Let’s be real about the state of things. In the U.S. alone, we have multiple social civil wars raging in the government, in our communities, and even in our own homes. Our bipartisan government system has become increasingly dangerous because, in having a two-party majority, we essentially only have room for two long-established powers. This means that our voices are often translated into vernacular that is highly polarized, largely non-inclusive, and very easy to misinterpret or misconstrue.
But I’m not here to criticize our system (not today, anyway). I’m here to criticize how we are using it. In that we are not. This constant arguing between parties and making this a war between anti-choice voices and pro-choice voices isn’t getting us anywhere. I mean, everyone is getting more frustrated, more weary, and more outraged, but I don’t think that was anywhere on either side’s list of objectives.
I’m a big believer in teamwork. I think working together to make ours a better nation than the one we are currently ripping in two is the only option. But in order to do that, we need to hear each other and come up with feasible steps to reach an effective compromise. Anti-choice government officials won’t stop churning out anti-choice legislation and millions of pro-choice men and women across the U.S. won’t stop demanding reproductive rights.
Preventing individuals from procuring abortions is dealing with a symptom without acknowledging that there’s a sickness and then dealing with that sickness at its source. Anti-choice supporters see abortion and teen pregnancy as an epidemic that must be quashed. I, on the other hand, see the constant de-valuing of pregnant individuals to a lesser caliber than the egg/sperm combo they carry to be its own epidemic, and the greatest disgrace of the entire issue.
Now that we’ve been real, let’s be just as clear. This discussion is not limited to only women. The following discussion is concerned with the reproductive rights of any individual with a reproductive system that has the potential to gestate offspring.
Everybody with me? Great. Let’s move forward to the main event.
In an effort to severely diminish the need for termination of unplanned pregnancies, I have come up with five points we must understand, accept, and utilize to bring an end to the war on reproductive rights.
1) Accept that people will continue to have sex in whatever manner they choose no matter the laws on abortion (and sex acts).
There seems to be this expectation that how someone chooses to express (or not express) their sexuality is the government’s and the public’s business. It’s not. If all participating parties are consenting and of legal age, that’s it. It’s no one’s business but those involved. Humans are sexual beings and sex isn’t going anywhere, so let’s accept it and move on to something more constructive to the common good than trying to put limits on sexual expression, like, I don’t know, ending world hunger, or cancer research.
2) Provide comprehensive sex, sexuality, and gender education in all schools.
In acknowledging that many humans are sexual beings, we can get real about the implications of that. This means that we can be realistic about how sexuality is a part of existence. It’ll open the conversation to discussions of puberty and the development of secondary sex characteristics, gender, sex, and sex acts, just to name a few. In being realistic about human lives as sexual journeys, we will acknowledge that sexuality emerges by the teenage years, if it hasn’t already. Reliable education with accurate information on issues of sex, sexuality and gender provided at age-appropriate intervals throughout an individual’s schooling will inform and prepare a generation of individuals who might not otherwise have been able to access that information. It also means that just as individuals are prepared by school curriculum to become productive members of society, comprehensive sex, sexuality, and gender education will ultimately prepare individuals for how to maintain a lifestyle that is healthy for them.
3) Make contraceptive methods accessible and affordable to anyone who is sexually active.
As we discussed earlier, if we are being realistic about humans as sexual beings at almost any age, the next logical step is to provide contraceptives that can be easily attained. This means removing the need for a prescription or parental consent for the morning-after pill for anyone under 15; this assumes that every barely teen has (A) the insurance and money for co-pay or money to foot the entire bill at the doctor’s office, as well as the time off work/school and the wheels to get there (B) a relationship with their parents/guardians (assuming that the teen actually has an adult taking care of them) that is non-abusive, understanding, and advocates for use of contraceptives by teens. Making birth control entirely covered by health insurance without co-pay is a huge step in the right direction, but we are nowhere near close to where we need to be.
4) Remove the stigma surrounding single and/or teenage parents and offer support for these individuals and their families to thrive.
Now, that last point I made is quite often a deal breaker. Many people have thrown up their hands and said it is outrageous that their tax dollars cover contraceptives. Even on my own Facebook page I’ve had friends say they shouldn’t have to pay for the consequences of my promiscuity. Well, if you demand that contraceptives not be covered but you accept my first two points, then you’ve got to compromise something in return. For example, if you think contraceptives shouldn’t be covered by tax dollars but you accept that sex is a part of many people’s lives both married and unmarried, then you need to change your perspective.
If contraceptives are unavailable to people who need them, then there are going to be a lot (and there already are) of unwed, teenage mothers (and fathers) with little baby mouths to feed. Acknowledging that these individuals are parents, absolutely have the ability to be good parents and want what’s best for their children and themselves, is the first step. If you expect someone who has gotten pregnant from sex outside of marriage to raise a child you need to make it socially acceptable for them to do so. I am 23 years old with a college degree and in a committed relationship with my partner, but if I were to get pregnant outside of marriage I would seriously consider terminating the pregnancy for no other reason than what that would make me in the eyes of society. That’s ridiculous! Provide support to single parents, financially and socially, and you are well on your way to making this a better nation.
5) Accept that even after all of these measures have been taken, an individual may choose to terminate a pregnancy.
There will also continue to be medical emergencies that may warrant abortion. Pregnancy and the birthing process will never be 100% safe. There will never be a time when an individual with a uterus and/or children can’t die in childbirth. There will always be at least one person or one fetus for whom birth or even pregnancy could be lethal, either directly or indirectly. Abortion must remain a valid medical procedure to accommodate those circumstances.
And even as we must remove the stigma surrounding single parents, we must remove the stigma surrounding individuals who choose not to reproduce and not to raise children. Sex is not just for reproduction, but can also be a healthy expression of pleasure. Even today’s contraceptives are not always 100% effective, meaning that pregnancy can result even if birth control was employed to the best of the user’s ability. Abortion is a personal choice that no one takes lightly. Many people call for pro-choice supporters to respect life. I do. I respect the life of every individual who chooses abortion and accept that they live in circumstances I could never fully comprehend and have no right in which to interfere. THAT is having respect for life; already living, breathing, meaningful life.
Now, many of the things I listed above are not going to go over well. But I said from the very beginning that I was going to be real with you. You want change? You need to talk about the issues I listed above to get it. You don’t get to ask everyone who is pro-choice to give up everything. You can’t take contraceptives, abortion, and play the blame game every time someone gets pregnant outside of marriage.
We are an ever-evolving species and our society should be representative of that. We are steadily tearing each other apart, but if we want to survive we must pull together and really talk about the issues at play here.
I’ve given you the talking points. Now it’s your turn. Discuss.
Written by Emily Vrotsos
Follow her musings on having a trans sibling, books she’s reading, and how she does feminism at Bend it. Break it. All of it. and her gardening and sustainability endeavors at The Outdoor Amateur. She also has fun on Twitter and is a little bit obsessed with Pinterest.