THE ABORTION legislation currently being considered in our state legislature, passed in many “red” states and currently under consideration in the Supreme Court have a common theme: punishment.
Varying pieces of legislation are designed to punish pregnant women, physicians and, in the case of Texas, anyone with any knowledge or association with abortion or even suggesting abortion as an alternative option.
Many of the legislators who propose such draconian bills treat abortion as some sort of casual whim on the part of women who treat life as something less than sacred.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Having an abortion is about as desirable as having your teeth pulled, except that the consequences are much more profound.
Women whose pregnancy may cause their death should not be forced to carry their pregnancy to term. If the life of an unborn child is sacred, does that make the life of the mother less so? The birth of a child causing the death of the mother isn’t murder, nor is a woman terminating a pregnancy to save her own life.
Women who have been raped, either violently or through “date rape”, will be further violated under most of these anti-abortion laws. Violated first by a man, should she be victimized again by legislation that makes it a crime to terminate the resulting unwanted pregnancy?
Then there are women who bear a pregnancy that has medical defects so severe that the child will either not survive or will survive only with intense medical treatment that would deplete the financial resources of the parents to the point of destitution. New state laws would force that family into physical and emotional exhaustion, poverty and then to abandon them financially afterwards.
Reducing or ending abortions in this country requires a change to our whole approach and way of thinking. Instead of punishing the victims of potentially lethal or unwanted pregnancies, or the physicians who care for such victims, we should be enacting laws that show compassion and understanding.
Most Americans feel their government has no legitimate role in a woman’s pregnancy. But if a state government wants to get involved in a pregnancy, it should take the responsibility for the result of that pregnancy. Any state that wants to ban abortions for medically incompetent fetuses should take on the medical responsibility of those children once they are born.
Women who become pregnant through a violation like rape are particularly deserving of compassion. For a woman who is eking out a living, or working on a career, such a violation can result in devastating consequences. Forcing a woman to bear the child of her rapist (who is entitled to parental rights!) without supporting that woman financially or medically shows neither compassion nor respect for life, hers or the child’s.
Many states enacting these more severe abortion laws are making it more difficult for women to have access to birth control options. Birth control pills and intrauterine devices are often too expensive or can cause medical complications, especially for low-income women. Some states go so far as to restrict what schools can teach girls entering puberty, though done properly education can be one of the most cost-effective ways of preventing unwanted pregnancies.
If we’re serious about reducing the number of abortions in this state and in this country, then we should propose laws that treat women with compassion. We need to stop punishing women who become pregnant against their will or force them to continue a pregnancy that could cause their deaths. Most of all, we need to better support those women who opt to give birth to children with severe defects or whose fathers have abandoned the pregnancy. Anti-abortion laws should not make compassion a crime.