(October 5th, 2014)

Abortion is one of many "hot topic" political issues that I feel is more complex than it seems on the surface. You have two basic sides to this debate, sides with which I'm sure most readers are familiar, but which I will briefly define to set the stage for this post. On one side, you have the "Pro Choice" argument that abortion should be seen only as an issue that is the woman's choice and that a woman should have the right to decide, in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, whether she wants to have the baby or not and be free from feeling shamed if she decides against pregnancy for whatever reason. On the other side, you have the "Pro Life" argument that babies are living beings and do not deserve to be tossed out like garbage because someone was engaging in unwise sexual activity (in most cases, an activity that they knew could lead to pregnancy and, when they chose to continue having sex with an unsuitable father candidate, they made their choice and should be stuck with it). Those are basically the two sides, though there is some side discussion about rape victims and such, the core of the argument is basically this: "Women deserve the right to choose!" versus "Women who have sex have already made their choice, while the baby has done nothing to deserve to die!"

On the surface, this issue seems to have no solution. Neither side can prevail except at the expense of the other, and both sides allow someone to force a terrible consequence upon someone else (either a mother forcing her baby to die or society forcing a mother to unwillingly continue a pregnancy, something that can be dangerous and disfiguring, and is always extremely uncomfortable and painful). But I do not believe that good societal change comes from forcing our will on others. Good and just societal change comes through encouragement, especially through encouraging better choices. Thus, let's look at this picture through a wider lens.

Unwanted pregnancies
A large majority of the time, unwanted pregnancies come from unprotected sex. (Don't get me wrong, I do not thing that extra-marital sex is any kind of good idea, but I also do not think that the way to get such behaviors to change is through shaming and punishment and forcing others to do what I want. I would rather look for a way to encourage them to choose something better.) So, the next question is why so many women have unprotected sex. Well, there are only a few kinds of cheap contraceptives and even fewer available without horrifically expensive doctor visits and prescriptions that may make you sick for weeks (and that often lose most of their effectiveness if you are late taking even a single pill). So, the easily available and cheap contraceptives are plagued by issues like being very inconvenient to use and not being terribly effective.

Thankfully, there are better contraceptives out there, such as IUDs, but they are extremely expensive, beyond what many women can afford, especially young women still in their teens or early twenties, women who may face a large amount of shaming and negative consequences from well-meaning parents who don't want their child to endure the sorrow that accompanies promiscuity. IUDs are one of the safest and most effective forms of long-lasting, instantly-reversible birth control out there and there are relatively few side effects or inconveniences associated with them. (Source)

So, let's imagine for a moment that we, as a society, sat down at a table called "Sane Solutions", a table at which we seek to solve problems in a manner that is sane, civil, fair, and something both sides can agree to. (I am not initially including at the Sane Solutions table any people who believe IUDs cause abortions because IUDs do not cause abortions, and saying that your "faith" says so doesn't help you, especially when you believe the Bible is the end all and be all of sacred scripture and the Bible says nothing about IUDs. Having faith in a lie is not faith. Faith must be based on truth to be faith. Duh.)

So, sitting around this table we call "Sane Solutions", we look at the high costs to society of unwanted pregnancies and births each year (a problem that only compounds, since children of unwanted pregnancies are often dependent on government aide for most, if not all, of their first 25 years). Then, we look at the costs of offering a free IUD to any woman who wants one. It's far lower, as in, it's a fraction of a percent of what we, as a society, spend on unwanted pregnancies. Because the woman gets to choose whether she has an IUD put in or not, society isn't forcing anything on the women, which makes the "Pro Choice" side happy. Because the IUD prevents around 995 unwanted pregnancies out of 1,000, there are far fewer abortions, which make the "Pro Life" side happy.

Interruptions from the Peanut Gallery
Just as the deal is about to be signed, however, another two people enter the room, and we'll call them "Fiscal Conservative" and "Evangelical Businessman". Both sides may be wondering why these two people came to the debate, since neither seem to have a vested interest in the outcome. Oh, but they sure act like they do! First, the Fiscal Conservative points out that giving away free IUDs will cost billions of dollars, and that's not fair to taxpayers. Both sides try to explain that the costs of IUDs are far lower, in the long run, than a bunch of unwanted babies the state will end up paying for anyway, but Fiscal Conservative doesn't care because his supporters frown on extra-marital sex, so they don't want any tax money going to "encourage" such behavior. This is when Evangelical Businessman chimes in, saying that he feels "new age" contraceptives are really just abortion in disguise. When both sides try to explain that they very much are not abortions, he plugs his ears and shouts "La La La! I can't hear you! I'm right and you're wrong!"

To be fair, Evangelical Businessman's ignorance stems largely from abuses of his faith and devotion by corrupt entities with their own economic and political agendas, and Fiscal Conservative is looking out for his job, which can be terminated if someone who touts himself as more fiscally conservative challenges him in an election. That said, they have nothing to offer to the discussion. Fiscal Conservative is all for spending a relative $1,000 on an unwanted baby but against spending $2.50 on an IUD. This makes no fiscal sense, so he is not offered a seat at that table called "Sane Solutions" because his position lacks basic logical sense, let alone full sanity. As for Evangelical Businessman, his entire position is based on a lie. Thus, he, too, is escorted out and handed factual material (which he will likely destroy in some creative manner while insisting on his religious nonsensical views, but that is his choice, and we don't force people to make good choices, no matter how sickening their basis might be for their poor choices).

Parental Permission
The sanity at the table called Sane Solutions once again restored, the "Pro Life" side points out that some parents would have issues with their daughters being able to get an IUD without their permission, and many parents would never give it (or, they admit reluctantly, might turn to shaming or worse religious practices to "drive out the devil" of promiscuity). The "Pro Choice" side grumbles about them sacrificing womens' freedom of choice on an altar to the god of misogyny. There, once again, we hit an impasse wherein both sides have valid points but cannot prevail without hindering the other side.

This is a tough issue. Do you give greater deference to the choice of a parent or the choice of the child? Do parents have a right to know, and, if they do, then does that right trump the child's right to safely make a decision in peace? At what age do you allow such a choice? The "Pro Choice" side asks what kind of loving, suitable parent would prefer a teen mother over a teen with an IUD, even if they got it in secret. They continue by pointing out that a parent whose child would seek out an IUD without their permission has already had a reason to believe she cannot talk to her parents and have a rational conversation about such a choice. Furthermore, she will not be stopped from engaging in sexual activity just because she can't get an IUD, hence the current trend of teen mothers in society. The "Pro Life" people mumble about the other side sacrificing parental rights on the altar to the god of permissiveness.

At the end of the day, however, a girl should be permitted to choose whether or not she gets an IUD or uses any contraceptive, and it's not like parents are made aware every time their child buys condoms. Thus, the whole "parents' right to know" argument falls flat, in my opinion. If they want their child to be honest with them about such decisions, that's a problem that finds root in how they raised their teenager not to feel they could trust their parents (usually by overuse of punishment as a lazy shortcut to get around the difficulties of actual good parenting). It's not a problem that can be solved by force or more bad parenting. Furthermore, however well-intentioned the parents may be, opposing or punishing a girl's decision to take steps to ensure she won't become a teen mother is not considering the welfare of the girl, whatever her decisions about sexual activity might be.

The 0.5%
Discussion continues on to what to do with those who refuse contraceptives or who are part of that 0.5% whose IUD fails to prevent pregnancy. Though the steps taken here have greatly reduced the problem, it does still exist. Since the parental "right to know" idea was shot down, however, the other side's argument that some girls are prevented from getting reasonably convenient contraceptives by religious zealot parents and shouldn't be punished for their parents' misconduct falls flat since this is no longer an issue. Thus, those who refuse contraceptives are making a choice they have to live with, especially since most who would make such a choice make it on religious grounds, and most religions frown on or forbid abortions. They are simply stuck with the inevitable consequences of a string of choices, and, outside of some kind of horribly abusive home situation (which should be solved immediately), there isn't much of a way out for them anyway (since people who refuse contraceptives on religious grounds are quite likely to refuse abortion on the same grounds, anyway).

As for those whose contraceptive fails to prevent pregnancy, they made a different choice and forcing them to accept the physical, emotional, and economic consequences of a choice they decided against is unfair. I think every effort should be made to convince them to carry the baby to term and give it up to parents who can't have their own children, most likely by offering a cash bonus, payable upon delivery of the baby to the adoptive parents and the signing over of all parental rights. This may seem cold and terrible (to sell a baby), but it doesn't infringe on the woman's freedom to choose, and, if $5,000 or $10,000 is the redemption price that must be paid to prevent the death of an unborn child, how many "Pro Life" people would really object? Furthermore, a woman willing to sell her baby for $5-10k should most definitely not be a mother, and I'd imagine quite a few teenagers and single mothers would be convinced by such a sum of money. By incentivising good choices, instead of punishing bad choices, people are more likely to make good choices freely and happily because they have an incentive to do so. As I have often said, Humans are a very rewards-oriented species.

If, however, a mother cannot be convinced by a monetary payout to carry the child, and they want the baby gone, I don't think it's unreasonable to have them attend a seminar on the dangers of abortion and the feelings of others who have done the same and then make them wait one week (if it would put them over the abortion time limits, well... one week isn't going to make that big of a difference, and some allowance would be necessitated by the fact that they are being forced to wait one week, just to make sure this is a decision they really want to make). If their decision stands, then there seems little other option than to allow them to make the choice. That said, after all the rest of the other provisions, the number of women seeking abortions should be drastically lower, and, while not a complete victory for the "Pro Life" side, it is a vast improvement. Similarly, while the "Pro Choice" people may not like the women being forced to attend a seminar and wait a week to get an abortion, the fact remains that the women can still get it. Her freedom to choose has not been trampled to death.

Governing is not about one side (usually the majority) dictating terms to the other (usually the minority). Governing is about two sides working out a compromise in which both get something they want in exchange for a concession they can live with. So long as Humans have the freedom to choose, there will always be some who choose to do things they should not. Thus, if we want real and fair solutions to society's problems, we have to stop troll-baiting each other and start discussing things rationally. It's not a terribly difficult thing to do. It's just not rewarded in our society, so few people in government are willing to be vilified (or worse) for doing it. That is a problem that only "we the people" can solve.


Back to my Blog List