If you don’t want abortions

No one actively wants an abortion. It’s just that there are times when not keeping that small bundle of cells is a better choice. It should be blindingly obvious that no one with a womb should be required to carry a child of rape or incest to term. It should also be blindingly obvious that women who need late term abortions are not baby killing monsters. A late term abortion is a tragedy – always. It means that a baby who was very much wanted has got into difficulty, or the mother has, and there is only pain and misery ahead. The abortion is the kindest choice available – which is a dreadful, heartbreaking place to be. Anyone needing a late term abortion needs care, support and understanding.

There are four main reasons why women get pregnant when they don’t want to be pregnant. Reason one is lack of education. If you haven’t had proper sex education, and don’t know precisely what leads to pregnancy and exactly how to avoid it, then your risk of getting pregnant against your will is much increased. Good sex education reduces the need for abortions. The second main reason is lack of access to free, or at least affordable contraception. This is also easily fixed.

Reason number three is economic. If you cannot afford a child, then raising one in poverty may not be an appealing idea. Women are less likely to seek abortions for economic reasons if having a child is not likely to throw you into poverty. Proper financial support for parents makes it easier for a woman to say yes to a baby she was not expecting.

The main reason women find themselves pregnant when they don’t want to be pregnant, is men. Without a man in the equation, penis, sperm and all, it is pretty much impossible for a woman to become pregnant by accident. If a man declines to use condoms, or takes them off during sex, or won’t pull out, the risk of an unwanted pregnancy is much increased. Power imbalances in relationships remain a thing. Imagine a world in which a man could be prosecuted for causing an unwanted pregnancy. Consider the implications.

The right to bodily autonomy for a woman disappears as soon as a man puts his sexual pleasure ahead of her safety. Our culture tells the story of the feckless woman who isn’t sexually responsible and goes out and ‘gets herself’ pregnant and then doesn’t want the baby. No doubt careless women exist, but the more you know about the implications of getting pregnant, the less likely you are to take those risks in the first place. Women who have had a decent sex education don’t tend to go this way unless what they’re after is a baby – in which case you won’t see them seeking abortion.

We do not talk about the role of men in abortions. For every abortion, there is someone who brought his sperm along. Again, education will play a big role here, but for the chaps I think it’s not just about sexual education, it’s the need to educate about responsibility. As long as pregnancy is seen as a woman’s problem, male responsibility for causing it is ignored and most critically, ignored by the men who are causing unwanted pregnancies. A woman does not get herself pregnant, there’s someone else in the equation. Someone who is not currently subject to legislation about their rights to get women pregnant and who bears no legal responsibility for the unwanted baby.

A culture serious about reducing the need for abortions would provide good sex education and free and affordable contraception for anyone who wanted it. That culture would not have a rape culture within it in which women’s safety is seen as less important than male pleasure. A culture serious about the idea that babies matter would make sure no child ends up in abject poverty. When you look at the policies of places criminalizing abortion, these other things are also in short supply too. The underlying idea is not that every baby is precious, it is that women should not be allowed to decide if they go through with a pregnancy. Carrying a baby to term is no small thing and it will change your life. The man involved may be made to pay maintenance, but he’s not obliged to change his whole life to accommodate this new person.

If abortions are illegal, knowingly causing an unwanted pregnancy should also be an offence. That it isn’t tells us a great deal about the real priorities involved.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “If you don’t want abortions

  • rpatrick

    I love this blog, and it contains almost everything that I write about abortion all the time. The utter irony (there’s got to be a stronger word) is that those who see themselves as opposing abortion are doing all the things that cause it’s increase–oppose sex education, oppose access to contraception and reproductive health care, oppose economic equality, and enforce power imbalances.

    I just think you have chosen a poor way to express your fourth cause of unwanted pregnancy by say “men.” The real force there you do name as a secondary item–power imbalance. The false notion that men are more important than women, that men are superior to women harms everyone. Patriarchy has infected and affected ALL of us, including men. I just want to offer that. As long as you show up making “men” the cause and not the imbalance of power which has also harmed men and how we experience ourselves, you don’t help move us forward.

    I know that as a man offering this critique will not likely be welcomed, but it’s the same as all oppressive forces–no one gets out unscathed. White people are ultimately shooting themselves in the foot with racism. The way forward is to acknowledge that and work for systemic change. Men harmed by patriarchy harm women. It’s that simple and that awful.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for sharing this – I think you’re right about the patriarchal stuff. Invariably with any blog post there’s something I skim over that merits far deeper attention, because there’s only so much I can say in a piece short enough to be readable. Yes, the way in which gender relations are structured in the first place and assumptions about rights and who has body autonomy is such a big thing. we’re still dealing with feudalistic thinking here. But at the same time, I’m painfully aware of the way in which conversations about abortion so often don’t even acknowledge that there is a man in the equation, and I think maybe we need to make conception a two-person story in order to start talking about the power balances… There probably isn’t a single right way of taking this all apart.

  • Ellen Efenricea

    With you on this, but the offence should be ‘knowingly risking’ rather than ‘knowingly causing’. He can always say he didn’t knowingly cause it. Pedantic maybe but law has to be to prevent loopholes. There’s a huge difference between not trying to get someone pregnant and trying not to get them pregnant.

  • gristle1953

    I agree with most of your arguments except the initial phrase “a small bundle of cells” used to describe a fetus. If that is true then that’s all we all are. So following the logic I would have no problem getting rid of you either if you become unacceptable to me. I think depersonalization is a strategy used to dull our thinking too much these days…just a thought.

    • Nimue Brown

      At the point at which most abortions occur, we are talking about a small bundle of cells.

      • gristle1953

        If it was true that they were performed then I would probably agree but the trend is definitely upward and my fear is that the expression is a euphemistic way of covering the trend. However I acknowledge that there are so many mitigating factors involved and lots or emotion! I’m definitely not a moralist- my own blog would attest to that!. More pragmatist…your thoughts?

  • tonyacottonjones

    If I was raped by my Dad and became pregnant I wouldn’t kill it because I know the truth God is the giver of life but I do not know if I could keep it I’d really have to have a talk with God I don’t know if I’d let my pain show to my child so I may wood give him or her up in these cases God has put someone like me and many others in this world to be a care giver to the unwanted the hard to love the challenged I also know a baby can live at 22weeks term

    • Nimue Brown

      The kinds of abortions that occur at 22 weeks are not for babies who could live, they are for babies who are already dead, or won’t be able to breathe or otherwise in such a terrible state that going to term would be highly dangerous and/or exceptionally cruel. If your Christian god thinks that kind of torture of women and babies is good for us… well, I remain happy to be a Pagan.

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