An interesting conversation came up on my Facebook feed today, and it’s been written by the Friendly Atheist. It’s a thread which begins by asking what penalty a woman should face for abortion, if abortion were illegal. The responses were eye-opening: life in prison or death were the two main arguments.
The irony of people suggesting the death penalty was pretty strong. ‘If you don’t approve of life on our terms then you should die’. There’s no room for thought, for nuance, for anything. Just ‘you killed a baby, you die’.
Abortion is not that easy, sharp, and straightforward. It’s a mess of opinions, ideas, and decisions, it’s complicated, and any policy on it should consider all of that mess before making any concrete rules.
The pro-life movement is strongly associated with conservatism in the US. Other common policies of conservatives include supporting the death penalty, supporting military spending and military action, and cutting spending on social welfare-type policies. The message this all sends is a bit odd – that death is fine, if we approve of its applications, and that those that do live do not deserve any help. As someone more eloquent than me once said, “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine. If you’re pre-school, you’re fucked.” (George Carlin)
Another common policy of US conservatives is abstinence-only sex education, and making access to contraception difficult. This runs totally against their anti-abortion platform, as the best way to prevent abortion is comprehensive sex education and available, affordable contraception.
If you’re pro-life, that’s cool. It’s where you stand on an issue. But think on these things. If you want to reduce abortion, make sex ed and contraception available. If you want more women to be able to keep their pregnancy, make social safety nets available. Make sure that healthcare won’t bankrupt her, make it possible for her to feed the extra mouth. Make childcare affordable so she can work, and wages high enough for her to keep a roof over her family’s head. These things will not send abortion numbers down to zero, nothing will, but you’ll prevent unwanted pregnancies from happening and make decisions easier for women in poverty.
Think about where you really stand on life and death, and what you believe about the value of human life. Be consistent. Think also about quality of life.