Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why No One Will Ever Agree About Abortion

Because the two sides have drastically different views about sex.

One side starts with the belief that sex is something you can totally choose to do with a consenting partner. If this is true, then it's normal for people to have sex when they're married, dating, hooking up, whatever- just decide what your own boundaries are, and that's great.

If this is true, then women HAVE to have access to abortion. Because who knows whether you'll be in a position where you can deal with being pregnant and having a kid?

And it doesn't matter whether the fetus is a person or not. We don't force people to donate their kidneys to save someone else's life- why would we force a women to allow another person to live inside her body like that? It's not her fault she's pregnant- she's just living life like a completely normal person, ie having consensual sex when she decides she wants to.

The other side starts with the belief that sex is only for marriage. If this is true, then when a woman gets pregnant, she'll have her husband there to support her, and they'll be able to deal with the pregnancy and raising a kid.

And if other people want to have sex outside of marriage, okay, they have the freedom to do that if they want, as long as they're not hurting anyone else. And abortion IS hurting the unborn child.

This position often gets criticized as being all about controlling women or judging them for having sex. No, that's not what it's about. It just says if you get pregnant, you have a responsibility toward that unborn child.

Image source.

And the two sides argue past each other- emphasizing that "life begins at conception" when the pro-choice arguments don't hinge on when life begins, or that "a woman should have control over her own body" when the pro-life side is actually concerned with control over the fetus's body.

People are never going to see eye-to-eye on this because they have fundamentally different understandings of the role of sex, and that's a religious belief. Anytime you say "sex SHOULD be [fill in the blank]", that's a statement that cannot be proven or disproven. It IS a religious belief, because it deals with how you see the world and how you think the world should be. Even if you don't follow any specific religion, you still have beliefs that can't be proven one way or the other.

And here's the problem. Everyone should have freedom of religion- but that freedom ends when it hurts someone else. One side argues that pro-choice religious beliefs about sex hurt unborn babies. The other side argues that pro-life religious beliefs about sex hurt women.

Any policy we make about abortion is going to be "imposing religious beliefs" on someone. There's no way to be neutral.

(And I need to throw in a disclaimer about how I'm making some huge generalizations here, not everyone with an opinion on abortion is going to nicely fit into these two categories, etc etc. But I think I'm summarized the essence of each side.)

What should we do? I have no idea. But let's at least start by attempting to understand the perspective each side is coming from.


  1. I've never seen the arguments stated in quite this way. There is one case that I don't think you've addressed. What about married couples who can't afford to (either financially or in terms of time investment) raise a/another child?

  2. This is a really good point, and it seems like a situation that the pro-life side is totally blind to. Women who get abortions are always portrayed as unmarried and promiscuous. I'd be interested to see statistics on what percentage of women who get abortions are married.

  3. According to the National Abortion Federation, 83% of women getting abortions are unmarried. So no, not everyone getting an abortion is doing so because of promiscuity, but instances where that is not the case are definitely a minority.

  4. It would appear that the only reasonable solution is to not involve Mama government at all. Impose no laws defining what abortion is or isn't, and let judges interpret already existing laws. If they think it's murder, it is. If they don't it isn't. Then you would tend to get judges who agree with the general position of their locale, allowing people to choose where they live based on the position of that locale. The fed doesn't need to be involved, it'll only serve to inflame the issue and restrict the right of people to live their lives the best way they can.

  5. I don't think your first argument makes any sense. If I believe that it's okay for any two unmarried consenting adults to have sex, how does that make abortion necessary? What if I believe that it's okay for two unmarried consenting adults to have sex, as long as they are willing to take responsibility for the consequences?

    There are so many instances in which abortion has nothing to do with marital status, or even personal responsibility. I think most people (some notable politicians excluded) would allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest, or where pregnancy threatened the life of the mother. And there are cases of fetuses with genetic disorders, such as trisomy 13, which will not cause a miscarriage or threaten the life of the mother, but usually result in a baby that dies within the first year (with terrible quality of life). These are dark, awful choices to make, but these circumstances exist. I don't care if they're only .5% of all abortions or whatever - the right to choose in these situations needs to be protected.

    But I don't want the government to say things like, "If your fetus has trisomy 13, you can abort it, but if it has Down Syndrome you have to keep it" or "If your fetus has a heartbeat, you can't abort" or "Your doctor doesn't have to tell you if your baby has a problem, since you might abort" or "If you can prove that you were a victim of rape or incest, you can abort." Leave it up to the woman and her doctor. This is why I'm pro-choice - nothing to do with my views on sex inside/outside marriage.

    If 99.5% of abortions are out of convenience, that's a symptom of other problems with our society - poor sex education, too much casual sex, a culture that doesn't value human life, selfishness, poverty, lack of access to good jobs and daycare, whatever. Let's investigate why women choose this, and tackle those problems.

  6. Thanks for that stat (and by the way, for those curious, here is a link to back it up ).

    Also relevant: 51% of American adults are married (source: ). So yes, abortion is disproportionately common among women who are not married.

  7. I also have started to consider the idea that the government shouldn't be involved at all. If there are going to be restrictions on abortion, doctors should be in charge of that, not politicians who have no idea about the practical side of health-related things.

  8. The first argument is my attempt to account for why feminists are overwhelmingly pro-choice. If it's fine for any 2 consenting adults to have sex, regardless of commitment between them, then the burden of the pregnancy falls entirely on the woman- and one can argue that this is sexist and unfair. If the argument doesn't make sense, well that's because I don't agree with it, or maybe I am not representing it well.

    I think you make a good point about how the real causes of abortion need to be addressed, rather than politicians trying to make a bunch of detailed laws about when it is and is not okay to have an abortion. I have heard of far too many cases were bureaucracy overwhelms common sense/ actual health concerns.