As a rule, I avoid talking about abortion. People just get upset when they talk about abortion, even if they all agree. Only life experience (yours or a friend’s) is likely to change a person’s position on it. In conversation, people just get more and more angry. But I have some things I want to get off my chest.
To start with: Legally, abortion is a settled issue. The Supreme Court has decided. No matter what individual politicians believe, they will not change that. No leader of a major party is putting outlawing abortion into his platform. What any given member of parliament (or, in the US, congress) believes or wants to happen or says on the stump, it will not change. You are not required to like this, and I’m not going to enter into the rightness or wrongness of legalization of abortion here (see above); I recommend listening to several women who had had or have considered abortions rather than arguing about it online. But regardless of what you would like to be the case, political means will not change it now. Focusing on politicians’ positions is barking up the wrong tree.
What this also means is that making abortion a political issue can produce effects that are not consistent with your overall values. Have a look at the politicians who are vocally opposed to abortion. Some of them have positions that are in many ways the opposite of the teachings of Jesus. “For I was hungry,” Jesus might say to them at the end, “and you called me a parasite, I was thirsty and you sold my water, I was a stranger and you turned me away, I was naked and you arrested me, I was sick and you turned me over to profiteers, I was in prison and you threw away the key.” I will not say that all politicians who are opposed to abortion have these kinds of harmful views, because I know it’s not the case. But if you vote for a party that opposes abortion and against one that believes it should remain legal, in Canada and the US right now, you are voting for a party that has a track record of exactly this kind of behaviour. It may upset you that a politician or party is pro-choice, but in real terms their stance on that issue almost certainly makes no difference. Their stance on issues affecting the poor, the hungry, the displaced, and those who need care and forgiveness, on the other hand, may make very important, real differences.
I do not think it is the right thing to do to vote for those who would do harm, or against those who would do good, on the basis of their stated position on something that is a moot point. Results are what count. Many people who are pro-life recognize that those who are pro-choice are sincerely interested in women’s rights and health, but they object that those people are causing the death of children: their good intentions are, in their view, leading them to cause harm. Well, apply that line of thought here: your best intentions opposing abortion may lead you to do something that causes real harm.
Those who are pro-choice, of course, do not see an early-term, non-viable fetus as a fully developed human, and they are far more concerned for the fully developed human female whose life may, in our society, be derailed by a pregnancy. You may say they are wrong about the fetus not being human, but you are mistaken if you deny that a pregnancy carried to term can have disastrous consequences for women in some positions. And you are naive if you think that the women can just say “No” easily or just use birth control. Talk to more women with a wider variety of experiences in the world. It simply isn’t the case.
Abortion is a decision very few people take lightly. It is traumatic. It is an act of desperation. I am not aware of anyone on either side of the issue who wouldn’t want to see fewer unwanted pregnancies – fewer women who are in a position where abortion would seem like a viable way out. It’s the lines of thought on how to get there that differ. On one side, the view is that women should simply say no, or perhaps use birth control – though many people on that side are opposed to birth control. On the other side, the view is that women should be in better positions to say no if they want to, be in better positions to use birth control. Which, as it happens, is proven to be an excellent way of reducing abortion rates (here’s more on that). I have no hesitation in advocating equality for women and full availability of birth control. Also reproductive health counselling so that young women are fully aware of their contraceptive options (see above).
So. If you are opposed to abortion, and you would like to see fewer abortions, focus on what will produce that result and will not result in harm.Saying something should be the case and feeling morally right about it means little if as a result your actions, or the actions of those you support, are inevitably producing abhorrent results.
Abortion is an issue that lets people on both sides feel very righteously angry. That doesn’t really help anything. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, start by finding women who have had abortions or have considered having abortions. Don’t talk at them. Listen to them. Find out why they were in that position in the first place. Then work on doing what it takes to help other women not to be in that position. Effective things that actually work.
Because you know what they say about good intentions and the road to you-know-where. Good results matter a lot more.