The One About Abortion

Content warning: This essay is about a controversial topic. In it, I talk about some of the nasty ways pregnancy can go wrong. It gets gnarly. There is talk of gore, blood, death, etc. Please take care of yourself.

Okay. First of all, I've been on both sides of the abortion argument. I know that it is a topic that makes a lot of people very angry. So let's all look at some tasty pictures of ice cream from the Baskin-Robbins website to calm ourselves down.

Okay. Now remember: this is my opinion. You're probably not going to change your mind from reading it, and that's okay. Take a deep breath and remember: You are entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to mine. Ready? Let's go.

I don't like abortions. I hope to never get one. However, I am also of the opinion that barriers to abortion access are a problem, and that the existence of affordable, safe abortion access is a human-rights issue. Let's look at my reasons.

Things That Go Wrong With The Baby

First of all, things go wrong. It's rare, but it happens. And before we muddy things up with statistics, remember: a small percentage of a big number, is still a big number. Only 7% of Americans believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, for example, but that's still over 16 million people. So what can go wrong with a pregnancy?

Ectopic Pregnancy

Sometimes, the embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus (usually one of the Fallopian tubes). When this happens, that embryo is automatically doomed. The uterus is designed to stretch, so the embryo has plenty of room to grow into a baby. The Fallopian tubes, not so much. Within a few weeks, it will burst, killing both the embryo and the pregnant person. And despite what some politicians say, there is no possible way to re-implant that embryo somewhere else. It will die. It will die whether you get a normal abortion, a salpingectomy (which is basically an abortion with the extra step of removing the affected Fallopian tube), or just leave things untreated and wait for the other person involved to die too. In 100% of all scenarios, an ectopic pregnancy will not survive to become a newborn baby. It is physically impossible with the current state of modern medical technology.

Molar Pregnancy

Sometimes, you get an embryo that's a bit confused. Instead of growing into a baby, it grows into a funky little tumor called a teratoma. (Do not look up pictures of teratomas, especially if you're eating. They are basically pure body horror.) This kind of pregnancy is called a molar pregnancy. The procedure to remove the tumor from the uterus may not be killing a baby, but it's still an abortion. And without this abortion, the pregnant person can't have any children, because the teratoma is in the way, growing to fill the uterus like the world's nastiest balloon.

That's a nasty mental image. Here's some more ice cream as a palate cleanser.

Defects Incompatible With Life

This is the most heartbreaking subcategory of all. I'm not talking about a baby that will have a disability. People with disabilities live full, happy lives all the time. These are fetuses that are so deformed that they simply cannot live. If they survive the pregnancy, they are doomed to die within a few hours. We're talking babies without brains (anencephaly). Babies without lungs. Babies that I will not show pictures of because they will haunt your nightmares.

The saddest thing about this category is that it most often happens in a wanted pregnancy. 20 weeks in, the expectant parent goes to the hospital for an ultrasound. They may even have picked out a name already. And then, the attending physician tells them that something has gone horribly wrong. It's nobody's fault; it just happens sometimes. It is now the second trimester, and the family has to make a choice: prevent the child from suffering by having an abortion, or give birth to a doomed baby that they may never get to hold. This is the category that the vast amount of D&X abortions fall under. The procedure is designed to leave an intact body that the parents can hold and mourn before it is taken away.

Things That Threaten The Parent

Evolutionarily speaking, the purpose of all life is to make new life. But evolution, being an impersonal force of nature, doesn't have feelings. It doesn't and can't care whether the parents of that new life survive at all. We care, of course, because humans are social creatures and human babies need parents to teach them how to survive. But because your genes are passed on whether you live to see it or not, this means there are a whole mess of complications that can take place.

Some of those complications take place during childbirth itself. As cool as it is that we walk on two limbs, freeing up our hands to do other things, becoming bipedal made childbirth a whole lot harder than it is for other mammals. It's so bad that before modern medicine and sanitation, half of all women died in childbirth. Not half of all mothers--half of all women. Even now, 14 out of every 1,000 new mothers die in childbirth in the United States, and this number is three times higher for Black women.

Surviving childbirth doesn't mean that it doesn't damage your body, either. One-third of all new mothers find themselves with urethral, vaginal, or rectal prolapse, which can cause problems going to the bathroom or having sex if left untreated. The use of young women in commercials for incontinence pads is a reflection of this fact.

Pregnancy Complications

I once had a friend with multiple disabilities. She and her husband decided to have a baby. Because this would be a high-risk pregnancy, they would check in with doctors every single week to make sure nothing went wrong. But then, when she was 6 months along, her blood pressure changed so rapidly in the middle of the night that there was nothing anyone could do. She and the baby both died. While I am very sad that my friend is dead, I still support her right to choose to have a child, even though it went horribly wrong. After all, there was still a slim chance that it could have gone wonderfully right.

Being free of disabilities doesn't guarantee there won't be any complications; it just makes it less likely. Gestational diabetes, blood pressure changes, new allergies, being attacked by the baby's own blood because it has a different Rh factor. Some people go partially or completely deaf as a permanent complication of a pregnancy. It is not my place to decide what level of risk is acceptable for another person. Each individual person has to weigh the risks themselves before undergoing a major event like pregnancy.

Violence And Suicide

Some people have a major pregnancy phobia. They view the situation of a baby growing inside of them with the same revulsion as you or I view the chest-bursting monsters from the movie Alien. If forced to carry a pregnancy to term, many of them will commit suicide.

Again, I mentioned an extreme case, but let's not kid ourselves. In places and times where abortion is illegal, women have gone to extreme and dangerous lengths to try to self-abort, or committed suicide. These women deserve our compassion, not our scorn. A lot of these desperate women had abusive spouses, and refused to have a child with them. Abusive spouses and boyfriends are a real threat, too: women are statistically more likely to be murdered while pregnant than at any other time. In these situations, an abortion could very well save a life.

Rape And Incest

A few weeks before I wrote this essay, a 10-year-old little girl made the news. She had been molested and was pregnant, and had to cross state lines into Indiana to get an abortion. As horrible as it is for a child to be molested, for an elementary-school girl to find herself pregnant, for her parents to have to choose to either leave the state or risk their daughter's survival, some politicians and pundits decided to make it worse. They argued that the child wasn't raped. Since 10-year-old children cannot legally consent to sex, yes, the child was raped. Little girls are not ready to have sex. Their bodies are not ready to bear a child. They are not emotionally mature enough to be parents. End of story. Children like this little girl (whose name was, thankfully, not made public) are on the extreme end of the rape and incest category, but they matter. These girls are generally not having sex with other children. Among pregnant girls aged 15 and younger, the median age of the baby's father is thirty-one. They are being molested by adults, often their fathers, uncles, or another friend that their family thought they could trust. They didn't choose to have sex. They certainly didn't choose to become parents. To pretend that they are not victims of a horrible crime is itself monstrous.

Even if the rape victim is an adult, state laws can have a chilling effect on the lives of people who have children as the result of rape. Several US states allow a rapist custody of his victim's baby, even if said victim has filed a restraining order against him. Imagine not only having to bear your rapist's baby, having to raise a living reminder of your own violation for 18 years, but also having to see your attacker again and again because he has custody of the child.

We also live in a world in which "corrective" rape of lesbians and trans people is rampant. Placing barriers on abortions due to rape means that these people suffer an additional indignity. Pregnant trans people have to stop taking hormonal treatments, because they can damage the baby. Trans men with gender dysphoria will find that dysphoria becoming worse if they have to watch their own bodies swell with pregnancy. Preventing LGBT+ people from being able to have an abortion is cruelty.

That's a really heavy topic. Ice cream time!

Not Wanting A Baby

Some people want a baby, but not right now. Some people don't want a baby at all. Some people were traumatized by abuse and are terrified of continuing the cycle if they ever have children. Should these people be forced to be parents against their will?

Children know when they are unwanted. This fact has been verified in many scientific studies. Being raised by parents who don't want you can cause a laundry list of psychological problems. Even if a child is adopted at birth by loving parents, they will still carry the burden of knowing that their own birth parents did not want them. There are already 400,000 children in the US foster system. Half of all young people who age out of the foster system at 18 end up homeless within a year. Preventing elective abortions means that more children will end up in an underfunded and understaffed foster care system.

Even when you want a baby, you can't always afford to have a baby. A survey of women in the US who had had abortions found that 68% of them already had children at home and would be unable to feed another child. Add to this the fact that a normal delivery with no complications can easily cost over $10,000 in the United States, and access to abortion becomes an important issue for women in poverty.

Anti-Abortion Laws Do Not Cause Fewer Abortions

In Denmark, abortion has very few legal restrictions. Abortions are paid for by the state with tax money, as is aftercare. The abortion rate in Denmark in 2013 was 12.1 abortions per 1000 women aged 15–49 years.

In the United States before Roe v. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court, abortion was technically legal in every state. However, some states had only one abortion clinic, and others required waiting periods and invasive tests in an attempt to lower abortion rates. Even with all these restrictions in place, in 2011, nearly 17 out of every 1000 women in the US got an abortion.

The real way to cut down on abortions, based on the available data, is to increase funding to childcare of all sorts, including programs like WIC. However, the same politicians who ban or restrict abortions also cut funding to social programs that would actually help parents take care of children. To the politicians, it's not about babies or the sanctity of life. It's about controlling women and other people who were AFAB.

That is why, despite not liking abortions, I support free and legal access to abortion for everyone who has a uterus. Restricting or banning abortion causes suffering for both the pregnant person and the baby. Abortions should be safe, legal, and free. Period.

Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's calm down with another picture of ice cream.

I hope you have a good day, whether you agree with me about abortion or not. And maybe treat yourself to a little ice cream soon.