Imagine if all the money spent fighting about abortion…

I want to thank everyone who read and reposted yesterday’s piece, Anatomy of an Unsafe Abortion. Sadly, when abortion is expensive, even when legal, people take advantage of the system. After all, there are doctors performing plastic surgery with no training with devastating results, so it should come as no surprise that this happens with abortion. There should be even less surprise when we find out that it is the most disadvantaged women who fall victim. Disadvantage has many forms. From not knowing where to access low-cost contraception, to not knowing where to get a safe procedure, to a man who beats you and refuses to wear a condom or give you money for birth control pills, to not being able to speak the language, or even if you can to be able to advocate for yourself.

For those who asked, this case happened post Roe v. Wade. And yes, the patient lived.

I am all for making abortion an un-needed procedure. The best way to accomplish that is to prevent unplanned pregnancies. If every pregnancy in the world were planned, wouldn’t that be an amazing thing?

Imagine if all the money spent on fighting about abortion, on both sides, were directed towards preventing unplanned pregnancies? If we expanded sex education, access to contraception, worked on reducing poverty, and eliminated intimate partner violence (or at least made it far easier to leave).

Imagine what we could accomplish.

And as an aside, when faced with the prospect of an abortion, I didn’t have one. Pregnant with triplets a selective reduction was recommended and it just wasn’t for me. I wanted all three of my boys. Desperately. But things didn’t work out the way I’d planned it. One of my boys died at birth.

There are a lot of intelligent, media-savvy people on both sides. Why can’t we just look at the abortion issue differently and focus on our common ground? Why can’t we take all the money spent on lobbying, and laws, and advertising, and fighting and spend it on evidence-based ways to reduce unplanned pregnancies?

Finding common ground is hard. I look at Rick Santorum and I think, “You and I have nothing in common.” But you know I’m wrong. We’re both parents. We both love our children very much. And we have both lost a child. And I suspect if each one of use looked at someone who holds a different view about abortion, we could find something in common. Some way to start working together instead of screaming at each other. Could we put aside our dogma and everything that we think we know and just focus on the issue? Unplanned pregnancies?

Wouldn’t that truly improve the human condition and isn’t that our common goal?

27 replies on “Imagine if all the money spent fighting about abortion…”

  1. Two years after I was born, my Mom became pregnant again. For reasons that don’t matter here, she chose to have an abortion. A choice I supported ever since I found out about it.

    At the time, we lived in a country (not US) where abortions have been legal and free for decades. Hers was botched, anyway. She almost died right then and there. She survived, but for almost 20 years thereafter, she had no end of medical trouble related to the abortion. She ended up with a radical hysterectomy before she turned 50. For reasons of her own, she always felt a lot of guilt about choosing this path, even though the family supported her choice throughout.

    No matter what you do, once you’re in a situation where an abortion becomes a thinkable choice, there are no good outcomes. Sort of like “Global Thermonuclear War” – the only winning move is not to play.

  2. “Imagine if all the money spent on fighting about abortion, on both sides, were directed towards preventing unplanned pregnancies? If we expanded sex education, access to contraception, worked on reducing poverty, and eliminated intimate partner violence (or at least made it far easier to leave).”

    That is a lovely thought, but the problem lies in that the extreme right–the ones controlling the conservative vote–view almost any form of contraception as abortion, noting that the “back-up” method of pregnancy prevention for several types is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg–in their eyes, the equivalent of murder. That’s why people like Santorum are fighting access even to birth control, which on its face, would seem like a sensible answer to anyone wanting to decrease unplanned pregnancies. I’ve found that it’s impossible to find common ground with someone who views a single diploid cell as equivalent to a human life, and extinguishing this life as tantamount to the murder of a living, breathing adult woman. And trying to get them to agree to comprehensive sex ed? Well, you’ve seen how that works out. I once had this type of optimism and yearned for common ground, but too many years of discussing abortion with fundamentalists has made me cynical.

  3. Perhaps the Obama Administration didn’t calculate the controversy when refusing religious organizations exemption from purchasing health insurance that covers abortion related drugs and procedures. Does it upset you when people politicize the health and safety of women? I especially find it offensive when people talk about abortion as an issue of health care for women. I want to ask these people: “Have they interviewed any women who have had an abortion?” The medical effects of abortion and post-abortion stress disorder are well-documented.
    If interested in considering this perspective, see:

  4. This is my #1 argument when it comes to discussing abortion/repro health issues. It’s a shame how much money is wasted on politics.

  5. My dear friend had to terminate her first impregnation because her unborn daughter had trisomy18 (three copies of the 18th chromosome). This baby would have been so deformed she wouldn’t have lived, and have been very, very expensive to keep alive for even her short life. This was a horrific tragedy all the way around, as my friend had wanted a baby for a long time.

    If the extremists have their way my friend would have been forced to give birth to a miserable, short, pain-filled life. How can anybody want to do that to anyone else? I simply will never understand the anti-abortion extremists.

  6. “Finding common ground” is very hard when you won’t acknowledge anyone that disagrees with you, for exampe, by leaving dissenting comments in moderation.

  7. I had an abortion at 7 weeks, in a safe and clean environment with a competent doctor. I had just received my income tax check, so I had enough money for the procedure and the follow-up appointment 2 weeks later. It was quick, easy, and I instantly felt better than I’d ever felt in my life. My best friend was not quite as fortunate; by the time she had enough money saved up, she was 14 weeks along and had to spend all day at the clinic. As I read this piece, I thought about what might have happened to her if she had hit the 3rd trimester before she had enough money. Would she have been the girl in this piece, bleeding to death on an operating table? Tears streamed down my face as I thought about losing her, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards the good people who took care of our bodies and our lives at a time when we needed it the most. Dr. Jen, you are a true hero.

  8. I had a close friend, many years ago, who nearly died from a pregnancy, then nearly died from a legal abortion that should have been performed many weeks earlier.

    I get that a fetus is a human being. I also get that my friend was the mother of two and probably would have died if she hadn’t had an abortion, because she nearly died having an abortion that was delayed entirely too long.

    Abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Everything that can be done to increase each of those three should be done.

  9. Thank you for letting me know that she lived, and for being a vehicle in the mechanism that saved her. I really thought a lot about what you said and hope you continue to speak out your truth. Hope is not just a seed but a conversation that branches out to all it interacts with.

  10. All of the above is fine, except that the “pro-life” movement is NOT about preventing the need for abortions, it’s about controlling women. And no, I’m not saying that all pro-lifers are insincere, but the movement is. It’s not a coincidence that the most vocal anti-abortion voices are also anti-contraception. There is no common ground with people who are trying to turn back the tide on feminism.

    1. There is a difference between suppressing comments because they are of a differing opinion and preventing hate-mongering from inhumane extremists. I fully expect that the comments she is not allowing would say, ‘the girl deserved to die for having an abortion at all.’

      I fully support Dr. Gunter’s right to prevent hate-mongering from inhumane right-wing extremists.

  11. Dr. Jen, I am all against making abortion an unneeded procedure, also. But, the solution I see as much more logical is to educate women that terminating their pregnancy is not the only solution. What about giving up the child? If our goal is eventually not to need abortions, the sooner we require that women take charge of their sexuality and utilize their brains (they know what happens w/ unprotected sex) and utilize personal responsibility; the sooner we’ll not have the need for abortions performed by back alley abortionists.

    I’m a nurse and have seen the DIC that you mention and I was deeply offended by the statement you made about the REAL victim in this scenario. The real victim is the child who had no choice. Please don’t disservice the ‘right’ by indicating that somehow they feel that this is just punishment for having unprotected sex.

  12. You are a wonderful person with articulate and powerful opinions. Thank you for being honest, informative and passionate. I have just become a regular follower of this blog. Once again thank you for your perspectives.

  13. Having the experience of being a mother of an unplanned pregnancy, I disagree with your statement “If every pregnancy in the world were planned, wouldn’t that be an amazing thing?” My unplanned pregnancy is now my amazing son Jude, the inspiration behind my business, the love of my life and who makes life worth living. Who doesn’t love surprises? xoxo Valerie

    1. I don’t want to bash your son or your lifestyle. I’m happy that what is normally a scary set of circumstances actually worked out for you. But the need for an abortion is usually an unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy where the development endangers the mother. While some women have the resources to support a “surprise” pregnancy, many don’t. As a whole, it’d be better to prevent the situation at all.

  14. Banning abortion is like banning booze, but much more serious. Its a social experiment. It didn’t work, and we need to move on. People over the course of history have not let the threat of pregnancy, HIV, syphillis, gonnorrhea, ets stop them from having sex. That is not going to happen, no matter how many pledges are signed. Cheap or free contraception is the best means to prevent abortions, but when a woman, who alone should be able to decide, decides to have an abortion, for whatever reason, she should be able to have it safely with enough pain control so its easily tolerated.

  15. You know, I read your previous article, and I hated it. But…this one I feel completely differently about. I couldn’t agree more. I wish that people on BOTH sides would stop fighting each other and start working towards a common goal instead of playing the infernal I’m Right/You’re Wrong game. I believe what the first commenter said is very true — nobody (hopefully) enjoys abortion, and I doubt that anyone ever wants to be in the position where they feel they have to have one. It is actually really easy (in most situations) to NOT get pregnant…so why not make the effort to help prevent cases where women feel like they have no choice other than abortion instead of spending all our time and energy fighting about it in the first place?

    1. I 100% agree with you that no one wants to be in a situation where they’re contemplating abortion. 100%! But I disagree that “no abortions” is or can ever be a universal goal. Partly because no birth control is 100% effective, partly because circumstances change after people get pregnant sometimes, and partly because there are real disagreements on both sides of the abortion issue as to whether the main moral issue is personhood of the embryo/fetus (and if so, when the embryo/fetus develops it) or bodily autonomy of the mother. Or something else. I disagree that every abortion is a tragedy, though some of the circumstances that lead to them are tragic and we as a society could do more to limit those.

      Over half of American women will have an unintended pregnancy in their lifetimes. And a majority of women who obtain abortions in this country were on some form of birth control when they got pregnant. Heck, if you’re a younger woman who 1.) hasn’t had kids, but wants to at some point, and 2.) can’t take hormonal birth control, good luck finding truly effective BC. Not having had children is no longer the absolute bar to getting an IUD that it used to be, but not all doctors will insert them in women who haven’t had kids. Which means the only options left are condoms, diaphragms, spermicides, and other such methods with relatively low effectiveness rates in practice.

  16. Thank you, thank you. As I have often said, Planned Parenthood has prevented more abortions than any other organization, by providing cheap contraception. I do not understand why this is not emphasized more.

  17. Reblogged this on The Ethical Villain and commented:
    Since reading and reblogging her post from yesterday, I’m finding I can’t get enough of this wonderful ally in the promotion of better sex education and health AND skepticism of alternative medicine! I agree with her points in her new blog. No one enjoys getting — or giving — an abortion (unless you’re a money-hungry amoralistic shit…). If we can take the steps to prevent unwanted, life-threatening or life-debilitating pregnancies, abortions can be greatly reduced. Not eradicated completely, but reduced. Remember, latex and hormones ain’t foolproof…and neither are some sex partners, unfortunately.

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