gave me her response, and I went back and told the girl on the bus. Eventually we stopped talking about it, and I pushed it from my mind.

It wasn’t until I reached high school that I started paying attention to politics. I started reading books like The War on Choice and A Question of Choice. I stopped needing to go to my mother for my arguments and actually became more liberal in my views than she was. Reproductive rights became one of the few political issues where I knew exactly where I stood, and no amount of arguing would convince me otherwise even for a second.

My body, my choice.
I believe that we as people have the right to decide what our bodies are used for. This includes whether or not we have children. There seems to be this idea out there that the only choice we have a right to make is whether or not to have sex, and that once we agree to have sex then we should accept the consequences. That logic is so flawed that I barely know where to begin. For one, I can’t think of anyone who only has sex for procreation, although that seems to be what anti-choice people are saying. If you don’t want kids, don’t have sex. Yes, because that sounds like a good life. For another thing, women don’t always choose to have sex. Now, I don’t believe that that makes these women more entitled to abortion than other women, but it’s still true. (For more on my views of rape exceptions, read this post.)

But the most important argument I have against this one is this: Children should never be a punishment.
Life is hard enough even if you grow up surrounded by people who love you. It’s even worse when you grow up surrounded by people who never wanted you in the first place. That is no way for a child to live. Anti-choice people seem to think that everyone will eventually grow to love the child, but that’s not true. Sure, maybe some people didn’t want a child but eventually changed their minds, but I’m sure just as many always regret it. And you know what? If you don’t want children, and if you don’t love children, you shouldn’t have children. Mothers should love their children unconditionally. They should be willing to risk their lives for their children. If you don’t feel that way about your own child, you probably shouldn’t have that child.

Quality, not quantity.
There’s this belief, mostly in the Republican party, that the quality of your life doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you are born and that you live for a really long time. I don’t know where we got this idea that life is so wonderful. Sure, some people have great lives, and a lot of people have decent lives. But not everyone has a good life. Being born and then living in pain and misery for your whole life doesn’t sound like a good life to me. I’d rather not be born than be born and grow up in an unloving environment. And you know what? Women are capable to deciding for themselves if they are capable of raising their children up in an unloving environment. If they know they can’t provide for their child, they should be allowed to choose not to have that child.

Adoption is not always the answer.
Are there some people who choose adoption? Of course, and if that’s what the woman wants to do, then by all means she should be allowed to do it. But it’s not for everyone. I know that I wouldn’t want to have my child grow up somewhere else. How do I know that those people will take good care of it? Plus, there are already so many unwanted children in this world. There aren’t enough homes for all of them, and they’re frequently placed with foster parents who don’t really care about them. Plus, the children still have to deal with the pain of knowing that their birth parents didn’t want them. Obviously adoption isn’t all bad – I’m just saying it’s not for everyone.

You can’t be anti-abortion AND anti-birth control and anti-sex ed.
This is one of the most frustration parts about dealing with anti-choice people. If you don’t want people to have abortions, you should be all for education people on how NOT to get pregnant. You should want condoms and birth control pills and all those other forms of contraception to be easily available. You should want people educated on how to use them. Will mistakes still happen? Yes. Is any birth control method 100 percent effective? No. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not still valuable. If more people knew how to have safe sex and realized how important it is, then maybe they wouldn’t need abortion.

People say that teenagers shouldn’t be having sex and that teaching them how to have safe sex sends mixed messages. This isn’t true. Even if we tell them to wait until marriage, they still have to learn sometime. Let’s say they do wait until marriage. Do you instinctively know how to use birth control when you get married?

And even if it did send mixed messages, it’s better than the message we send kids now, which is this: using condoms is a waste of time. Birth control doesn’t work. That is the message that we are giving kids in schools, and then we wonder why so many people get pregnant when they don’t want to have kids.

In the perfect world, we wouldn’t need abortions. We would get pregnant when we wanted to get pregnant, and we wouldn’t get pregnant when we didn’t want to get pregnant. But the world isn’t perfect. You can do everything right, and you can still get pregnant accidentally. And even if you do everything wrong, having a child shouldn’t be your punishment. We shouldn’t take a bad situation and make it worse.

If someone’s house catches on fire, do we just sit and watch while their house burns down? Do we tell them that that’s the consequence of using fire and that they should have known that might happen? Of course not. We call the fire department and stop the fire from getting worse. That’s what abortions are for – for preventing a bad situation from getting worse.

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“Even in Cases of Rape”

“Even in Cases of Rape”:
Anti-choice Arguments Parading as Competent Ones

Introduction

One of the most divisive issues of the twentieth century, abortion has been regulated in the United States since the 1860s. Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case everyone credits with overturning these regulations, guarantees women unrestricted access to an abortion within the first trimester of her pregnancy and in all cases where her life or health is at risk. That has not stopped many states from passing laws restricting access to abortion. After “to protect the life of the mother,” the most common exception to such law reads “except in cases of rape or incest.” Many people condemned Sarah Palin for her belief that abortion should be illegal “even in cases of rape.” Indeed, many states’ abortion restrictions can only pass when rape exceptions are added. Such arguments are dangerous to women, however, because they focus not on protecting the supposed life of the fetus—the only “pro-life” argument that has any viability—but on punishing women for having sex. By claiming that rape victims have a greater right to abortion than other women do, people reinforce the notion that women who have sex know the risks involved and should therefore accept the consequences.

Becoming an exception

Before examining the ramifications of such exceptions, one must think about what the exception is saying in the first place: women can only get abortions if they have been raped. What exactly does that mean from a legal standpoint? Does a woman simply have to claim that she was raped? If that is the case, anyone seeking an abortion would just have to claim that they were raped. However, doing so would not only make the exception pointless to begin with but would also make it even more difficult for women who have been raped to be taken seriously than it already is.

The only other option, however, would be to make a woman prove that she was raped. Does someone have to go jail to allow the woman to have an abortion? What happens if she is unable to prove that she was raped as opposed to merely having sex? Does that mean that she cannot get an abortion? And even if she can prove that she was raped, even if she does win the case, so many months will have passed by that point that she will either already have given birth or be too far along to get an abortion anyway.

Why such exceptions are dangerous

Even if the rape exception made sense, though, it would still contradict the entire pro-choice movement. The argument for the rape exception is that the victims did not choose to have sex; therefore, they should not be forced to deal with the consequences. That argument implies, however, that the women who do choose to have sex should be forced to deal with the consequences. The regulation, then, becomes more of a way of punishing women for having sex than it does a way of ensuring fetuses the right to live.

The abortion debate should really come down to one question: when does personhood begin? If it begins, as many supposedly pro-lifers say, at conception, then abortion should always be illegal. If it begins, as Roe v. Wade says, at viability, then abortion should only be illegal in the late-second and third trimesters. If it begins at birth, then abortion should always be legal.

Which moment one deems most important—conception, viability, or birth—is a question for a different essay. The point here is that no matter where you draw the line, it does not (or at least should not) move depending on the circumstances surrounding the conception. If personhood begins at conception, then abortion is murder whether the woman wanted to have sex or not. If personhood does not begin at conception, then the woman should be able to have an abortion whether she wanted to have sex or not.

Conclusion

People are often condemned as being extremists if they feel that a woman who was raped should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term. Such people are viewed as cold-hearted and merciless. In reality, though, these are the only people whose arguments make any sense. These are the people who truly feel that abortion is murder and that murder is wrong. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with them, one must at the very least respect that they are honestly doing what they believe is right: protecting the life of an innocent baby.

The people who believe that abortion should only be allowed in cases of rape are the ones with the extremist views. These are the people who believe that any woman stupid enough to have sex should be forced to deal with the consequences. These people are clearly not concerned with the life of the embryo; their sole concern is making sure that the woman accepts responsibility for the decision she made to have sex. Presumably, such people believe that sex should only be used for reproductive purposes—a rather extreme belief in this day and age.

Being raped is undoubtedly a terrible experience that no woman—or man, for that matter—should ever have to live through. That does not mean, though, that a child conceived by such means is any more or less real than one conceived by two consenting individuals. Therefore, whether a woman was raped should have no bearing in deciding whether or not she is allowed to have an abortion. Either every woman should be able to have an abortion, or no woman should. Until we stop thinking of “except in cases of rape” as an acceptable compromise, we are just making this world a more and more dangerous place for women to live.