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The title of this post takes a simple statement—abortion is not complicated—and says it in a complicated and confusing way. Why? Because the issue of abortion is both simple and complex; it is clear and complicated—as evidenced by an abortion-advocating feature that appeared in Salon magazine last week. It is titled, “The abortion I didn’t want.”
Author, Caitlin McDonnell, writes in the subtitle, “After [my abortion], I felt grief, emptiness—and relief. Why don’t we tell stories that are emotionally complicated, too?” She’s right about one thing. It is the emotion of unwanted pregnancy that makes abortion such a complicated and contested issue. The ethics of abortion are rather simple.
To me, the most interesting aspect of McDonnell’s piece is the description she provides of her principled refusal to tell the abortion clinic staff that she wanted an abortion. She firmly believed that she needed an abortion, but she could not bring herself to say she wanted it. She writes:
During my intake at the women’s clinic, I told them that I [couldn’t] say I wanted an abortion but that I thought they should do it anyway. Understandably, they didn’t know what to do with me… They
Be careful how you argue. I was reminded of that last week while listening to an abortion-related sermon clip that kept popping up in my network feeds. In this instance, a courageous, high-profile pastor was exactly right about the evils of abortion, but he was wrong about some of the facts. Unfortunately, he is not alone. I’ve heard the same misstatements before, and the widespread sharing of the clip in question simply illustrates how extensive our general ignorance can be.
At the heart of the confusion is a discrepancy between fetal age and gestational age. The fetal age of an unborn child is measured from conception. Gestational age is measured from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period. Embryologists—who study prenatal development—use fetal age. Obstetricians—and abortionists—use gestational age. Generally speaking, the fetal age of an unborn child is two weeks less than the corresponding gestational age.
People can get into trouble very quickly when they start to unknowingly mix these aging metrics—as was the case in the sermon I heard. Here is an excerpt:
By eight weeks… babies will suck their thumbs, they respond to sound, there’s evidence
Today is the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that struck down all state prohibitions against abortion. Within two years of that verdict—in 1975, the year I was born—the annual abortion total surpassed one million. In the forty years that have followed, more than one million innocent and helpless human beings have lost their lives to abortion every single year—until now. Yesterday, I completed my latest round of analysis on state-level abortion data which revealed that the total number of U.S. abortions in 2013 was approximately 984,000.
Here’s the good news: 2013 marks the first time since 1974 that fewer than one million human beings lost their lives to abortion in the United States.
Here’s the bad news: In 2013, almost one million human beings lost their lives to abortion in the United States.
We might not have the “official” 2013 abortion tally for another year or two. We may never have it since the Guttmacher Institute tends to only publish abortion statistics in three year increments and the CDC data is perennially incomplete. Either way, I feel pretty confident in the reliability of my calculation model—which correctly estimated the 2011 total (1.06
Last week, I received an email query that is worth sharing. It comes from a young woman who says she believes abortion is murder but came across an online argument for abortion that she had a hard time refuting. She writes, “I don’t agree with everything this person said, but some of their arguments make sense.” She copied and pasted the argument and asked how we would respond. Here it is (with some minor grammatical edits for clarity):
If my younger sister was in a car accident and desperately needed a blood transfusion to live, and I was the only person on Earth who could donate blood to save her, no one can force me to give blood—even though donating blood is a relatively easy, safe, and quick procedure. Even to save the life of a fully-grown person, it would be ILLEGAL to FORCE me to donate blood if I didn’t want to.
See, we have this concept called “bodily autonomy.” It’s this cultural notion that a person’s control over their own body is above all and must not be infringed upon. We can’t even take LIFE SAVING organs from CORPSES unless the person gave consent before their death. Even corpses get bodily autonomy.
To tell people that they MUST sacrifice
Yesterday, I did a brief, over-the-phone radio interview with NPR. I’m not sure when the segment will air, but they wanted my take on the 1-in-3 campaign—which is the latest effort to convince post-abortive women to go public with positive abortion stories. NPR contacted Abort73 because we’ve amassed a fairly substantial archive of online abortion testimonies over the years, and most of them do not paint abortion in a positive light.
Nevertheless, we do on occasion hear from women who express gratitude for the abortions they’ve contracted. Percentage-wise, they make up less than 5% of the testimonies we receive, but it would be dishonest to simply sweep their stories under the rug or pretend they don’t exist. Every time one comes in, I am both grieved and challenged. We received one such testimony in October and another in November—both of which I’d like to share.
The first comes from a 26-year-old woman in Elmont, NY. She writes:
I was nine weeks pregnant when I found out. I felt numb and cried. I was in a healthy, loving relationship on birth control. Even though my boyfriend and I had discussed babies in a year or two, right now was not the right time financially or