Content warning for this post, it delves into some difficult, and emotional territory.
Over on the Coalition website, I have been debating the challenging and charged topic of abortion. It goes without saying that there are a lot of powerful opinions on this subject, and not a lot of consensus. I do not expect there to ever be an agreement as to what’s best on this subject.
Where do I stand? I am pro-choice. As a man, I am not subject to the physical and psychological impact of pregnancy and childbirth. I am not expected to give up my career and ambitions in order to raise a child. Becoming a father changed my life, but if I were a woman, it’s fair to say becoming a mother would have changed my life a lot more.
Tied into the topic of abortion is the subject of gender roles. In some parts of the world (the USA in particular is going to come up here), matters of the cost of having a baby will come up, and tied into all of that is the subject of what it means to be pro-life. I have my views, and I know other people have very different views.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Sex is a natural act, and it is an expression of intimacy between two people who love each other. I know people who argue for abstinence, or for non-reproductive sexual acts, but at the end of the day, couples will be couples, that is reality, that is life. It is quite arrogant to expect loving couples to practice abstinence (and I know of some people who rather pompously have made this argument, having failed to practice themselves!), so the less-prudish among us have devised various forms of contraception. Contraception is not 100%, but most forms are highly effective, and some can be used in conjunction with one another (for example, a man can use a condom, regardless of whether their partner is on the pill or not).
There are rare occasions where contraception fails, and there are occasions where couples will have sex without any form of protection. In a lot of cases, women feel pressured into sex, and in others, the available contraception is limited in quality, and therefore effectiveness. To quote from the link:
The report outlined that gender inequality and stalled development, drive high rates of unintended pregnancies.
For example, an estimated 257 million women around the world who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe, modern methods of contraception.
And where data is available, nearly a quarter of all women, feel unable to say no to demands for sex.
A range of factors also contribute to unintended pregnancies, including a lack of sexual and reproductive healthcare; contraceptive that does not suit women’s circumstances; harmful norms surrounding women controlling their own bodies; sexual violence and reproductive coercion; and shaming in health services.
These all reflect the pressure that societies place on women and girls to become mothers.
These problems contribute to another problem: maternal deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth:
Over 60 per cent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion and an estimated 45 per cent of all abortions are unsafe, accounting for five to 13 per cent of all maternal deaths recorded, according to the UNFPA’s flagship State of World Population 2022 report.
Another school of thought is that a lack of sex education, combined with unreasonable Puritan attitudes, contributes to sexual ignorance, but that leads me away from where this post is going.
The Cost of Living
In recent years, the cost of living has been a real problem for many people around the world, but to focus on the USA for a moment, real wages have not increased for decades. It goes without saying that economic problems afflict the poor hardest; look at how the likes of Musk, Bezos etc have gotten richer over the past few years, whilst the average American has barely seen their wages go up. What’s worse is how so many are manipulated into thinking that any sort of tax hike on the rich would be bad for the average American. The idea that the rich and powerful should almost be allowed to rip people off, lest ‘Marxist plot!’ get shouted from the rooftops, is an unfortunate, yet very real one. In a way, it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome. We’ve allowed ourselves to be conditioned into believing the billionaires and their huge companies care about us, and that they can be trusted to put their money to good use – by keeping it far, far away from the hardest workers.
I have often been accused of wanting to strip away other people’s money to offer it up as handouts. That’s not true, but no matter how many times I explain my position, others seem determined to misrepresent it. I argue for the super-rich folk like Bezos, Zuckerberg etc, to pay their fair share, and to pair their workers their fair share. They have enough money to do so. There is enough money in the system to pay people a fair, living wage, whilst still allowing for the rich to remain very rich and very comfortable. I have explained this, numerous times, yet this explanation repeatedly falls on deaf ears.
Some people regard taxation as theft. Would those same people suggest key public services be placed at the sole mercy of companies answerable to shareholders, instead of the public? We’ve seen what happens when healthcare is left to private devices – it financially cripples people. We’ve seen how privatised railways in the UK led to deadly accidents, owing to inept management. Plus, how do these objectors suggest services be funded? Should fire services, transport infrastructure, police, and God forbid, the military, rely on private donations? Where does the line get drawn? To what degree can people – especially the super-rich – be relied upon or persuaded to part with their money, out of the goodness of their hearts, to help others?
Some people regard any form of nationalised service (such as a healthcare service) as being a form of theft. Never mind that they face insane costs for any hospital stay, never mind what they face for any type of intense treatment or medication, it seems for some reason, they’d rather accept that, than contribute a small portion of their taxes to a healthcare system. There are numerous models for nationalised healthcare around the world, and those systems work. Ask the peoples of Japan, Australia, France, Denmark, Sweden etc if they’d rather have their robust, effective nationalised healthcare, or the USA’s hideously expensive system, that often leaves people torn between feeding their families, or that life-saving medication they need.
This does all connect to the topic of abortion. It is not (despite protests from some) a decision taken for the sake of ‘convenience’. If a couple who are in love are doing the deed (which is entirely natural and to be expected) and then they discover a baby is on the way, there are numerous factors to consider. ‘Can we give our baby the love and devotion they need? Can we afford for one of us to take time off work for maternity leave, or even to quit working completely? Can we afford the hospital bills for all the scans, to say nothing of the actual birth? Can we afford all the vaccinations and check-ups and everything else that goes with having a child?’
In most countries, those questions do not even need to be asked. Most countries offer paid maternity and paternity leave, for several months at least. Most countries do not have healthcare services that charge someone thousands of dollars to give birth. Sure, insurance can cover some of that cost – if you are able to get insurance.
Do you know how much I paid when my wife gave birth to my daughter? Zero.
To vehemently protest abortion, whilst offering no desire to fix the broken system that makes even giving birth alone a potentially bankrupting affair, is to be rather callous about it all. From the side-lines, it is very easy to proclaim ‘don’t do the deed’, and it is easy to say ‘not my problem’ if someone gets pregnant by accident, and cannot afford to raise a kid. It is easy to say ‘I’m pro-life’, yet so many pro-lifers are more than to happy to declare ‘you’re on your own, you shouldn’t have any assistance’, once the child is born. Add to this mix the earlier problems with sexual ignorance and coercion, and you have a recipe for complete disaster, with some rather hypocritical, contradictory stances on display.
The bottom line? If you are all for forcing women to have children against their will, you should be prepared to make sure their reasons for wanting abortions (such as not being able to afford to have children) are removed. Even then, my view is that women should have the final say, but if you are truly pro-life, your interest should extend beyond forcing women to give birth. If you do not care what happens after that point, you are not pro-life, and should not pretend to be.