What Changed My Stance on Abortion

The Supreme Court, with Amy Coney Barrett now on the bench, revived the abortion pill restriction in the midst of a worsening global pandemic. I was brought back to the losing battle the pro-choice movement has fought against the pro-life narrative. In this narrative, Justice Coney Barrett is a savior, who will steer the court in the next inevitable lawsuit brought about from a state’s restrictions on abortion. But what I know, as someone who was staunchly in the pro-life camp, is that many are fighting a battle they do not understand.

I was raised in the South as a homeschooler. My science lessons came from a book titled, Why Evolution is a Lie. Books of fiction aimed at teaching us moral lessons like the cruelty of abortion, with a teen girl’s parents attempting to force her to get one. Any information we received was intended to sway us in some way, solidify our beliefs in the cement of religion.

I had no actual understanding of abortion or the context it was made legal and later made a political issue. When my views were questioned, my lack of understanding of abortion became apparent, and I began to make up for my years of homeschool science education. In my research, I compiled what I found and present it here to demystify the process for others who grew up sheltered or have no knowledge of the details in their stance one way or another.

The conclusion I came to is this. The United States has no right to limit abortion because the government cannot and does not regulate sex. Rather, abortion does not break legal, moral, or Biblical law and in fact protects women.

Origins of the Issue

When Roe v. Wade was decided, it was ignored by the public. It was a non-issue, and it was only when Republicans realized it would be a useful issue to draw in the Evangelical vote, an “untapped market” that it gained traction.

The political beginnings of abortion are largely ignored, but important for establishing the pro-life movement as fueled by political motivations rather than moral questions. Abortion was chosen as an issue by the Republican Party as they realized school segregation wasn’t panning out for them politically. To draw an untapped group to their party, the Republican Party dressed a court case in pathos and adopted a stance against abortion for Evangelicals. And it worked.

Lastly, our former president suggested retroactive criminal punishment for women who made a very personal and private decision about their lives and got abortions. Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, argued, women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were made illegal. Not only would this be dangerous stigmatization of what had been perfectly legal, but it would set a dangerous standard for retroactive punishment.

So what, you may ask? Why does it matter how the issue became important? Haven’t scientists learned more about when life begins, that negates the origins of the pro-life movement? Let’s look at the science.

The Science

The stance against abortion isn’t based on science because we do not know definitively when life begins. Many scientists disagree. Scott Gilbert, a developmental biologist states, “assuming that fertilization and implantation all go perfectly, scientists can reasonably disagree about when personhood begins. An embryologist might say gastrulation, which is when an embryo can no longer divide to form identical twins. A neuroscientist might say when one can measure brainwaves.” Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB-GYN located in Washington, DC, points out that a high number of fertilized eggs never implant, anywhere between 50% and 80%. She states, “I have come to the conclusion that the pregnant woman gets to decide when it’s a person.”

If scientists can’t agree, would it be better to play it safe? Not quite so simple, when you examine the impact outlawing or restricting abortion has on women and their lives.

Medical Implications of Laws

When abortion is outlawed, women die. This is a statistical fact which cannot be argued against. It does not affect the wealthier women who travel to another state or country to have the procedure done. It does not affect influential politicians because they can send their mistresses where they need to go. It only affects low-income women, and they are more likely to seek out other methods in that case.

This matters greatly, because according to the WHO, “nearly 70,000 women die each year due to the com­plications of unsafe abortion.” This is not a step those who claim to value life will be willing to take. In fact, it is a reason to support women who feel they have no other choice than to have the procedure, whether they are unable or unwilling to give an eventual child the life they deserve.

The question then becomes, how then, can we erase or lessen the need for abortion in the first place?

Preventative measures

Abortion is not meant as a preventative contraceptive, and nor is it used as one. The lack of affordable contraceptives is an issue now as it has been in years past. Offering free birth control such as IUDs (as Colorado did and saw a large reduction in abortions) does more than outlawing the procedure. Offering medical care to those in poverty does more than restricting or outlawing abortion.

The Ugly Legal Side

There is also the other side of the equation, which is the father. In many states in our country, in the rare cases when a woman has filed a police report about her rape and given birth, that police report does not shield her from sharing custody of that child with the dangerous “father.” When rapes are underreported because of how our criminal justice system handles rape cases and treats women, this is unconscionable. Many states require a conviction of rape to sever a father’s rights.

The laws that are being proposed are meant to harm women and restrict their rights. If an 11-year-old child gets pregnant by rape is forced to carry that child, that is unconscionable. If a woman is prosecuted for having a miscarriage that others deem suspicious, that is unconscionable. If a woman has a malformed fetus that is simply a spinal cord and a brain in her womb and is forced to carry that to term and risk infection and possible death, that is unconscionable.

Legislated Morality Against Separation of Church and State

Legislated morality is the problem with some countries overseas, often referenced by many of the current conservative administration who enjoy criticizing the Middle East. The United States is not a theocracy. Deciding that your religion’s laws trump others’ rights is wrong and directly conflicts with our country’s ideals of freedom and against everything in our Constitution. Unwed mothers in the Old Testament could only marry their child's father after he paid a fine. Is that a world we are comfortable with? Where women are commodities to be bought and sold? This is the making of dystopian nightmares, Handmaid’s Tale territory.

“The man who had relations with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty silver shekels and take her as his wife because he has deflowered her. Moreover, he may not divorce her as long as he lives.” (Deut. 22:29)

Biblical Law

The Old Testament does not recognize causing a miscarriage as murder. The religious argument does not stand. Many Christians continue to use poetic verses in Psalms to prove their point.

Psalm 139:13 states, “for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” In embracing this verse as the established fact they ignore an actual law ordered by God in Exodus 21:22–25:

“And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no [further] injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any [further] injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

The stance against abortion also changed accepted Christian doctrine and British common law, which for centuries went by when a woman can feel the baby move inside of her, known as the quickening.

Conclusion

In the end, ending abortion is about power and control, and the Republican Party is using this platform to manipulate Evangelicals. Meanwhile, I support getting contraceptives for those who want it, sex ed classes for young people, and Medicare for all. These will do more to erase the need for abortion until the scientific evidence concludes. This is statistically the best lane, and I hope you agree with me after examining my research.

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Texan Writer and Distinguished Teacher, MFA grad. Feminist, Plucky World Traveler. Hear more at https://twitter.com/RJProffer

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RJ Proffer

RJ Proffer

Texan Writer and Distinguished Teacher, MFA grad. Feminist, Plucky World Traveler. Hear more at https://twitter.com/RJProffer

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