Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Abortion Is a Right, Not a Debate

Abortion is one of those issues that pretty much everyone has an opinion on, whether or not they are actually informed on the issue. The problem is, this is a question on which it matters if you have an informed opinion, unlike the debate of whether pineapple should go on pizza. People’s strong but misinformed views on abortion can have real impacts on women and their lives.

Recently, a few states have passed laws to make late-term abortions legal in the event that a woman’s life and health are in danger. Republicans jumped on this to paint Democrats as baby-killers and quickly began comparing it to murdering a child after birth. This is not at all what the laws made legal, but this wave of propaganda incited outrage across the country. Instead of doing research, many simply based their opinions on exaggerated headlines or uninformed assumptions. And as people made posts on Facebook, these lies spread like wildfire. I even saw an angry “babies lives matter” post, which is problematic on so many levels.

Then, the Senate rejected a “Born-Alive Bill,” which would have required doctors to provide care for babies that survive an abortion. Once again, Republicans tried to use this to dehumanize Democrats. Even Trump got in on this, tweeting in part, “The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don't mind executing babies AFTER birth...” This is just a blatant lie. The reason the bill did not pass is because it is completely unnecessary. The situation of babies surviving abortions is so rare that it is barely an issue and only occurs when abnormalities are so severe that the baby is deemed unviable anyway. Regardless, doctors have always been required to care for infants born alive—that has never been a question.

The real reason this became such a big issue is that conservatives want a reason to paint abortion as murder rather than a reproductive necessity and right. That is why there has been such a big focus on late-term abortions, despite the fact that they are incredibly rare; such abortions are only performed when the mother’s life and health are in danger, or if the fetus has severe deformities that would result in death anyway. For instance, if a fetus has anencephaly, where death is guaranteed shortly after birth, a mother may choose to get an abortion to save her child from those painful minutes and/or to save herself and her family from helplessly watching the baby die before their eyes. No mother carries a baby for nine months, decides she doesn’t want to be a mother, and gets an abortion. That just does not happen—and that is not legal, regardless of what pro-lifers want you to believe. Late-term abortions are in the minority, and if they occur they are a necessity.

Most abortions occur in the first trimester, with many occurring within the first eight weeks before the fetus is even fully developed. There are a multitude of reasons a woman may choose to get an abortion, whether it be for health reasons, financial circumstances, or simply because she doesn’t want a baby at that time. Regardless of your personal opinion, preventing people from getting abortions is counterintuitive and should be illegal. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and taking this opportunity away strips people of their rights.

Furthermore, whether or not abortions are legal, they are going to happen. People are always going to find a way. Isn’t it better to make sure they are safe and regulated, rather than forcing people to find home remedies or return to back alley abortions? Not to mention, studies have shown that women who are denied abortions had lower levels of bonding with their infants, were more financially insecure, and reported lower levels of self-esteem and more anxiety. Additionally, if the women already had children, those kids were likely to have lower developmental scores. As it is often said, pro-lifers are pro-life until the child is born, and then the problems that come after are largely ignored. This issue is not as black-and-white as some try to make it out to seem. The people affected are real people with real problems and real reasons for needing this procedure. Whether or not you agree with their reasons, that still does not give you the right to deny someone else the opportunity. Just because you personally would not do something does not mean that others should not get the chance.

This rhetoric and the lies that are spread have real consequences. There have been numerous cases of domestic terrorism in which people have attacked and killed abortion providers. For instance, Robert Dear, who murdered three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2016, cited his influences to be anti-abortion material online and on the radio. Protestors often harass women that walk out of Planned Parenthood clinics, despite the fact that not all of them have even gotten abortions. These clinics provide countless health services—not just abortions—at lower costs. But because the clinics have abortion services, they are frequent locations of attacks and protests.

I want to reiterate that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Therefore, we cannot take away the right to safe and accessible abortions. Some states have implemented policies, like mandatory waiting periods, that make abortions inaccessible, especially to lower income people who tend to be the ones who need them most, because of the added need for things like hotel rooms and more time off of work. This is simply unacceptable. In a country like the United States, one that prides itself on liberty and justice, we must give women the freedom to make the decision that is right for themselves. It does not matter what your personal opinion is or whether or not you agree with the practice in principle; the decision must come down to the person whose body it is affecting.

And a side note to Kristan Hawkins: No one says that people need to get an abortion to succeed or that people can’t be both a student and a parent. The argument is that people should have the choice to make the decision that is right for them, rather than having other people decide for them.

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