An Open Letter To Those Who Are 'Concerned About Women Using Abortion As Birth Control'
Dear People Who Keep Saying, Over and Over Again, "I Just Don't Want Women Using Abortion as a Form of Birth Control,"
Abortion is in the news, everyone's talking about all the new anti-abortion bills being signed in various states, and you're looking for a thing to say that sets you apart from the "extremists" on both sides. You've settled on this. It's an oldie, but a goodie, and you believe it says to the world "I am a fair-minded person who is not a monster."
I know you consider yourselves very reasonable people with moderate opinions, the kind any reasonable person ought to agree with. In fact, you probably picked it up from someone you thought sounded very reasonable. You are probably constantly saying all kinds of other very reasonable things like "I'm socially liberal, but fiscally conservative" and "There are three sides to every story: What he said, what she said, and the truth somewhere in the middle," you're tired of "identity politics," and you wouldn't consider yourself a feminist because you don't "hate men." You think we should help people who are really poor, but your brother-in-law's third cousin has seen people at the grocery store who do not even look poor using EBT cards, and you just think most of them are probably abusing the system.
You probably also have a whole lot to say about how you are doing paleo or keto now. I would imagine. Or whatever the new diet of the moment is, I don't know, but at least you're not talking about gluten anymore. Either way, I am sure that your Instagram is very compelling.
That being said.
I want you to take a deep breath, let it all out and let your whole body relax, because I am going to give you some very good news: THAT IS NOT A THING.
It seems like a thing, because people repeat it so often that it feels like it must be a thing, right? Why would everyone say it all of the time if it were not a thing?
I'm going to ask you to take a moment and think about what that would entail. It would require that a significant amount of women out there were either very evil or very stupid, and were going around regularly saying, "EH, I guess I could use some form of birth control, but screw it! If I get pregnant, I will just have an abortion." That this was, at least, a common enough thing that there ought to be a law.
Is it possible that this has happened before, in the history of the world? Sure it is. Lots of people do lots of things. Ted Bundy faked a broken arm in order to get women to help him with his groceries so he could murder them, there are people out there with Munchausen's by proxy who poison their kids in hope of getting sympathy, but we cognitively understand that these people are outliers and that every man with a broken arm is not a serial killer, and every parent of a child with a cold is not Dee Dee Blanchard. Were one to go around thinking that, it would be fair to say that they have a very low opinion of men and mothers. Yet, even as someone with a very low opinion of men, I cognitively understand that they are not all Ted Bundy. Perhaps not even the majority of them.
Let us consider, for a moment, what would actually go into "using abortion as birth control." First, you have your previously mentioned "Eh, screw it, if I get pregnant, I'll just get an abortion" woman. That is one factor. The second factor here is money. Abortions cost, on average, $300-$950 in the first trimester. So what you need in order for this to work is a woman who isn't going to bother with any kind of birth control, and yet, simultaneously, has enough disposable income to spend that kind of money on an abortion. Regularly.
We then have to consider the fact that, like pretty much all medical operations, getting an abortion is not really a very enjoyable experience. That is also a factor in the pathology of our hypothetically very common woman who goes around using abortion as birth control. When was the last time you met a woman who even liked going to the gynecologist for a pap smear?
So now you've got a reasonably well-off woman who feels like it is a better time to get and pay for an abortion than to use a contraceptive of some kind. Let us hypothesize, for a moment, that a reasonable enough number of these women exist. Out of all those who need abortions, who is going to be the most likely to be financially able to cross state lines to get one safely and legally?
Additionally, do you believe that such women are responsible enough to do everything necessary to carry a baby to term? Or to raise a child? Is this imaginary woman really someone who should even be pregnant in the first place? Are you concerned about the fetuses, or are you angry, frightened and repulsed by the moral character of this hypothetical woman?
It's not just that this statement "feels reasonable" if one does not think on it too deeply. There is something easy about this hypothetical woman, something almost comforting in its familiarity. We are taught, from folk songs, fairy tales, Bible stories, movie etc., what makes a good woman and what makes an evil one. The good woman is selfless, is beautiful but doesn't know it, is willing to sacrifice her own life for her child's. The evil woman is vain, selfish, sexually manipulative and, well, very often prone to killing or trying to kill her own children or step-children.
And of course, there are occasions where the sinful woman gets a redemption arc, where she is turned into a good woman, often by learning the value of sacrificing herself or her own happiness for others. Like in Camille when Greta Garbo dumps Robert Taylor "for his own good," because being in love with a courtesan would destroy his reputation or whatever.
And then she dies of consumption, all of her past sins purified, I suppose.
These are, not coincidentally, the same characteristics brought to mind with this hypothetical woman using abortion as birth control. It is not a coincidence that this is the same kind of redemption arc many like to imagine would occur if women were forced to give birth.
But we don't live in a world of Virgin Marys and Evil Queens and whores with redemption arcs brought about by true sacrifice. That is fiction, and we can't legislate for a fictional or hypothetical world. Or at least we're not supposed to. And, quite frankly, it's also not your business to try and force a redemption arc on anyone.
And so I beg of you. Find another damn argument.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse