Why Abortion?

The question is not whether abortion should be available. The question is why it is so prevalent? Why, when condoms are available in every public restroom, birth control pills can be obtained on the pretext of clearing up acne, and morning after pills are dispensed at high schools, should so many females feel better served by undergoing an uncomfortable operation that may have moral considerations tied to it?

DSCN0615It was understandable that abortion was the birth control of choice when there was no choice, when women were under the thumb of their husbands, single women keeping their children was a stain upon their character, no help from the government was available, leaving town to have the baby only to give it up for adoption was the only option. But that is not the case now. So why did women decide more than one million times in 2008 that abortion was the only way to go? Keep in mind that only 1% of abortions are performed after forcible sex. (All statistics cited here are provided by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood).

Currently, nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Of these, approximately 40% are terminated by abortion. 45% of abortions are performed on women who have never been married, and are not living with a man.

46% of the women who had abortions had not used contraceptives during the month they became pregnant. Of the remaining 54% who had used contraceptives, 76% of women on the pill and 49% of condom users said that they used these methods inconsistently. 61% of abortions are performed on women who have at least one other child, and almost half of all women in the United States who have an abortion have previously had an abortion. Half of all abortions are obtained by women under the age of 25 and teenagers.

This means that half of all abortions are obtained by women who are older than 25, and  almost half of them have previously had an abortion. Despite that, almost half had not been using contraceptives when they got pregnant, and the vast majority of those who were using contraceptives did not use them correctly.

Since less than half of women who obtain abortions are not married and not living with someone, the majority of these women are in a situation where there should be at least some expectation of a future pregnancy. Is it lack of education that leads these women to use abortion as the birth control of choice? Do they feel pressured to not use contraception, only to be driven to abortion when prayer didn’t work? Are they practicing the denial method of contraception? (Reminds me of the old joke: What do you call people who practice the rhythm method? Parents. But that was back when abortion was not a readily available backup).

Whatever you may think of the morality of abortion, I think it’s a shame that it seems to be the method of choice for contraception for so many women, and for almost half of those more than once. The conclusion that I draw from this is that there are way too many women who are not in control of their lives. The political argument that women need to be in charge of their own bodies does not cover enough ground. Although abortion should be available as a method of last resort, as Bill Clinton once said, “Abortion should be not only safe and legal, it should be rare.”

Yet, in the years since 1973, the only factor that seems to determine the number of abortions that are performed in any year is the state of the economy. Regardless of whether they are planned, pregnancies are carried to term more when the country is doing well. This is a sad state of affairs. Women are not deciding whether to have children based on whether they want to raise children. They are deciding whether to expand their families based on economic and social factors. It is true that people make the decision whether to have more children based on whether they can afford them all the time. But with abortion, the decision is made after the child is on the way.

88% of abortions occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This means that, between the act of conception, awareness of the pregnancy, and termination of that pregnancy, less than three months have elapsed. That’s not a lot of time in a person’s life. Did financial circumstances change so much since the pregnancy was discovered that these women felt compelled to get rid of an unwanted burden?

Was the pregnancy not supported by the father? Or the mother? If this is the case, it again points to a lack of control in women’s lives. If a woman isn’t interested in becoming pregnant, you’d think that she would choose either protection or abstinence. If she isn’t sure that a pregnancy would elate her significant other, you’d think that she’d choose some form of protection until she had a meaningful discussion with him. Again, an indicator of a lack of control over her own emotions and circumstances.

Studies have shown that control over the number of children a woman chooses to have is the single greatest factor in increasing her financial circumstances. Having that choice also tends to boost a woman’s status in the home. Apparently, however, there are a lot of women who still feel their options are limited to dealing with this choice until it is forced upon them.

I tend to sound one note over and over, and that note is also appropriate in this case: critical thinking is the most important skill we can pass on to our children. Thinking critically enables people to find more solutions to problems, to create ways to avert problems in the first place, to be inspired to dream up goals, and allows them to discover ways and means to achieve those goals. So they’re not as likely to get stuck in a situation where an elective medical procedure is their only option.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Politics

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