I don’t think the contraception and abortion talk is going to completely cool down anytime soon, and that’s hard to swallow. In 2012, I never thought basic human rights of autonomy over one’s body and life path would still be in question. I didn’t think so in the 90’s or 00’s, either. Sure, it’s a moral question, but guess what? Our morals are influenced by the way we “know” the world- what we hold as true and, potentially, sacred about reality. And considering what the different sides of this debate claim as their truths, I can still morally defend a woman’s right to choose in at least two different contexts/ideologies, and here they are:
The Objectivist, Secular POV: Historical oppression and social constructions of identity aside, a woman is a human being who happens to have the capacity to be a vessel of reproduction. A man is also a human being who does not have this capacity but who holds stake in reproduction nonetheless. Orientation and sexual identity aside, most human beings partake in sexual activity, and many enjoy it. Orgasms feel good = fact, no matter how you look at ’em. Now, should a woman, for any reason, become impregnated, she faces a decision. Bringing a child to term means months of intense physiological changes, a wide array of health risks, and financial burden. Whether or not that child is then reared by her has its own set of costs, trade-offs, and emotional investment.
A functioning adult or young adult is valuable to society – they can learn a trade, create art, foster ideas and innovation, volunteer time towards worthwhile causes, etc. These things are, of course, viable for a parent as well. But if a person does not want a child/does not feel ready to have a child/wants a child one day but cannot afford to right now/wants a child but not with the person who co-conceived the fetus/has health issues preventing them from having a healthy pregnancy/ETC ALL THE OTHER REASONS a person (man or woman) may not want a child, and is then forced to have a child by social and legal pressure, you then have a functioning adult who’s agency and potential have been lessened against their will. They may be depressed, or broke, or angry, or weak, or sad. This makes them less productive, and less likely to have a healthy family now or later. Everyone values the potential of new life, but what about the value of existing life? What about the value of a life that has already learned to communicate, make decisions, and engage with others? A ball of cells is not equal to a person. Period. If a man could get pregnant this would not even be up for debate, because people would recognize that the agency and well-being of an EXISTING HUMAN is more important than the hypothetical existence of another person.
Furthermore, in terms of societal impact, why is no one talking about population? Why is having more kids among unwilling parents a good thing? There are plenty of people who want to and will have children. We no longer need to propagate the species. If anything, allowing those who wish to refrain from reproducing to do so allows them to more fully embody other pursuits, like contributing to society via their careers, and leaves more resources (in the big picture- yes I know your minimart is fully stocked with shitty bottled water and hormone-stuffed chicken breast), for those who do have families. This is basic math, people. We have a shit ton of people, and a lot of stuff too- won’t it be easier to distribute that stuff to people who need it if there are less people who need it because they were stuck with a kid they never wanted?
The Religious POV: There are all kinds of religions out there, but particularly within the Christian sects there are a number of denominations who are dead set against abortion, calling themselves Pro-Life even as many of their numbers support wars overseas and the death penalty. That minor – cough – contradiction aside, let’s look at some logic within the biblical framework of knowledge. I like learning about different religions and have read a bit of Scripture myself, although I consider myself a student of mysticism and was raised Unitarian Universalist/Pagan. Some beliefs, some of which have nothing to do with actual scripture, include that there is a Heaven, that babies are angels, that God has created each baby, that a baptism is required to ensure a living baby’s place in Heaven, that “personhood” begins at conception, that once a baby is born it is guilty of “Original Sin”, etc. I have yet to hear that anyone believes that “Original Sin” exists at the moment of conception- apparently you are only guilty of being alive via dirty sex once you have passed through your mother’s sinful vaginal canal. Given any or all of those beliefs, abortion is still okay, and here’s why.
If you believe in Heaven, then that baby, or blastocyst, or whatever, is going right to it, no toll, in the carpool lane. It’s plump lil’ soul hasn’t touched Mom’s lady parts, it hasn’t breathed any polluted air, it doesn’t have a brain to think dirty thoughts in, so it is going to the front row of the Pearly Gates, right next to Jesus, who hangs out with a lot of babies because they are way cooler than the rest of us and smell like sunshine when they aren’t pooping small submarines.
If you believe in Original Sin, the same thing applies. An aborted fetus is still innocent- if it remains unborn, it too gets to return to St. Peter’s place to eat ambrosia with it’s winged pals.
If babies are angels, then they are probably pretty happy to keep being angels. Didn’t work out down below? Cool- I get to keep my wings and starring in 1990s TV dramas.
Most importantly, if babies are created by your God, in his image, then they are all-knowing and full of love. Even if that’s not the case, aren’t babies and children the most forgiving and accepting of anyone? Wouldn’t a blessed little cherub forgive his potential mother when she prayed “I am so sorry, God, but I am neither mentally, emotionally or fiscally prepared to carry this child and I ask that you watch over him until I am ready”? He’d be like “It’s cool, Ma. It was warm in there but I’m really comfortable up here with the big guy. Plus there’s a ton of marshmallows in the ambrosia! Just hit me up when ya ready for me!” Not to mention that he would want a mother who was healthy and happy to have him, not one weary with stress and reluctant to devote herself to parenthood.
Even dogmatic logic allows Choice, the most divine of gifts to have been granted to us by [Insert chosen explanation of existence here].
Subjectively… An abortion is an undeniably difficult ordeal in a woman’s life- someone must really feel conviction that they are doing a necessary thing to go through such a process. I don’t identify with a religion, but I do have my own personal outlook, should I ever become unexpectedly pregnant. I believe that creating a child out of love is the most sacred thing I will do in my entire life. I believe that before I can perform the Miracle of Life I will want to be happily committed to another similarly-minded, loving person. I will want to be in a situation where I can pay bills plus some. I will want to be at my peak physical condition and emotionally stable enough to take on the HUGE responsibility of caring for and influencing another CONSCIOUSNESS. I will have wanted a normal sleep schedule for at least a few years of my life before I wreak havoc on it again, if only for my sanity. This kid is going to be playing with your kids some day, or being someone’s boss, or running for office, or writing symphonies. I want them to be healthy, strong, confident, creative and loving. I cannot guarantee that, but I can do a better job of trying if I am ready and able myself. People ideally become parents because they want to parent. “Being a parent” and “having a kid” are not the same goals- one is an identity, the other is a status. Children are not objects or toys or tools for your self-esteem. As my Godmother says, every child is a “little person”, who will turn to you for what is good and right and true in the world, because they forgot their omniscience on the way out the slip’n’slide o’ life. One day they will create their own reality in alignment with what they have learned from you. Don’t coerce someone who isn’t ready to take on that responsibility.
…And if your argument is that women who have sex should be willing to take on that responsibility no matter what, then I invite you to pay all of their pregnancy expenses and adopt all the unwanted offspring who could’ve been sipping on the finest of nectar (Read: breast milk?) in the sky, ’til you showed up and totally shit on their game.