Criminalizing Abortion Doesn’t Stop It

Birth Control Pill ContainerMy born again friend worries about me. I want to keep abortion safe and legal. But she wants me to shout down sinners and demand restrictions. I’ll go straight to Hell, for sure.

Truth is, I don’t really like abortion, and I wish that no woman ever felt a need to get one. At the same time I know that accidents happen, mistakes happen, that women become desperate, and that one third of American women have an abortion at some point in their lives.

I also know that criminalizing abortion doesn’t stop it.

A global study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute found that abortion rates are about the same in countries where it is legal and where it is not.

That’s because women seek out unqualified abortionists or try to do the job themselves. They are more likely to die or become injured or unable to bear children later, when they’re ready to be good parents.

Deaths among women seeking abortion decreased 90% when it was made legal in South Africa. And in Ethiopia, where the procedure is banned, abortion is the second-leading cause of death among women admitted to hospitals.

Instead of self-righteously condemning abortion, and making laws restricting access, why not do something that keeps women from feeling a need to get one?

So what prevents abortion?

Interestingly, the more openly a society discusses sexuality, the fewer abortions you get. After all, young people are more educated on their bodies and contraception – which is more available. Some parents worry that the sex talk will encourage experimentation, yet the reverse is true. Kids are less likely to become sexually active, and they are more responsible when the do.

Not surprisingly, the WHO global study found that that the best way to reduce abortion is to make contraception more widely available. When contraception increased in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism, abortion rates fell by 50%.

Meanwhile, in the US 93% of woman having an abortion are adults between the ages of 18-48, and half were using birth control.

Unfortunately, women don’t always use contraception flawlessly. Let’s say you’re on the pill and you remember to take it six hours late? Better use a backup because you are now at serious risk of pregnancy. If you miss two days the pill is considered ineffective.

Some only use condoms, leaving 15% of users getting pregnant, best case. Condoms combined with spermicide are a lot safer.

Long-lasting birth control is best, like surgery, an IUD or an implant inserted into the arm.

Secondary or emergency contraception also bring down abortion rates. But plenty of religious folks fight it, along with regular contraception.

I don’t get why those who yell loudest about the evils of abortion work so hard to take out the tools that prevent it. They worry over the evils of sex outside procreation. But abortion is better?

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Pro-Lifers Killing Kids
Are You Pro Life, Or Do You Just Want To Control Women?
Doctors Let Woman Die to Protect Fetus

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 6, 2013, in feminism, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I’ve been lucky enough to have never needed to use any form of contraception, since the only man I’ve ever had sex with had a vasectomy years before I met him 8 years ago. We also only have sex with each other, and he has no STDs to worry about. But, obviously mine is a outlier situation…most women aren’t so lucky to have a FwB like the one I have.

    Thus, I firmly believe in the need for truthful, rigorous sexual education in our schools and colleges. People are going to find ways to have sex, no matter what the “morality police” say. Why not make it safer, healthier, and better for everyone involved?

    As for your last paragraph there, I’ve been told by Christians that birth control is also an abortion, just not as messy. They seem to believe that every woman has an egg fully prepped for fertilization at any given moment, and birth controls that prevent ovulation is “going against the natural order” or “make a woman’s eggs go bad from disuse”. Others say that preventing an egg from being able to latch onto the uterine wall is murder, since it stops a “person” from fulfilling their life potential.

    The mental gymnastics required for some of these arguments is truly astounding.

    • Yes.

      And more mental gymnastics to be “pro-life” yet also against aid for healthcare, food stamps (half go to kids and another 30% to elderly and disabled) and laws that enable a living wage that would help families have food and healthcare. Not so pro-life it turns out.

  2. I’m at risk of going on a rant about this issue, but I will contain myself. Instead, let me say this:

    My hope is that abortion will be treated like divorce some day. Here is something that is a sin in many religions. BUT, there are some circumstances in which it would be seen as okay. So, divorce is legal. We can argue when it is and isn’t right to divorce, but we allow the individual to make the decision at the end of the day. I don’t see why abortion can’t be treated the same way. It’s still viewed as wrong. it’s still a sin for many people (outside of a few circumstances), but the individual is left to make their own decision based on their own morals.

    • Yes, there is definite disagreement on when life starts, so one group of people shouldn’t be pressing their religious and the Community of Christ.

      And again with the hypocrisy. The so-called pro-lifers don’t seem to be pro-life so much as pro-birth, probably because they want to control women and their bodies and don’t really care about life. So don’t let the gov feed hungry kids or give them healthcare.

  3. I’m personally against abortions, although if a woman decides to abort I respect their decision. After all its their life not mine. Every human body has a mind of their own. You aren’t “free” if you can’t control your own body. In my lifetime I’ve came across ladies whom have aborted before. One of them had multiple abortions, that’s where I became annoyed, saddened, mad. It struck me to have heard that one person had multiple abortions. In this case I believe the issue wasn’t even the unborn child the issue was her. I believe everyone commits mistakes yet their should be a limit to abortions yet again I stop to think, its worse for a woman to bring a child into this world and not take care of it and provide the love they deserve. Due to this, I believe that educating people especially teens about sex/contraception is very important. Most people aren’t ready for parenthood and what better way than educating people to prevent having a child. A child has no fault whatsoever. I dislike abortions, but I can’t make the decision for someone else.

  4. Truth is, I don’t really like wife bashing, and I wish that no man ever felt a need to do one. At the same time I know that accidents happen, mistakes happen, that men become desperate, and that one quarter of American wives are bashed at some point in their lives. (Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. National Institute of Justice)

    I also know that criminalising wife bashing doesn’t stop it. (One recent study, in Syria, a Muslim country where the rule of the Koran allows such discipline found that 25% of the married women surveyed said that they had been beaten by their husbands. The same rate as the US).

    Instead of self-righteously condemning wife bashing, and making laws restricting it, why not do something that keeps men from feeling a need to do one?

    Such wonderful arguments you make in favour of wife bashing. Probably we could deploy the same argument for theft, murder, and who knows what.

    • Hmm, amusing. And yet

      Your argument on Syria notwithstanding, criminalization actually does decrease wife-battering. Countries that don’t criminalize domestic violence have higher levels of it. The US rate is more like 15%, not 25%, anyway. Mandatory arrest has also been found to decrease domestic violence.

      Making battering illegal also does not cause women (or men) to take matters into their own hands, leading more often to death.

      Also, the people who are against domestic violence aren’t also against educating the public in ways that lesson it.

      And while so-called pro-lifers are against abortion, they have no problem cutting off food and medical care to actual children. Women who work to fight against domestic violence don’t simultaneously find other ways to beat women up.

      Because of work to end it, wife battering is down 65% since the early 1990s, according to Justice Bureau statistics, which are created by phoning people up and asking them whether crimes have been committed against them.

  5. “The so-called pro-lifers don’t seem to be pro-life so much as pro-birth, probably because they want to control women and their bodies and don’t really care about life. So don’t let the gov feed hungry kids or give them healthcare.”
    This is very true. The very same people that denounce abortion as evil tend to be the same people that complain about single parents bludging off the system.

    The fact is, sex is a normal part of life, sex makes babies, people are always going to have sex and accidents are always going to happen. Whether people like it or not, there are going to be times women feel they just cannot go through with a pregnancy. Stopping safe, legal abortion won’t stop abortion.

    A few years ago the law was changed here in Australia to make the morning after pill available over the counter. Prior to that you had to see a doctor first to get a prescription. I don’t know if this has affected the abortion rate, but I think it is a good thing, particularly for women in rural areas where getting in to see a doctor can mean a few days wait.

  6. I am very thankful for the use of contraception. I was first put on birth control when I was 17 to help regulate and lighten my periods. Shortly thereafter, I had my first boyfriend I had sex with on a consistent basis. At this point in my life I was not comfortable just using the pill so I used condoms as well. If you look at a box of condoms, it says they are 88% effective with perfect use…. Whatever that means. Isn’t that kind of terrifying?

    I think if one is going to be sexually active they should be on the pill, nuvaring, the rod in your arm, or something along those lines. They are MUCH more effective then condoms. However, they don’t protect from STDs so you should still use condoms too. Everybody lies. Just because someone seems like a nice guy doesn’t mean they don’t have any STDs. Always use protection.

    However, accidents happen. There is no 100% guarantee on any product that you wont end up pregnant. For this there are abortions. Of course I don’t like the idea of abortions, I don’t think anyone does, but it is comforting to know the option is there if something goes horribly wrong. Quit slut-shaming women in front of abortion clinics and telling them they’re going to hell. I can assure you, they are already in hell. You are only making it worse.

  7. In my own opinion and I am trying not to offend anyone but I would agree that it’s easy for someone to judge the situation of saying an abortion is a sin and you will be “going to hell” when they are not in the situation. They do not know how it feels. It takes more to be in it instead of just being against it. I am not saying that I am all in for women having an abortion and saying that I like abortions. I cannot even think about the sad thought. But I dont think that anyone else should take a rip away a woman’s right to her decision.

  8. Abortion is never a black or white issue. People cannot simply impose their views onto others. Sex is always a big part of life, and you’ll have to face all the possibilities it may bring to your life. It’s very true that if we enact abortion legal, we “assume” some women may do it again and again. That may happen, that’s also the “risk”. I’m not encouraging women to have unprotected sex just because we should make abortion legal and public. But when accidents( such as, sexual assault or violence and etc ) happen, we should figure out a way to protect those who indeed need the help/ protection. Stepping away from the problem doesn’t make it seem less worse. Considering the pros and cons, if one has made up her mind to go for abortion, she will always find a way. Why don’t we offer better clinics/ doctors before the accidents happen? Abortion is not a murder, neither is birth control!

  9. I have to start with I’m pro-life. With that out of the way, I’m glad that women have options and I agree that laws restricting abortion make worse scenarios. I’d much rather see a women get a safe abortion in a hospital or clinic than try to do one on their own or get one from a less-than-reputable source. The best way to avoid abortion is abstinence, but this is the real world and people are just going to keep doing what they’re doing. Ideally abortion wouldn’t happen at all, but we don’t live in a perfect world.

    Because we don’t know what the circumstances of some of these women are, it’s time to keep our noses out of their business. If I ever have a friend ask me what she should do, I will encourage her not to abort the pregnancy, but leave it up to her in the end. I can’t in good conscience condemn or judge her based on her decision.

  10. One of my girl friends had an abortion before. Her boy friend at that time did not come to the hospital with her. He paid a half of the medical bill. They broke up after the abortion. She was very depressed. I felt sorry for her at that time. I was upset about her boyfriend. I wish there were a way for him to feel the same what she experienced. If all the men could physically and emotionally feel what the women would go through, then the argument about abortion would definitely be more positive and progressive by now.

  11. I don’t like abortion either, and I wouldn’t go through with such a procedure myself. Things like complications, and perhaps even not being able to have babies in the future scares me,(especially since having a baby has always been a dream of mine) not to mention that I can’t help but think of the fact that it is “killing” something that is “living” in your body. However, I don’t think that it is something that should be illegal. The decision to have an abortion or not is a decision that should only be made by the woman who is pregnant. No one should be told what or not what to do with their body, they should be free to do with it as they please. I do however believe that a husband should have some say in the decision of an abortion. I’m not saying that the wife shouldn’t go through with an abortion if the husband doesn’t want to, because ultimately it is her body that is going to go through all the changes. But I do believe it is a conversation that a married couple should have. Just like the decision to have a baby should be made by both the wife and the husband, the decision to not have a baby should be the same.

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