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.