Saturday, January 15, 2011


So a little while ago I made a promise to address how I feel about certain issues so as to define myself and my beliefs. And after watching an episode of Boston Legal I want to express how I feel about abortion.

I will warn you in advance that my opinions are not politically correct and don't run a straight edge, but I will try to articulate them as clearly as possible. I will also warn you that anyone expecting a blog about the ethics of abortion to be short is seriously mistaken. I hope I don't repeat myself to much to make my point, but I am just planning to go with the flow.

There is a reason that marriage was "meant" to be between a man and a woman, and there is a reason that sex has for so long been something meant to be between a husband and a wife. That is because the most basic function of sex is procreation. Just like every other living thing on the planet humans have a biological urge to mate specifically to ensure the survival of the species. We've been doing it forever, and marriage as an institution was founded because of the way we raise our young. A child requires care and provision, something that no one person can provide on their own. Single parents must utilize the resources of friends, family, and child care professionals, and there's nothing wrong with that. There is more than one reason that single parents exist. Single parents have been around forever too, and they've done what was necessary to provide for their children, but they certainly could not have worked outside the home and provided the supervision necessary for a youg child not yet of school age without help. Being married provides each parent with a natural partner to share child rearing responsibilities with. Because of the very physical connection between a mother and her child, whether she is pregnant or nursing (which together can easily last three years, both historically and according to the recommendations of modern health organizations), this leads to mothers having a more limited capacity to work compared to their male counterparts. This leaves marriage as the common sense solution to a situation requiring more than one adult to be successful.

I only address this because being too single or too broke is the most common logic I hear to justify an abortion. We have gradually become a culture much more permissive of premarital sex. Waiting until marriage has become the exception when it used to be the rule. I don't have a problem with that. I support gay marriage and I believe that sex for recreation is a personal choice. However we can't ignore the fact that it's primary purpose is still procreation. The consequences of sex are no secret to anyone. By choosing to have sex you are accepting those consequences. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes the condom breaks. Sometimes the birth control fails. Abstinence is the only 100% reliable way of preventing pregnancy, so if you aren't willing to have a baby then maybe you should rethink having sex. There is an "ideal" situation to have a baby in, and if you would rather have an abortion than have have a baby outside of that ideal then you should be taking better steps to prevent pregnancy in the first place.

Part of me hates to say this, because I have friends who have had abortions, some of my closest friends, in fact. And I love them. And I don't judge them, because my opinion won't change their decision and I could only try to send them on a guilt trip. As their friend, I have no desire to make them feel bad, especially when I nothing I say could make them feel worse than their own conscience dictates. So please, if you're reading this, nothing I am saying is personal. However I can't say I agree with the choice to have an abortion, and I can't say I'm not disappointed when people make that choice, no matter what their situation (excepting health of the mother, rape, and incest). And, without going into identifying details, the situations surrounding the three friends I have who have had abortions are extremely different. One was having unprotected sex with the wrong guy. Another experienced a birth control failure and was in a new relationship with a very limited, sporadic income. Still another was married and fully aware of her desire to never have children, and all it took was one night of unprotected sex. All of them had nothing but good reasons to have an abortion. The only reason to have the baby was simply because a baby is a human life, and, somehow, when compared to all of the selfish reasons we can come up with to justify an abortion, that just isn't good enough.

I have to say, what disappoints me most of all is that, in my experience, there is an almost universal opinion that an unwanted pregnancy only offers two options: keeping the baby or having an abortion. "I'm an unfit mother," "I'm too broke," "I'm too young," "I want to finish school," I don't want to have kids," are all valid arguments not to keep the child, and there are as many reasons as there are abortions. But there is this seemingly forgotten third option called adoption. There are thousands of people out there who desperately desire to have children and, for one reason or another, are not able to. And yet I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the justification that if they carried the baby to term they wouldn't be able to give it up. They would love their child too much to give it a chance with another family, but not enough not to kill it. Somehow the decision is all about you, because for damn sure what is best for the baby is to be born and adopted. Why isn't that an option that more people consider? No one is saying that giving your child away would be anything but heartbreaking, but how is killing your child any less damaging to your heart and soul? Are we really that selfish?

No matter how you fry it, an unwanted pregnancy was your own fault. You chose to participate in sex knowing that all of the birth control in the world can still fail. No matter how it happened, it was your choice to engage in risky behavior. Even with perfect use, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the pill has an 8% failure rate and must be taken every day at the same time to be able to be considered "perfect". The failure rate of the shot is 3%, the patch and the ring also 8%, the morning after pill 11-25%, a condom 15%, a female condom 21%, a cervical cap 16-32%, a diaphragm 16%, a sponge 16-32%, spermicide 29%, withdrawal 27% and natural family planning 12-25%. If she's really serious about not getting pregnant a woman, short of being sterilized, should use an IUD or an implant, both offering failure rates of less than 1%. At the very least she should use more than one method of birth control: a hormonal method to prevent ovulation, a physical barrier in case the hormones fail and she ovulates anyway, a spermicide in case the physical barrier fails, and, for good measure, should keep track of her cycle and abstain from sex during potentially fertile times. A male not wanting to knock a girl up should insist on the use of condom, a spermicide, and withdrawal. Is the detraction of pleasure really worth not protecting yourself? Because I have to say, I don't know anyone who is sexually active and and trying to prevent pregnancy who uses more than one method. And I know four people who got pregnant while on birth control just within the last year. 8 out of every 100 women are going to conceive while on the pill. A pill and a condom, 1 out of every 100. If a couple did everything possible to prevent pregnancy that would go down to 1 in every 5,000 women.

The phrase "individual freedom" comes up a lot during the debate over abortion. But what about personal responsibility? We have the tools to prevent the decision over having an abortion from ever having to be made in the first place, and yet many sexually active adults don't utilize them, despite the potentially life altering consequences of their failure to do so. If you don't want to have a baby then be responsible about your sex life in the first place and accept the inconvenience of birth control methods. The inconvenience of a child is exponentially greater. And perhaps that is part of the problem: an abortion is more convenient that using birth control correctly and consistently. And as long as that is the prevailing attitude we are going to have to continue to debate about the sanctity of life, when life starts, and the ethics of abortion. The only reason that the government needs to be involved in a decision this personal at all is because we know that the majority of Americans are not responsible enough to do everything in their power to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and some of us don't believe that an innocent child should be killed to "take care of" the "problem" caused by our lack of personal responsibility.

"I'm getting it taken care of" is the most oxymoronic, offensive way a person can express having an abortion. An abortion is most certainly not taking care of that child. If you're going to have an abortion at least own your decision enough to call it what it is. And despite our obsession with abortions as the solution to unwanted pregnancy, there is another option that gives that child the opportunity to live and be loved. It's called adoption. If we were a society of people willing to accept full responsibility for the decisions they make everyone would use the contraceptive methods I've described above and in the event of their failure would carry the child to term and give someone a wonderful gift because we would realize that our desire to experience the pleasure and fulfillment of sexual intercourse comes with a cost, and that cost is life. And I would have much more faith in the morality of humanity it wasn't so easy for so many to accept that cost under the guise "individual liberty."

So that is my rant about abortion. I know it certainly will not make me popular with a lot of people, but I just cannot bring myself to accept that murder is an ok solution to our inability to utilize available methods of pregnancy prevention. Ultimately an unwanted pregnancy is the result of believing that somehow the statistics won't apply to you. The solution is to be smart about sex in the first place. And as surely as I believe everything I've just stated, I know that it will never be realized. Personal responsibility is unenforceable. We are never going to win the argument that a woman should be forced to carry a child because she chose to have sex. But that doesn't stop me from being adamantly pro-life. And it doesn't stop me from wishing that she would choose prevention over abortion.

If you've made it to the end of this blog I would once more like to stress that I do not believe I have the right to pass judgement on anyone who chooses to have an abortion. I don't hate you. I don't believe you're amoral. I don't believe that it was an easy decision and you are insensitive to the fact that you terminated a life. My beliefs are entirely impersonal. I know that much of this blog may sounds condemning, but it really boils down to my belief that life begins at conception and that we have come to rely on abortion as a form of birth control when we should be relying on birth control as a form of birth control. And there's really no nice way to tell someone who has had an abortion that you believe abortion is wrong.