The Conflict Over the Abortion Issue
In a perfect world, the outcome of a woman getting pregnant would be that a baby would be born and raised in a loving, caring, comfortable family. Surely everyone can agree on that.
Unfortunately, even though we can make the world a far better place than it is now, it is not perfect. Unwanted pregnancies do occur, and many children are born into this world either because their parents did not know how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, or were unable to prevent it for some reason.
The main problem is, therefore, the lack of proper and comprehensive sex education, and the lack of safe, affordable, effective birth control methods.
A secondary problem is the inability to detect an unwanted pregnancy when it occurs, along with the inability or unwillingness to abort the pregnancy as soon as possible, so that, ideally, it is during the first trimester while the embryo is undeveloped and before it becomes a viable fetus.
To compound those problems, there is a raging conflict over the use of birth control and abortion, and that conflict has caused a lot of problems and even tragedies.
On one side of the conflict are Pro-Choice advocates, who feel that women should have the right to choose birth control and abortion services if wanted or needed. But they are opposed by a loud and aggressive minority of people, many of whom believe birth control is wrong, and all of whom believe that abortion is wrong and vehemently insist it should be illegal as it once was.
Those who are fighting against abortion in America claim they are fighting to "ensure Christian values." However, they simply ignore the will of the vast majority, and they simply ignore Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Through successful political action and legislation, the Christian Right has forced public schools to teach a very counterproductive curriculum based on repression and abstinence, instead of providing children and youth with a practical, comprehensive sex education about human sexuality, birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
In America, about 73 percent of the American people believe that all children can and should benefit from comprehensive sex education, and that if teens are sexually active they should have access to contraceptives. However, in spite of that, the Christian Right aggressively pushed and imposed political legislation, and they overruled the majority because they’ve had considerable influence over Congress, state legislatures, and local school boards, especially with regard to what our children are being taught (or not taught) about sex in school.
In 1996, as part of the "welfare reform" program, Congress voted to spend $250 million over five years to develop an "Abstinence Only" curriculum. Schools are bribed by being eligible for these funds only if they teach that: 1) sexual abstinence has psychological and health benefits; 2) Contraceptives are prone to failure and negative consequences; 3) Sexual activity outside marriage is abnormal and likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects; and 4) Out-of-wedlock child bearing is likely to harm the child, the parents, and society.
To make matters worse, during the last fourteen years, many schools have been distributing "standard guidelines" built around the abstinence-only curriculum. The trouble is, those "guidelines" were published by a right-wing partisan religious "Christian" group, and their literature contains misinformation and thinly disguised puritanical propaganda throughout. It completely avoids teaching young people what they really should know about sex, and it goes so far as to claim that premarital or out-of-wedlock sex "leads to suicide."
All that is in violation of the U.S. Constitution, since its proponents clearly have a theocratic political agenda. And, besides that, it is a counter-productive, failed approach. Research studies have shown that the "just say no" abstinence-only approach has had little impact on most young people’s behavior, and the impact it has had has been more negative than positive. Furthermore, by contrast, research studies have shown that the participants of more sensible comprehensive sex education programs actually benefitted from that education, because it delayed the onset of sexual activity, and then increased their use of contraceptives, reduced their number of sexual partners, and reduced teen pregnancy.
Therefore, to resolve this conflict, we need to be rational and realistic.
The fact is that unplanned and unwanted pregnancies do occur, as they always have and always will. Furthermore, many impregnated women either cannot afford to raise a child, or for some other reason would face hardship or problems if they were to have to give birth to a child. So, the question is whether women who find themselves in that predicament should have a choice in the matter, or not.
We should all understand why Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. law which established a woman’s right to abortion, was enacted.
Prior to that, abortion was illegal in the U.S., and, consequently, many women were being maimed or killed by botched illegal abortions. The mortality rate for women had been growing, and many people felt that such "back alley" procedures contributed to the increase in deaths of women. (You can watch the great movie starring Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, Love With a Proper Stranger, which helped to make people aware of the problem at that time).
However, another very valid reason for making abortion legal was to reduce the rates of child abuse and neglect.
The Roe vs. Wade law acknowledged that one of the reasons the death rate for women was high was because many women could not accept that they had no choice but to give birth when they got pregnant, even if they did not really want or could not afford to have a child, and consequently opted for an abortion even though it was illegal.
Therefore, the probability is that if abortion were to be made illegal again, deaths due to botched illegal abortions would once again occur, child abuse and neglect would increase.
Furthermore, domestic violence would probably increase, because when parents have unwanted children, or cannot afford to sufficiently feed or clothe or house the children they have, it causes guilt, frustration and anger, and it creates many problems.
Those are facts we must face, and they should mitigate any other considerations, if we are rational and realistic about this issue.
Of course, a small minority of people have claimed otherwise. But we should remember that the Anti-Abortion Crusade was begun in the late 1970s by sanctimonious leaders of the American "Christian Right." They thought they had found a cause and a fight they would win, and they thought they would stand on high moral ground with this issue.
The record, however, clearly shows otherwise. After all, many of their words and actions have been bigoted and hypocritical, and they have caused a lot of conflict, division, anger, violence, death, grief, and suffering. In fact, the most malicious and hypocritical of the so-called "Pro-Life" (Anti-Abortion) forces have bombed medical clinics and killed health professionals to try to impose their will and force their beliefs on the rest of us. And despite the fact that they are in a small minority, they are still causing grief and despair for many women.
Furthermore, the Christian Right’s anti-abortion campaign is just as counterproductive as the "abstinence only" programs they want to completely replace proven, effective, comprehensive sex education programs in our schools (see the page on the Man-Woman Relationship). The evidence is clear that in countries where such realistic sex education is taught in public schools, and where contraceptive programs are readily available, abortion rates are very low. But, by contrast, in countries like the U.S. where women's reproductive rights are under siege by antiquated religious ideas pushed by anti-abortion forces, abortions rates are very high. That shows that prudish, rigid, unreasonable dictates are counterproductive.
Besides that, polls show that most of us still feel their anti-abortion crusade is misguided and wrong. Most of us feel that abortion should be legal, especially if its within the first trimester or first three month of pregnancy before the fetus is viable. Most of us feel that the leaders of the anti-abortion forces are arrogant and offensive, especially since some of them still harass and harangue young pregnant women who have enough trouble as it is. Hard feelings still persist because of all that, and it is one of the main reasons people are so divided and polarized over this issue.
Of course, bigoted and hypocritical right-wing preachers like Pat Robertson are largely responsible for that. After all, he said absurdly false and deceptive things like this: "(Planned Parenthood) is teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism...."
Robertson and other leaders of the "Christian Right" deceptively tried to demonize Planned Parenthood and the Pro-Choice Movement (along with all other liberals and progressives), and the whole anti-abortion movement was and still is fueled by such deceptive and inflammatory rhetoric, spouting from the mouths of people who loudly and hypocritically claim to be Christians.
The murder and assassination of doctors and medical clinic staff, the bombing of medical clinics, the harassment and intimidation of troubled pregnant women in crisis, and the lack of proper regulation of medical clinics have been a very predictable result.
But it's no wonder. "Religious" zealots seem to think they can do no wrong if they do it in the "name of God." And terrorists, whether they claim to be Christians or Jews or Muslims, have no problem with committing mayhem, murder and destruction of property if they believe it is destroying "evil" as they self-righteously judge it.
Not only were staff and doctors who perform clinical abortions murdered, many other clinic staff and doctors were harassed and intimidated in a variety of different ways. Many have been given good and ample reason to fear for their lives, because their names have been posted on "hit lists" on the Internet. Moreover, in some cases, young, pregnant women in crisis, and even some who have desperately needed medically necessary abortions to protect their own lives, have been intimidated and harassed so mercilessly that they have been forced to flee to another state, and their lives have been jeopardized.
We need to face the fact that if abortion were to be illegal and against the law once again, as it was prior to 1973, women would still need and seek abortions. Consequently, many women would be cheated and taken advantage of, and, as I said, many women would be maimed or killed by botched amateur abortion procedures. Furthermore, if we were to again force women to bear children they don’t want or can’t care for or feed or clothe properly, many problems would only grow worse, including child abuse and neglect, and domestic violence.
A more sensible and rational approach would be to ensure that all women of child-bearing age have ready access to safe and affordable birth control. That is paramount. And, in cases where birth control was not used or not effective and unwanted pregnancy is the result, women ought to have two easy options –– to either arrange for the baby to be adopted if they wish to carry the pregnancy to term, or to have the pregnancy terminated, preferably during the first trimester (the first three months), before the fetus is viable, unless it is absolutely necessary later due to medical emergency.
Whatever the case, abortion should not be undertaken lightly, and it really should not be used as birth control method because a woman or man simply preferred not to use safe and effective birth control method before or while having sex. Failing that, abortion should be a last resort, honestly needed.
Unfortunately, many "religious" right-wing partisan political ideologues still claim abortion is wrong any time after conception, and they think they should rule because they are "Patriotic Christians."
They apparently don’t care that they betray the core teachings of Jesus, nor do they care that they violate Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the clear intent of the Founding Fathers.
They apparently don’t care that they want to take free choice away from women, and that they are presumptuous in their assumption that there will be help for pregnant teens and other women who are virtually forced to give birth. The fact is that in many cases, there is no help, and in many cases caring for an unplanned for or unwanted child causes a lot of worry, stress, and conflict in poor households that were struggling to make ends meet in the first place.
In the final analysis, the main issue here is a woman’s right to plan her family, and to choose and use whatever methods are currently available to prevent and avoid pregnancy if and when she chooses. And, if an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy does occur, that right should extend naturally to using modern medical means to abort that pregnancy during the first trimester if she chooses. That should be a woman’s right and prerogative, and it should be her free choice.
To say otherwise would be to reduce a woman to the status of chattel and breeding stock. It would be telling her that her body is not her own, but the property of her father or husband or the state. It would be telling her that her body is meant solely to produce offspring, no matter what, even if and even when it would be against her wishes and against her will. It would be telling her that she has no rights and no choice in the matter.
That is why the Christian Right is so wrong about this issue, just as it is wrong about so many other issues.
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