I, like everybody, have an opinion about the outrage that has followed release of the videos entrapping Planned Parenthood officials into talking about their use of fetal tissue, videos we all realize were gained under the use of false pretenses, edited, and designed to do exactly what they have done: make as many people as furious and uncomfortable as possible. I like everybody have an opinion about (yet another) legislative push to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Never mind that several states already have laws in place specifying that federal funds are not to be used for abortions, which make up an estimated 3% of PP’s services.
The anti-PP lobby wants to shut down *everything*, including the other 97% of Planned Parenthood’s services, which include care that directly supports the health care of women and their families: exams and screenings, education about domestic violence and STDS, and dispensing birth control. People seem to actually believe that the way to end abortion is to end women’s access to health care. Period. They did it in Texas, they’re trying it in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and even though these laws claiming to “protect health care for women” obviously do the opposite by limiting opportunities for health care and overburdening the systems that do exist, the efforts continue. The logic, the foreseeable consequences, the very obvious costs to women that proceed from denying them fair access to affordable healthcare, all swept aside by the emotional ardor to protect “our most vulnerable citizens, the unborn.”
What about the millions of women using these clinics for non-abortion services? HOW are we protecting the unborn by denying her mother access to prenatal care, prenatal information, qualified staff convenient to the area where she lives, the facility of her choice for delivery, and postnatal care and support?
While I’m working up my own rant, Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune captured some of my sentiments exactly in his recent editorial: “To minimize abortions, give more money to Planned Parenthood.”
This logic is simple and obvious. If you want to see abortion numbers go down – that’s most, I daresay all of us – then decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies. Give MORE women, and men, and young women and men, access to convenient, affordable birth control. Educate them about STDs and pregnancy prevention and safe sex. Create MORE access points for information and quality health care, especially for women.
How many women would choose to continue a pregnancy if they had more support and counseling? How many would choose to continue a pregnancy if they knew they would get adequate health care during their pregnancy and could afford health care for their baby once it was born?
There’s more. If we want to end abortion, we have to do more than just improve and expand health care for women and kids. We have to improve and expand food and welfare programs. If you want to end abortion, then quit cutting SNAP. One reason women choose to abort is because they know they can’t afford to feed another kid.
Improve child care services. If you’re anti-abortion, then help organize a movement for universal, government-subsidized, affordable child care. Schools that from birth can take infants and supervise them under the care of qualified, licensed, trained adults while their parents work. How many more women would choose to keep their kid if they knew they would have practical, instrumental community help in raising it?
If it were more affordable for women to have and feed and raise their kids, then more women would choose to keep them. It’s that simple.
Another way to end/reduce unintended pregnancy? End rape. End domestic violence. Bring an end, once and for all, to this rape culture that sees a woman’s body as subject to government policy, husbandly control, or an object inviting evaluation and judgment by every person who lays eyes on her. Just quit it, already.
If you want to end abortion, support the Equal Rights Amendment. Crusade for women to be accepted and acknowledged as equal citizens under the law. Grant them their full civil, constitutional, and human rights, which *includes* the right for the woman HERSELF to make the final choice about what goes into, and out of, her uterus (assuming she has one). Let NO ONE else claim ownership over a woman’s body. If we stopped believing that concerned citizens, elected officials, courts, or doctors have the right to decide what a woman does with her reproductive organs – if, instead, we grant each woman the simple and audacious right of self-governance – the violence that underpins the very fabric of our society – at least, the violence toward women – would end.
Another idea? Make adoption easier, more affordable, and more available to more people. How many people who would love to have a baby, who would cherish a baby, have been turned down for adoption or told they can’t afford it?
I, personally, would love to see an end to abortion. I would love to see every baby conceived end up in the arms of a parent who will love and cherish, nurture and protect. Granted, anywhere between 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 pregnancies ends in loss, and that’s not counting the risk for stillbirth or infant mortality (higher rates here than should be in a country that’s supposed to be developed – please cf. above and our cultural inability to extend health care to our born and living citizens, not to mention our unborn ones). So, there is never any guarantee that the sacred little fertilized zygote is going to emerge a healthy squalling baby, grow into an adorable five-year-old, and in time become a functional, self-supporting adult who pays Social Security and Medicare taxes. But I am on the side of those who want to see that fetus given its best chance for survival, and that includes AFTER it is born, as well, by assuring it food, shelter, and a violence-free environment.
Most of us have seen that making drugs illegal has not benefited anyone. Prisons are bursting at the seams and the crime rates are overwhelming. Our children are being killed DAILY by nuts with guns, yet there is never any overriding public outrage or rallying cry to enforce gun laws and dismantle the NRA. It is only abortion – the unborn – that inspires such righteous zeal on all sides.
So, let’s review. Here’s how to end abortion, in 8 easy steps:
- Make birth control and sex education free, accessible, and available to anyone who wants it. If you don’t believe in birth control, good for you. Please don’t try to interfere – as pharmacist, lawmaker, counselor, or employer – with other people’s right to control their own reproduction.
- Improve health care for women. ALL care for women. Make it easy, affordable, convenient, and sustained. Better care = healthier pregnancy = healthier baby.
- Improve access to and affordability of adoption. If you want to save that unborn fetus, direct it to parents who feel they CAN nurture, support, and afford it.
- Improve family leave (maternity and paternity). Paid. Up to a year. Better yet, PAY couples to have kids. Some countries do it.
- Support universal, subsidized, affordable, licensed child care. You’d have WAY more working mothers/fewer so-called “welfare queens” if someone else watched the kids while we worked.
- End rape. End domestic violence. End abuse. End violence towards women. I mean it. End it now.
- End the pay gap. End poverty. Improve safety nets and welfare programs. I repeat: if she feels she can afford the baby, she’ll have the baby.
- Grant women their full civil and human rights. FULL AND UNQUALIFIED. It’s high time the U.S. got on board with CEDAW, like the rest of the civilized world.
And a final plea, from someone who has reproduced. Please acknowledge, in the fight over who gets to control the unborn fetus, the woman who is gestating. Please acknowledge that pregnancy is a HUGE emotional, physical, mental, and biological task. Pregnancy changes EVERYTHING about a woman’s body. It changes her hair. It changes her fingernails. It changes her corneas, people – why on earth the corneas change as an adaptation to pregnancy, I have no idea, but they do. Aside from the risks of pregnancy-related problems, like blood pressure and the like, pregnancy can change some basic endrocrinological systems. Like your thyroid function. That’s not something that will “go back to normal.” Your vagina, your rib cage, your pelvis, your stomach, and your uterus will be permanently altered. If you tear or get an episiotomy, the downstairs is never going to be quite like it was before either, FYI.
And then there’s the risk of what happens AFTER you give birth. Let’s assume you deliver safely and are not a maternal mortality statistic (again, happens here more than it should in a developed country). 80% of women have the baby blues. About 13% develop postpartum depression (PND). Other perinatal mood disorders can include postpartum psychosis or bi-polar disorder. In short, pregnancy inflicts severe and lasting damage on the female body (the curse of Eve, if you wish). So please, please think very carefully about how hard you insist a woman go through with a pregnancy, and how you judge her if she just can’t. If she simply cannot take that risk, cannot put her body through that (maybe again).
Those are my solutions. Thanks for listening.