It’s a common slogan in “prolife” circles: “Women deserve better than abortion.” I see these signs carried by protesters outside my local clinic on a regular basis, as if some ridiculous protest sign is going to changed a woman’s mind about something so serious.
But you know what? They are right on one point.
Women DO deserve better.
Women who live in the richest country in the world should not have to choose abortion because of economic hardship. The most expensive health care on the planet, pregnancy discrimination, lack of parental leave, no sick leave, no paid leave, and astronomical child care costs can create a situation where a woman who might otherwise choose to carry on a pregnancy, eventually give birth and possibly raise a child chooses instead to end it. It is a contingency that affects women and families across all demographics. Eliminating this situation is a commendable goal.
But there are so many points on which these anti-choice protesters are wrong, wrong, WRONG! Organizations like Feminists For Life elevate this mantra, characterizing abortion as a “humiliating, invasive procedure” that “sacrifices” a child. They characterize abortion as a violent, tragic scourge pushed upon victimized, vulnerable women. And they cite flawed research to persuade the public that abortion is dangerous, causes psychiatric distress and cancer. On all these additional points they could not be more wrong.
Abortion is not humiliating. Abortion is not tragic. Abortion is not violent. Abortion is not always a symptom of an underlying problem. And women who choose abortion are not “victims.”
On the contrary, for the woman who feels trapped in an abusive or unsatisfying relationship, abortion is a tale of liberation. For the woman with pregnancy complications, abortion is tale of healing. For the woman working hard to finish college, abortion is a tale of opportunity. For the woman who just does not want children, abortion is a tale of relief.
And, since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal and safe, the dangers associated with illegal, unsafe abortion have all but disappeared. The rates of serious complications and death from pregnancy far exceed those of abortion. Most women who have abortions go on to have healthy pregnancies when they are ready to do so. And research has shown that the incidence of mental health issues in women after abortion is no greater than that experience by women after other stressful life events.
Rather than saving the lives of the unborn, I am most motivated to protect and improve the quality of life for the living. Having compassion for the living means advancing clean energy, maximizing available resources and changing public policy to increase pregnancy safety and encourage birth. Having compassion for the living also means protecting a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion without guilt and without apology.
So, yes, women and their children do deserve better – much better – than the guilt and shame leveled at them by the “prolife” movement. Women deserve good quality of life. Women deserve choices. Women deserve respect.