It’s not easy for someone known to have advocated against abortion and who is still not in favour of it to take a strong position against the odious bill that just got signed into law in Alabama. But I’ll give it a try.
First, though, an important point to note: This bill was passed with the expressed purpose of being challenged in court in the hope that it might serve, down the road, to overturn Roe v Wade. So the fact that it’s extraordinarily punishing should be taken with a tiny speck of salt. The whole episode reeks of politicking, posturing, and virtue-signalling.
But that tiny speck of salt is not enough. The bill is unspeakably retrograde, misguided, wrong. The fact that it was passed by legislators who think (if that’s the word) an ectopic pregnancy is something that can be fixed by re-implanting the embryo in the mother’s uterus adds a comi-tragic twist of darkness to a tale that was already sort of obscurantist pitch black.
I am struggling mightily to say my piece without unfairly tainting everyone with the same brush of abject criminal stupidity, but the wide support for the bill in the Alabama legislature is making it impossibly hard.
So I say this as someone who has never had an abortion, and wouldn’t wish the procedure on anyone: Alabama, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Back in my day as an anti-abortion advocate, I had a habit of asking my debating partners on the pro-choice side if they’d ever watched one. If they’d ever seen a video of the procedure. Not a late-term abortion either. Something done at three or four months gestation, which is when the majority of abortions take place.
Almost to a person they said no. Don’t need to watch one to be in favour of them.
It’s not something that’s easy to watch, and it’s impossible to unsee. On top of being lethal to the baby, the procedure can be extremely painful and harsh for the mother, physically and emotionally, and it can also be traumatic for the performing physician.
I am familiar with all the arguments on both sides of the question. Yes, even those who say allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest can sometimes hurt women more by making it easy for abusers to hide their misdeeds. There is a kernel of truth in there, and you can easily imagine an abusive step-dad taking his partner’s 13-year-old daughter for an abortion after he got her pregnant, thinking he dodged a bullet. There is certainly a lot of work to do to protect women and girls against sexual violence, but prosecuting them for aborting the result of an assault on their body is thoroughly and absolutely the worst way to go about it.
I am against abortion. I will say it again. In my version of an ideal world, no woman would ever find herself having to make that decision, and there would be plenty of support for those who find themselves pregnant despite all precautions to the contrary. Financial support, emotional support, help finding adoptive families, child-care for those who chose to keep their baby, a safe place to live, and a thorough lack of judgment.
But we’re not in my ideal world, are we. Too many girls and women feel they have no choice but to erase their “mistake” otherwise they’ll be kicked out of the house or otherwise victimized by the people from whom they should instead receive love and support.
I am not in favour of abortion. But never would I consider banning it or making it illegal or criminal. Here’s why.
It is women who bear the weight of sexual activity, at all stages. When a girl approaches puberty, she has to sit through lectures on the need to avoid pregnancy. When she starts dating, she gets warned. Watch out, don’t get pregnant. In some cases, there are threats. I for one was told, repeatedly, that if I ever came home pregnant I would be kicked out. Perhaps your parents said something similar to you. Maybe you experienced sexual violence. Some of you have been raped. This includes me. No, I didn’t get pregnant from it — I guess I got lucky. But what if I had been?
Why are women the ones responsible for what happens before, during and after sex, including the sex they never consented to? Why are we the ones bearing all the weight, the guilt, and consequences, sometimes for decades after the fact?
Ah, yes. Because we have the amazing ability to grow human beings from scratch. And it is indeed a magical experience. The three I’ve produced make the world a more enchanting place. But nobody forced me to grow them, bring them to term, and push them out with various degrees of traumatic memories.
Perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones, whose pregnancies were not forced. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been faced with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, or one that was the result of sexual violence. And I know that whatever decision I may have made would be different than one made by another woman in similar circumstances. I don’t have the right to force my opinions, or decisions, on women any more than those two clowns at the right to spike my drink and penetrate me while I was unconscious.
I am against abortion. I wish nobody ever had to make that difficult, heart-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy. But because women are the ones wearing all the weight of sexual activity, including activity they don’t always consent to, I would never consider making it illegal and I am appalled by what’s happening in Alabama.