When we speak about abortion, we speak in hushed tones and tread around each other for the sake of formality. We avoid engaging in debate for the sake of courtesy. I do mean debate in the sense of “pro-life v. pro-choice,” but I’m arguing for shifting the debate. It is time we stop arguing from the irreconcilable stances of “pro-life v. pro-choice,” and start focusing on the true, actual data.
One in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45 (1). This is an astronomical number of women. If we instead focused on this statistic rather than waste our breaths arguing over what constitutes a life and what does not, we could focus on making abortion much safer for women. Abortions will occur, regardless of whether we restrict it further or make it completely illegal. We have to ask ourselves as a society whether we want women seeking abortions to resort to the back-alley option that is unsafe, unsanitary and life-threatening? Enough with the debates over the government’s right to govern women’s bodies or the stance that a life is murdered. We need to focus on the women.
In the 1950s, the all-male board of doctors had to approve the abortion, and the procedure was contingent on the fact that the woman receiving one agreed to be sterilized as well (2). Can you believe this? They ripped motherhood away from women as if it was simply a thread we wore around our wrists, easily misplaced and easily misused. The medical community also insisted that pregnancy was incompatible with diseases; they spread the idea of the “gifts” of womanhood, even making women who did not want to carry a baby to the full-term to declare themselves as insane (2).
I think the real issue at the core of the wrong debate that runs rampant today is fear; we fear the power women have in separating reproduction and sexuality. We see it as unnatural, and frankly, threatening. In a world where, historically, women have never held real power, and now they have the power to separate sexuality and reproduction—two elements men have traditionally held domain over—abortion poses a threat. We see women who want the choice to govern their own bodies as intimidating, because men have traditionally held this power. We see women who want to simply enjoy sexual pleasure as aberrations. It's time we release ourselves from our antiquated ideas and accept a woman's autonomy over her own damn body.
One in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45. Instead of derailing women for daring to tell the world that their body is their own, we should focus on this statistic. Abortions are going to occur, so it's high time we stop arguing over morality or murdered lives or murderous inclinations. Get over your archaic ideals. We live in the modern world now where it's about damn time women get to decide what to do with their bodies.
Rickie Solinger. 1998. “Pregnancy and Power before Roe v. Wade, 1995-1970” In Abortion Wars. University of California Press.