The 2018 midterm elections brought a blue wave to the House of Representatives and many governor’s offices. Along with them, the Democrats brought the first Muslim women into Congress, the first lesbian native, the first openly bisexual congressperson, and the first openly gay governor. Many of the newly elected officials were running on a platform consisting partly or mostly of abortion rights. Abortion is one of the most controversial issues of our time, becoming such with the landmark court case, Roe v Wade in 1973. Ever since there have been efforts within the states to roll back or restrict access to abortion. From laws on clinic hallway width to fetal heartbeat laws to extreme late-term abortions, legislators remain steadfast in the push and pull of this intensely debated issue.
With all the concern from both liberals and conservatives over abortion, the subject doesn’t appear to be well understood. Much of the discussion surrounds the wrong questions and the wrong premises, one of the most detrimental being the idea that abortion is a woman’s issue. Democrats argue that Republicans want to repeal women’s rights, and Republicans argue, albeit somewhat secondarily, that Democrats don’t care about women’s health. These arguments ignore the underlying philosophical questions of the ethics of abortion. In independent circles, that part of the conversation is frequently brought up, but even then, it is rarely brought up alongside a discussion of policy relating to abortion as a whole. There will be conversations solely about whether or not a fetus is a person. In reality, that conversation needs to be present in the greater debate.
A common rebuttal is that stripping away abortion rights would mean stripping away some aspect of women’s rights. This makes sense, as pregnancy requires a uterus, but that is where the connection ends. Abortion is no more a women’s issue than war is a men’s issue. There is a commonly argued point in some feminist circles that goes, “If men got pregnant, abortion would be legal everywhere” or “’If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament‘”. Even well respect presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said, “If men were giving birth to babies, there would not be a lot of discussion regarding the right to choose.” Sanders says this as if abortion is not a matter of morals, as if it is not a matter of health, and further, as if 50% of women are not pro-life.
The Numbers Don’t Add Up
If abortion was truly a women’s issue like suffrage, the equal pay act, or the right to work, wouldn’t you expect more of a consensus among women? Of course, there will be outliers, even today there are women who oppose the vote and women’s right to work. However, the vast majority of women do not fight against their own liberation. The people fighting both for and against abortion have their reasons outside flimsy assertions based only on gender politics. This false impression stems partly from a misunderstanding of the issue, and partly from sadly ironic sexism.
Subjective Morality of Abortion
Firstly, not only is abortion, not a women’s issue, it isn’t even an issue of fact. The morality issue of abortion rests on the subjective philosophy of whether or not a fetus is a person. Beyond that, if it is determined that a fetus is a person, at any point in gestation, it needs to be determined if we as a society value the life of an unborn child (or potential child) over the developed life of a teenager or adult. There is no definitive answer to that. If the conversation about abortion never recognizes such, it will never get anywhere productive. Sciences such as embryology and neurology can supplement the conversation. However, science will never be the foundation.
Brash Claims Made by the Pro-Choice Movement
Secondly, many pro-choicers claim that men coerce women into “anti-women politics”. This completely misses the real issue in question. It is also entirely sexist., it implies that women are not decision making individuals worthy of holding dissenting opinions. It’s strange that so many feminists push this idea onto pro-life women. The people who do this ignore and belittle the valid and noble points on both sides. Because we must address legitimate issues both pro-lifers and pro-choicers bring to the table.
How Do We Make Progress?
Abortion affects the lives of millions of people worldwide, and the conversation is reaching a fever pitch. It needs to be addressed both politically and individually. Progress is difficult when people misunderstand abortion or write it off as strictly a women’s issue. Abortion is a hard issue to grapple with and it takes honesty and intelligence to understand. Its nuance and complexity are precisely what makes it such a controversial topic. It requires maturity and clarity from both sides of the argument.
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