I understand that this is a hot-button issue, but feel that I need to be honest about my position on it. I consider abortion a personal tragedy, and one that can be deeply painful for the persons affected by it. It is not something that I would like to occur in my life or my relationship. But the right to an abortion is socially, morally, and legally necessary for a free society.
The social and economic aspects of abortion are too seldom acknowledged by its opponents, but abortions are overwhelmingly sought by the poor. If someone is unable to provide a stable home for a child and becomes pregnant without choosing to do so, forcing her to bear that child may condemn her to a life of poverty, negatively impact the physical and mental development of the offspring, and deepen the systemic inequality already affecting too many Americans. Abortion rights act to prevent infanticide and preserve the lives and livelihoods of the already-born, making it a more moral option than the historical alternatives.
Speaking of morality, allowing women to control what happens with their own bodies is simply acknowledging them as autonomous moral agents, able to make their own decisions. Many of our values with respect to women and their bodies are a legacy of their subjugation as breeding stock for maintenance of private property inheritance during the Neolithic revolution. Under US law at present, corpses often have more bodily autonomy than living, breathing women, and this is an ethically bankrupt position. No man, and no set of laws, should be able to compel a woman, against her will, to go through the processes of gestation and child birth. Like sex itself, consent should be an absolute necessity for pregnancy.
Instead of banning abortions, we should work to reduce their frequency by expanding medical services to poorer Americans, offering free or discounted contraception (including IUDs), and ensuring adequate sex education to all teens so that they know the risks before they get involved. These policies have been proven greatly to reduce the incidences of abortion. If we are to be sincere in our wish to reduce abortion, then we must take the logically and empirically proven steps that lead to that outcome. Limiting health care options and preventing sex education only increase the frequency of abortion, and that public policy in many parts of the country force young women into this position is unjust.
Photo by Charlotte Cooper, Courtesy Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0