The issue of abortion is not really about life. It is not about the fetus. It is not about the unborn. Different religions differ when it comes to defining when life starts and the body becomes ensouled. When you come right down to it, abortion in that sense is a religious issue, and the Constitution is very strict about the issue of religion. As for science, it can only tell us when a fetus is capable of sustaining its own life independent and separate from its mother’s womb, and that certainly is not at conception. In fact, a fetus cannot be removed from the womb for quite some time, pretty much only after the second trimester is over.
Abortion is about patriarchy. It is, to some degree, about who controls a woman’s body, but more, it is about who controls a woman’s mind. It comes down to whether or not women can be trusted to know what is right and what is wrong for their personal Self, and whether or not women can make these complex moral decisions.
For those who oppose abortion, the answer is pretty clear that they do not trust women to control either their own bodies or their own minds. Take, for instance, Michele Bachmann. She made it clear that her husband Marcus was the one who ruled the household. She even needed his permission to attend law school and even to run for office. She opposes abortion.
She is not the only one. It is not surprising that the women who oppose abortion rights are, by and large, Fundamentalist in their world view. In the Fundamentalist world view, women have no capacity for independent thought. They have no capacity for independent reasoning. Women are flawed men who must be controlled or they will bring down civilization.
In truth, those who oppose abortion should be in favor of women having as much independence as they can. There are several different factors that contribute to the decline of abortion rates. Economic conditions are one of those, as are contraception and the ability for a woman to have an abortion if needs be.
These are antithetical to the thinking of a Fundamentalist. Women are to be controlled, after all.
We should start with a cold, hard fact. The more abortion is made illegal or hard to get, and the more contraception is made hard to get, the more abortions will occur. There has been an uptick in the number of illegal abortions occurring in the nation, and some of the stories are horrific.
Over at Slate.com, they make a much better point about the rest of where this is going. There, they discuss how to rid the world of abortion thought a novel method “Give it to Planned Parenthood.”
They go on to explain:
Look at the latest annual report from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued two months ago. The table on page 5 shows that over the course of a year, PPFA provided 3,685,437 contraceptive services and 329,445 abortions. That’s a ratio of 11 to 1.
Internationally, the ratio is even higher. Look at the latest annual report from the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The table on page 13 shows that over the course of a year, IPPF provided 33,854,786 contraceptive services and 1,411,494 abortions. That’s a ratio of 24 to 1. Did I mention condoms? IPPF distributed 152,397,194 condoms. That’s 108 condoms per abortion.
What happens when you provide condoms and contraceptive services? Women who don’t want to get pregnant don’t get pregnant. Which means fewer women are in the market for abortions. The abortion business dries up.
They noted that from 1995 to 2003, the global total for abortions fell from 45.6 million to 41.6 million. But why? Well, from 1995 to 2000, contraception use increased worldwide. Now, from 2003 to 2008, the number of abortions world wide increased to 43.8 million. After 2000, the use of contraceptives slowed their rise, and from 2005 onward, that increase died out all together.
The Lancet Report that they use for this data notes:
We found that the proportion of women living under liberal abortion laws is inversely associated with the abortion rate in the subregions of the world. Other studies have found that abortion incidence is inversely associated with the level of contraceptive use, especially where fertility rates are holding steady, and there is a positive correlation between unmet need for contraception and abortion levels. The unmet need for modern contraception is lower in subregions dominated by liberal abortion laws than in those dominated by restrictive laws, and this might help explain the observed inverse association between liberal laws and abortion incidence. Global levels of unmet need and contraceptive use seem to have stalled in the past decade: the percent of married women with unmet need for contraception fell by 0.2 percentage points per year in 1990-2000, but essentially did not change in 2000-2009. Family planning services seem to not to be keeping up with the increasing demand driven by the increasingly prevalent desire for small families and for better control of the timing of births.
In other words, if you outlaw abortion and limit contraception, you get more abortions, because more women who don’t want to have babies get pregnant. And when women who don’t want to have babies get pregnant, they find ways to get abortions, whether you like it or not. The way to get fewer abortions is to provide contraception—and to teach people to use it diligently, which is a moral project, not just a technical one. That way, fewer women who don’t want to have babies get pregnant. And the abortion rate goes down.
It also means that, when women are trusted to make their own decisions, choose their time to get pregnant, and choose when to get pregnant, there are fewer abortions.
Of course, that violates patriarchal thinking, doesn’t it?