One in four women will walk on eggshells around pro-lifers by the time she turns 45, all because she did the worst thing a woman can do: she chose to put herself first. Of course, many seem to take immense offense to women engaging in this sort of rational behavior, as evidenced in the recent op-ed by Patrick Czabala (23C) supporting the total ban of abortion. It is important to realize just how harmful anti-choice stances are. Touting an anti-choice (or, more accurately, a forced-birth) stance actively signals that you see women as less than human and implies that you believe they are unworthy of autonomous control over their own bodies. Women are more than human incubators that can be made to pump out children at the cost of their physical and mental health.
The pro-choice argument is founded on the belief that women have certain inalienable rights, such as bodily autonomy, freedom and agency. The other end of this spectrum call themselves “pro-life” and advocate for the forced birth of all fertilized human eggs – irrespective of what the woman wants. Calling a forced-birth stance “pro-life” is, in itself, ridiculously reductionist because it willfully ignores the impact childbearing has on a woman’s life, and excludes her from making choices that directly impact her future.
Childbearing is a physically taxing process, affecting a woman’s education, employment and salary potential. Only 40% of teen mothers graduate high school and less than 2% go on to graduate college by the age of 30. Clearly, rolling back access to abortion for young girls could leave lasting, agonizing impacts on their lives. Pregnant women are systematically passed over for promotions and raises, and fired or demoted if they complain. In male dominated industries, they are perceived as less competent and committed, and are excluded from vital career-shaping opportunities. Each child a woman has cuts her hourly wage by 4%. Women carefully consider these opportunity costs before they decide to bear children. Forcing women and girls to forsake their futures to grow and support cells that exploit their bodies against their will is inhumane. It breeds socioeconomic inequality by pulling strong, intelligent women out of industries that they would otherwise have contributed to greatly. Repealing abortion access strips women of their agency, signals that their pain is unimportant and implies that they should have no right to decide what their bodies are put through.
It is also important to note that Czabala’s forced-birth argument doesn’t only target women who engage in consensual sexual relationships, but also targets women and children who are pregnant as a result of assault. Last year, an 11-year-old child in Ohio was repeatedly raped by a 26-year-old man. Under Czabala’s call for a total ban on abortion, girls like her would be left with no option but to carry that child to term. It is blatantly obvious that leaving a sixth-grade child with no other option but to complete a pregnancy is heartbreakingly cruel, unethical and immoral.
Czabala addresses the burden pregnancy puts on women in two sentences, claiming the solution is to provide child support to mothers during pregnancy. Dr. Michael New of the University of Alabama found “regression results indicate that more state spending on [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] or [Aid to Families with Dependent Children] increases the incidence of abortion,” indicating that welfare payments do not incentivize people to have children that they do not want. Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term quadrupled the odds of low income mothers falling below the poverty line due to long-term costs associated with childbearing, which welfare payments during a pregnancy cannot solve. Having to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term is traumatic, physically invasive and allows for the policing of women’s bodies. No amount of government assistance can cushion the blow of robbing a woman of her free will, freedom and bodily autonomy. You cannot financially compensate freedom.
Czabala’s absurd suggestion to “[prosecute] offending abortion providers”overlooks that his suggestion only formalizes bans to safe abortion. A study by the Guttmacher Institute details how abortion rates are higher in states with more restrictive abortion laws, while abortion rates fall when citizens are given freer access to and education regarding abortions and birth control. Fueled by desperation, women who cannot legally obtain an abortion resort to unsafe induced abortions. Today, unsafe abortion is one of the five leading causes of maternal death, and has resulted in over 22,000 reported deaths of women and girls worldwide and has left 7 million girls injured or disabled. One in four pregnancies end in abortion — a statistic that will stand irrespective of the legality of abortion. Making sure that procedures are safe is of vital importance, unless we want the return of coat hangers and back-alley abortions.
It is important to remember that Czabala’s problematic point of view is unrepresentative of what the American population believes is right. Despite President Donald J. Trump’s disgraceful attempts to champion the legislative degradation of women’s rights, 78% of surveyed Americans said they believed that abortion should be legal under certain or all circumstances. Safe and accessible abortions will pave the way to a more equitable world.
So how can you reduce abortion rates without stripping women of the rights they deserve?
The solution is simple. You could start by supporting Planned Parenthood. It is important to have groups and institutions that spread awareness, help people understand and implement safe sex practices, make contraception accessible and help women understand their options. If you’re anti-choice, I urge you to look at the women around you and ask yourself whether the government forcefully snatching away their bodily autonomy is moral or constitutional. And, most importantly, vote Democrat in 2020 to show your support for basic human rights.
Rhea Gupta (23C) is from Mumbai, India.