Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A historical look at abortion: "health of the mother"

There's a lot of rhetoric flying around these days about abortion. I've been trying to put my finger on what's bothering me about the tone of the conversation. Here are some thoughts:

It's important to remember that women throughout history have become pregnant when they didn't want to be pregnant, and tried to end the pregnancy through a variety of means. You can read about some of these techniques here.

More recently in the U.S., before Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion, women (or unlicensed abortionists) used coat hangers and other sharp instruments which were inserted into the cervix in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. Various poisons were ingested by women to cause the same thing. Needless to say, these procedures were very dangerous, and some women died due to infection. You can read more about this here.

What some people today forget is that legalizing abortion means that abortion takes place in a medical setting, where it is safe for women. That is the "health of the mother" that McCain puts air quotes around. Women (in the U.S.) used to die having abortions. Now they don't. Women in other countries around the world still die having abortions. They die having babies, too.

Now "pro-life" folks would say: well, we don't want women to have abortions, so why should we be happy that they are safe?

The answer is that some women will seek abortion if they are pregnant and don't want to be. It's that simple. It can be provided in a safe way, to protect the health of women, or in a dangerous way. That's the choice.

Pro-life folks might reply: but what of the health of the baby?

And therein lies the difference. This is the crux of the matter. What is more valuable? The life of a woman who is already here, or the potential life of a fetus?

You know, it's a difficult calculus. I like babies. But I also know that women's lives are complicated, and that every pregnancy is not wanted. And I feel that value should be placed on the person who is already here. Sorry, that's how I feel.

So yes, I feel the health of the mother should be protected first.


1 comment:

christina(apronstrings) said...

it's funny how my opinion on abortion hasn't changed, it's grown more complicated after 4 m/c's, 2 years of inferility and know a new born. but it is necessary. which is too bad, but true.

i felt a chill when mccain said that. it's as though i and we have no value. it's our womb that matters. so weird. i felt like it was a scene out of the handmaiden's tale.

i like what bill clinton said, "abortion should be safe, legal and rare."

and i've always wondered what great things could happen if all the pro-lifers gave their $$ to support afforadable childcare, universal healthcare, etc. or, i don't know, free birth control!