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What if we stopped focusing on the number of abortions and instead focused on the women themselves?

Written by Aimee Thorne-Thomsen for RHRealityCheck.org - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A common narrative in the political and cultural discussions of reproductive health focuses on reducing the number of abortions taking place every year. It’s supposed to be one thing that those who support abortion rights and those who oppose abortion can agree on, the so-called common ground. The assumption is that we can all agree that abortion itself is a bad thing, perhaps necessary, but definitely not a good thing. Even President Clinton declared (and many others have embraced) that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost half of all pregnancies among American women in 2005 were unplanned or unintended. And of those, four in 10 ended in abortion. (http://www.guttmacher.org/...) In other words, between one-fifth and one-quarter of all pregnancies ended in abortion. Without any other information, those statistics can sound scary and paint a picture of women as irresponsible or poor decision-makers. Therefore reducing the number of abortions is a goal that reproductive health, rights and justice activists should work toward, right?

Wrong. Those numbers mean nothing without context. If the 1.21 million abortions that took place in 2005 (http://www.guttmacher.org/...) represent the number of women who needed abortions (and in my opinion, if a woman decides she needs an abortion, then she does), as well as the many women who chose to terminate pregnancies that they very much wanted but could not afford to carry to term, then that number is too high. The work of reducing the number of abortions, therefore, would entail creating an authentically family-friendly society, where women would have the support they need to raise their families, whatever forms they took. That could include eliminating the family caps in TANF, encouraging unionization of low-wage workers, reforming immigration policies and making vocational and higher education more accessible.

On the other hand, if those 1.21 million abortions represent only the women who could access abortion financially, geographically or otherwise, then that number is too low. Yes, too low. If that’s the case, then what is an appropriate response? How do we best support women and their reproductive health? Do we dare admit that increasing the number of abortions might be not only good for women’s health, but also moral and just?

What if we stopped focusing on the number of abortions and instead focused on the women themselves? Much of the work of the reproductive health, rights and justice movements would remain the same. We would still advocate for legislation that helps our families. We would still fight to protect abortion providers and their staffs from verbal harassment and physical violence. What would change, however, is the stigma and shame. By focusing on supporting women’s agency and self-determination, rather than judging the outcomes of that agency, we send a powerful message. We say that we trust women. We say we will not use them and their experiences as pawns in a political game. We say we care about women and want them to have access to all the information, services and resources necessary to make the best decisions they can for themselves and their families. That is at the core of reproductive justice. Not reducing the number of abortions. Safe – yes. Legal– absolutely. Rare – not the point.

Originally posted to RH Reality Check on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 06:59 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's only one abortion that's important (18+ / 0-)

    and that's yours.  And it's nobody else's business.

    I don't know how this society can revere mothers as much as it does, yet it can't trust them to make such an important personal decision on their own.  

  •  if we increased abortion access (8+ / 0-)

    we might just see the rate go down, as those same clinics that offer abortion as a family planning and health service also tend to offer other services available to avoid the necessity of abortion.

    I agree that numbers should not be the priority, but I admit to having a emotional reaction to the millions of abortions noted in this diary.

    A health care reform act was only the first in a series of progressive initiatives -- collectively known as "The Big F**king Deal"

    by Taunger on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:14:23 AM PDT

    •  what spurs the emotions (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, martydd, Pris from LA, Mrs M

      If we were discussing the millions of Galls Stone operations performed would you have an emotional reaction? If you can accept the fact that there is absolutely to harm or killing associated to abortions then you can better understand the truth related to having one.

      Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

      by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:40:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  eddieb (0+ / 0-)

        if you meant no harm, rather than to harm, I disagree, and I think many others do as well. My advice is not to tell others what abortion is or is not, or why one should feel a certain way or not, but ask for tolerance and understanding of how you and other supporters feel. then ask for support.

        A health care reform act was only the first in a series of progressive initiatives -- collectively known as "The Big F**king Deal"

        by Taunger on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:50:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How about focus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    on men taking it upon themselves to wear condoms.  

  •  These are some big words: (11+ / 0-)

    We say that we trust women.

    Thank you.

    I agree, in a lot of the abortion rhetoric on both sides, we hear an underlying anxiety about women and their motives.

    I'd say that another factor which might serve to make abortion "too common" is a lack of safe and effective birth control.

  •  I agree that we couch our language (12+ / 0-)

    re abortion poorly.  

    An abortion may make one woman sad, and another very happy.  

    But the freedom to choose to have an abortion or to carry a fetus to term - THAT, that is a VERY very good thing.

    Just try to find any politician to say so though.

    "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

    by Pandoras Box on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:24:15 AM PDT

  •  I don't think (10+ / 0-)

    there is anything wrong with people wishing there were less abortions.

    IMO - and i only speak for myself here - i think the old Clinton line of safe legal and rare is great. They are legal, they should be legal, they should be safe, women should feel safe getting them. but if i had to choose, more, less, or the same amount of abortions i'd choose less. I'd choose better sex-ed, more condoms, smarter choices etc.

    in the end it's not my choice though, it's the woman's.

    •  in order for them to be rare (11+ / 0-)

      a huge infrastructure must be in place that Americans must be willing to support with their tax dollars.  They are not willing to do this.  They are only willing to judge.

      "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

      by Pandoras Box on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:27:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The word rare infers Abortions are bad. (7+ / 0-)

      The Anti life crusaders have been on a successful crusade to demonize Abortions. Many on the left have bought into their lies concerning abortions. An abortion is no different than having our apendix removed. There is NO harm or destruction of life,involved PERIOD. If you believe Abortions should be rare you are legitimizing the false premise that a taking of life is somehow involved in having an abortion.

      Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

      by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:54:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Abortion is worse than prevention (11+ / 0-)

        While it's very safe as medical procedures go, it's still extremely painful and carries a nonzero risk of complication, both of which drawbacks increase with the duration of pregnancy.

        Which is one of the many reasons that access and affordability need to be improved so that women who need abortions are able to get them as early as they are able to make the decision. But it's also the reason why access to and affordability of contraception needs to be a major priority; abortions will always be needed, but the number can be reduced, and that's undeniably a good thing. Nobody wants an abortion if simply not getting pregnant is an available alternative.

        The problem with "safe, legal, and rare" rhetoric is that it opens the door for the "moderate" right wing to pursue "rare" by limiting access rather than reducing need.

        Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

        by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:08:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not always (7+ / 0-)

          They're not always extremely painful, if you have them early and have proper before-and-after care.  (TMI time) I've had periods that were worse than my abortion.

          •  It's still and invasive procedure. It's just like (5+ / 0-)

            saying it's best to keep any surgery from happening, by leading a healthier lifestyle.

            How about brushing twice a day and flossing to prevent rotting teeth?

            In most cases, prevention is better than requiring some form of surgery or intrusive procedure.

            Progressives will win when the country becomes Progressive.

            by auapplemac on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 09:26:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Mine was awful (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nina Katarina, Mrs M

            I had a medical abortion (so it was really really early) and it was truly horrible. Less intensely painful than giving birth, but it lasted for a week.

            I'd still pick that over a surgical one because it's less invasive and involves less handling of that part of my anatomy, but it was a week of Hell nonetheless. I can't imagine what would have happened if I hadn't been on leave that week. I couldn't have worked.

            Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

            by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 10:23:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Experiences vary widely (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, Mrs M

              Mine was a couple of hours of weakness and then I recovered well enough to go out dancing past midnight the next night.  Then again, I was in labor for three whole hours when I had my kid, so obviously I lucked out in the uterine pain receptors lottery.

              The problem, of course, is when a hater who might have similar levels of pain receptors takes her experience as the norm and thinks that women who actually do experience pain are faking it, or whiners, and thus tries to minimize the experience.

      •  Let me ask you Eddie... (0+ / 0-)

        at what precise moment does life begin?

        The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me' MT 25:40

        by Ed G on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:23:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The day your born. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tonedevil, esquimaux, martydd, Mrs M

          Look, we can go down this path and this is exactly what the riligous nuts want. This "when does life begin" issue is a red Herring. A fetus is not a Child. Most important the Pro Life Position is the PRO Abortion stance.

          Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

          by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:47:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You may be right. (0+ / 0-)

            I read an article recently that described a procedure where a fetus was aborted moments before birth and it made me sick to my stomach that a culture would find that acceptable.

            I can't scientifically prove that a person becomes a person before the day they are born, it's just what I believe.

            The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me' MT 25:40

            by Ed G on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:56:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The more relevant question is (7+ / 0-)

          At what precise moment does a woman lose her autonomy, and become nothing but an incubator?

          My dogs think triciawyse is smart and pretty. They think I'm a strange, frumpy woman wth limitless snacks.

          by martydd on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:52:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  never. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            auapplemac, kyril

            guess that's why those of us who grapple with both questions believe abortion should be safe, accessible, accepted, legal, and preferably less common than today.

            There are ways to help reduce unwanted pregnancies that in no way intefere with anyone's ability to maintain their autonomy.

            The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me' MT 25:40

            by Ed G on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 09:00:49 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Instate the Draft (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tonedevil, martydd

            Terminating the life of a fetus could be made illegal when a safe and free method is available to transfer the fetus to the belly of a man who is drafted for that purpose.

            Until then, noone has any business telling the mother what to do, even if they regard abortion as abhorrent and the fetus as a human life.

            The rights of the fetus end where the rights of the mother begin.  

            Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

            by bobtmn on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 11:39:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  not bad per se (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril

        but partially preventable.

        i think everyone would argue there are a certain amount of abortions that could be prevented thorugh education and birth control.

        and yes, i will admit i would rather see a pregnancy never happen than have someone get an abortion. i know that isn't by the line pro-choice, but it's how i feel.

        but as i said, it's not my choice, and being a man, it never will be my choice in the end

    •  isn't it nice to be able to choose? (10+ / 0-)

      if i had to choose, more, less, or the same amount of abortions i'd choose less

      But you only get to choose about YOUR OWN. Not anybody else's.

  •  Abortion beats being dead or destitute (14+ / 0-)

    Some abortions are necessary to save the life or long-term health of the mother.

    Some are necessary because a woman recognizes that the "penalty" for sex -- or worse, rape -- shouldn't be bearing an unwanted child.

    Some are necessary because the woman knows she doesn't have the sense of responsibility for a child right now.

    Some are necessary because she simply cannot afford the money and time involved with having a child, given that it kinda derails most everything else.

    There are many reasons why abortions are necessary.  They're pretty much only the business of the woman involved.  If her partner and family are sympathetic to her needs, well, that's icing on the cake.

    Abortions are legal.

    And that is all that really matters.

    -------------------------
    Tom Smith Online
    Music In Every Style... Except Dull

    by filkertom on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:27:37 AM PDT

  •  Honestly, I'm not sure there's (5+ / 0-)

    really any disagreement here.

    The work of reducing the number of abortions, therefore, would entail creating an authentically family-friendly society, where women would have the support they need to raise their families, whatever forms they took. That could include eliminating the family caps in TANF, encouraging unionization of low-wage workers, reforming immigration policies and making vocational and higher education more accessible.

    That was precisely Clinton's point.  Whether or not he followed through with all of that as president is another question -- but any progressive I've ever heard say "safe, legal, and rare" means exactly what you said: nurture the proper social structures to help eliminate some of the problems of which unwanted pregnancies are a mere symptom.

    I don't care about your farm or mafia! Oh wait -- wrong forum.

    by cardinal on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:28:54 AM PDT

    •  Why should they be RARE? (6+ / 0-)

      There should be as many Abortions as wanted. There if no harm to or taking of Life going on with Abortions. It's a medical procedure thats all. The only criteria for having an abortion is the decision made between a woman and her doctor to have one. Abortions are Pro Life

      Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

      by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:39:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Because they suck (5+ / 0-)

        Abortions hurt. A lot - much less than a ruptured appendix, less than giving birth, somewhat more than a broken bone. They're not fun, and there's a risk (though very slight in the first few weeks) of hemorrhage or other complications. An abortion can mean missed days of work (and thus lost income). And it can be impossible to conceal from a parent or a controlling or abusive partner. Also, having an abortion means spending some time being pregnant, which is also not fun.

        You don't have to think abortion is murder to understand that it would be nice to reduce the need for them.

        Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

        by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:17:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No they don't SUCK! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tonedevil, Mrs M

          If a woman wants an abortion she should not have to listen to this kind of nonsense. Do you think women need to be told by you that having an abortion is uncomfortable. Look there are circumstances where a woman and her doctor decide to have an abortion. There is absolutely no need or purpose in telling her we want to have fewer abortions it.

          Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

          by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:57:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  They do suck (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elmo, Susan G in MN

            As someone who's had one I'm entitled to say so.

            I'm not trying to discourage anyone from having one - anyone who's already in a position to need one has to choose between pain now and pain later, so the thought of it being painful isn't going to dissuade them. But anyone who doesn't already need one would be well advised to try as hard as they can not to ever need one.

            Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

            by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 10:25:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  BTW, I'm guessing from your UID and sig (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elmo

            that you're biologically male, which is fine, the world need more men supporting abortion rights. But it would be nice if you didn't argue with female-bodied people (who are on your side) when we say things from personal experience.

            As a trans guy I have an odd perspective. I really wish I had never been in a position to need an abortion...actually, I wish I'd never been in the position to be biologically capable of needing one. But that's life, I have that experience, and I'm telling you right now, it sucks.

            Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

            by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 10:31:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Choicers should take back the (4+ / 0-)

    "PRO Life" Mantle! When ever we discuss Abortion we should always claim we are the Pro Life side of the argument! The Right's ability to claim they are Pro Life must be challenged. Women who have an abortion must know they are NOT involved in the taking a life. Abortions are a simple harmless medical procedure when done by a licenses Physician. People who perform or have this procedure are actually Pro Life and should be informed of this fact. Women who bear the vital responsibity of having a child must have the absolute right to determine if they can and want to take on all that having a child brings with it. So deciding not to have a child is a sign of a true pro Life decision. I believe when anytime we discuss abortion we must take back the "Pro Life" moniker. There should be many arguments over this term like this "I'm Pro life" "No I'm Pro life".  At least we can neutralize it's impact. If both sides cant get past who owns this term there will be the need to redefine both sides.

    Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

    by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:31:24 AM PDT

  •  that message (0+ / 0-)

    will end up losing a lot of moderate pro-choice people.  There is a strong sentiment in this country (maybe not here, but in the US) that abortion should be legal, but that responsibility is important as well (here's where I get flamed).

    By saying taht the number doesn't matter at all, and that it is solely about the right of choice, the message is one of callous disregard for consequence.  

    Rarity is an important aspect to the message.

    Fire at will....

  •  In my idea of a perfect natural healthy world... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux, Oh Mary Oh

    ...everyone would have healthy local food and water within reach, people would have good sex often with whomever they wish, women would not be compelled to terminate healthy pregnancies, mothers, children the disabled and the elderly would be nurtured and protected, and government would have no reason to be involved in private lives.

    Aberrations of such goals seem to be family matters...sometimes environments or some families falter or fail.

    In an imperfect world, families at times require help, and communities may need to get engaged. But governments?

    When outside forces intentionally interfere then gov't is needed for protection.

    Regarding abortions, I really can't understand how a government can justifiably be involved other than, say, arrest anybody who interferes or can't perform their job correctly. Reducing or increasing the number of abortions is not a gov't job imo.

    •  women would not be compelled (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brooke In Seattle

      to terminate???

      in your perfect world, would women be ALLOWED to?

      "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

      by Pandoras Box on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:44:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely (0+ / 0-)

        But if, say, life was so starved of resources or safety that women felt unable/unwilling to complete a natural pregnancy then a community needs to get engaged, not in preventing the termination (a natural reaction to the environment) but in protecting the environment/persons.

      •  Agree. Being "compelled" has nothing to do with (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pandoras Box, martydd, kyril

        it.  If it's an unwanted pregnancy, it's unwanted.  Creating a Utopian society where every woman who becomes pregnant would have no reason or "desire" to terminate the pregnancy is an argument used by the RW who seek to limit a woman's choice.

        •  Creating a utopian society is an impossible goal (0+ / 0-)

          ...so a false goal, illogical and unreasonable.

          Perhaps "compelled" is not the best word but used in the sense of a choice more weighty than, say, what to have for dinner or should I cut my hair, but sure, something one "wants or doesn't want".

  •  I'm troubled by the "abortion is bad" (14+ / 0-)

    so therefore we all must agree that reducing the number is good.

    Excuse me?  I'm not ashamed to come right out and say that abortion is good.  Terminating an unwanted pregnancy is a good thing.  Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term is a bad thing.

    Some women find the decision difficult, some women don't.  That's neither good, nor bad.  It just is.

    It's an individual woman's decision, not society's decision.

    My dogs think triciawyse is smart and pretty. They think I'm a strange, frumpy woman wth limitless snacks.

    by martydd on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:41:29 AM PDT

    •  exactly (4+ / 0-)

      "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

      by Pandoras Box on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:46:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Shame or a judgment, good or bad, seems.... (5+ / 0-)

      ...wrong to me. It's private and that privacy should be respected.

    •  So You are PRO LIFE! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean, Mrs M, wide eyed lib

      People who understand that Abortions are actually PRO LIFE the sooner we can discuss the issue realistically.

      Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

      by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:20:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But reducing the number would be good (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nina Katarina, julifolo, Mrs M

      provided that abortions were being performed on demand for anyone who wanted or needed one for any reason. In that world, a reduction in the number of abortions would reflect a reduction in the number of unwanted pregnancies, which would be an unmitigated good.

      We don't live in that world, sadly; in the US right now, you can't really draw any conclusions from the number of abortions. Increases or decreases are as likely to be due to access as to demand. And so I don't think we should care about the raw number. But if access were ever guaranteed, then the number would be worth looking at.

      Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

      by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:26:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I propose encouraging Abortions is better. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        julifolo, martydd, Mrs M

        Our society has in general accepted the idea that somehow Abortions are bad. This has produced untold unwanted pregnancys with negative ramifacations. There are just to many people taking on the responsibility of having children who would have chosen an Abortion it were considered what it  really is a normal safe medical procedure and no taking of life is involved.

        Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

        by eddieb061345 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 09:25:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree (5+ / 0-)

          Do we say appendectomies are bad? No. Obviously if you can avoid appendicitis, great, but if you can't, it's good that a safe procedure exists.

          Sure, we'd rather prevent unwanted pregnancies or prengancies that go wrong. That is self-evident. (It should be pointed out that the opponents of legal abortion oppose everything that can reduce unwanted pregnancy.) But it is good, not bad, that a safe procedure exists when an unwanted pregnancy happens. It is good, not bad, that a woman or couple whose wanted pregancy went terribly wrong can at least have resolution, and are not forced to risk the woman's health giving birth to a child with no chance to live.

          It's not terrible. It's a great boon that this safe procedure exists. What is terrible is that so many women don't have access, and what women do to themselves, and how many die, because they are forced to self abort or to undergo life-threatening pregnancies.

          •  I agree (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            martydd, Mrs M, Susan G in MN

            My first diary here was a pro-choice diary, which I've since deleted because it contained enough information for a few people to positively identify me if they saw it. But I told my story: I've given birth (and gave my daughter up for adoption), I've had a legal medical abortion, and I've self-induced an abortion because I couldn't access abortion care while deployed in the Navy, the last of which was the catalyst for me to start writing diaries instead of just lurking. The diary was titled "Why Roe vs. Wade Is Not Enough," and it was an argument for better abortion access, especially for military servicemembers and family.

            I think it's incredibly important that abortion exists and is safe and legal. I don't think "rare" ought to be part of the goal because of how it's misused to restrict access. But that doesn't mean I'm going to pretend that abortions are fun or that they should be encouraged. They should be readily available, on demand, within walking/public transportation distance of every town and neighbourhood, on every military base and every navy ship. They should be readily available even (perhaps especially) to preteens; they should be free to minors, the military, and Medicaid/Medicare recipients, and otherwise priced on a sliding scale until we get universal healthcare. And they should be uniformly available through the maximum gestational age allowed by law, in every state, on demand.

            An abortion should be easier to get than a bottle of beer. But I still take issue with the idea that it's a purely good thing that ought to be encouraged; it's a painful, possibly invasive, potentially dangerous remedy for a largely preventable condition. We need to stop trying to dissuade people who are already pregnant from having abortions, but that doesn't mean we can't encourage people who aren't pregnant yet not to put themselves in a position to need one.

            Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

            by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 10:51:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I can actually see both sides of this, in a (7+ / 0-)

    purely political way.  I am fervently pro-choice, by the way.  But abortion is often a physically painful procedure, and I don't necessarily think that wanting to reduce the number of abortions is at odds with promoting freedom of choice for women.

    I would say that a better way of looking at this would be to say that the goal is to reduce the need for abortion in the first place.  The availability of birth control and sex education is key.  Unfortunately, it's the co-mingling of religion in politics, and the fear and reprehension of sexuality among much of the "pro-life" crowd that prevents this from happening.

    •  Re physical pain: (5+ / 0-)

      I have both given birth and had an abortion - let me tell you something...there is no comparison in level and duration of physical pain.  Apples and oranges.

      I don't think I would use a physical pain argument.  I agree that the ultimate goal is to reduce the need for abortion, but this is a very imperfect world.  Even with birth control and education, unwanted pregnancies are going to occur.

      "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

      by Pandoras Box on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:58:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But Susan, you are making (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan G in MN

      assumptions about why a woman may consider an abortion in the first place.  "Reducing the need for an abortion in the first place" is NOT all about contraception or rape or teenager sex.  What about an individual who absolutely does not ever want to be a parent (due to abusive upbringing, genetic disorders, etc.).  

      Are we saying that person can never, ever have careful, protected sex as an adult, because protection might fail, and she already knows for certainty that if it does, she will seek an abortion?  "Reducing the need for an abortion" in this scenario involves, what, psychotherapy to convince her she can be a loving, good parent?

      I don't mean to sound angry with you.  I'm a little hyped up from another commenter.

      •  I think (honestly) that you're misinterpreting (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, kyril, Mrs M

        what I said.  I'm not talking about reducing the need for any one woman, in any one situation, to have the need for any abortion.  For ANY reason.  That is a woman's choice, and she has the absolute right to make that decision.

        The only point that I was trying to make was this:

        Abortion is a medical procedure.  It's no fun.  I know this from experience.  Better access to birth control, more comprehensive education - anything that can help to prevent the need from ever arising - is a good thing.  Anything restricting a woman's choice in the matter is a bad thing.  Period.

        I was reacting to the use of the word "rare," and what might be a better way to say it.

        •  Yes. I over-reacted as well. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, Susan G in MN

          I don't like the implications of the word rare either. And then I sort of jumped on you because "reducing the need" is another way to put it, but I don't really like that either, I guess! :)

          I think all these discussions ultimately fail, and mostly because of the words used, the different meanings people have for words, and the underlying issue that some people will always think others are "bad" for having sex they shouldn't have.

          As if what other people do in their private lives should matter to anyone else.

    •  i don't get the pain argument (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      martydd, Mrs M

      most forms of surgery are painful, to one degree or another. noone talks about whether arthroscopic knee surgery should be reduced because it's painful, or that we should reduce the need for arthroscopic knee surgery. it's just treated as a medical procedure, because it isn't limited to women and isn't involved with sex, so it has no symbolic meaning to outside commentators.

      abortion is just not something that needs legal management, save for making sure that it's universally accessible and that the standards for hygiene and professional standards regarding the procedure is up to standard.

      surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

      by wu ming on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 09:17:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Part of the problem is that knee surgery has (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pandoras Box, Calamity Jean, Mrs M

        never been illegal.  Until Roe v. Wade, abortion was not legal.  Nor was it safe.  So we're not starting from the same point if we compare the politics of the abortion debate.

        So, like it or not, the government is already involved.  In fact, if the government had not gotten involved, abortion would probably still be happening in back alleys, and more women would be dying or maimed.

        That's why it's impossible to avoid the political debate.  It was politics that ensured that women would have the right to choose.  we can't just unilaterally declare that government has no place in the issue without denying the history of issue.

        What we should (IMO) be advocating is for the law to be upheld so that women are forced back into the dark ages.

      •  But we do try to reduce the need (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mrs M, cgirard

        for other surgeries. Heart surgery, for instance. Even though everyone would agree that the existence of stents is good - that anyone who needs one should have one - we still understand that installing them is a risky and unpleasant procedure, and that it would be better if fewer people needed it, and that since the need for it is largely preventable, it's better to prevent it through education and better primary healthcare rather than solve it through surgery after the fact. Somehow, that's not controversial.

        Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

        by kyril on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 11:07:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not controversial because (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          martydd

          it happens to both women and men, and because the cause of it has nothing to do with sex, a topic that people freak out about.

          Also, we didn't need legislation to say, ok, doctors, go ahead. it is legal now to perform stent operatons.

          I am not disagreeing with you - I wish abortion could be treated like any other medical procedure. In which case, of course prevention is better than medical or surgical interventions.

          Prevention isn't a bad thing. Other people deciding who is more "prevent-ier" than others is the problem.  And if the reason to encourage prevention is to help and educate women, that's good. But to frame it that more prevention education is needed in order to reduce the number of abortions that implies that women are having too many abortions, and that it is not okay.

          •  I very rarely comment (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nina Katarina, Mrs M

            But this discussion moves me to do so because it seems that I may have something to add.
            I had four children, when I was quite young and very poor. All but one of them were unplanned, and occurred as the result of both ignorance and irresponsible behavior regarding sex, by an intelligent but emotionally unhealthy person who really should have known better.  I should say that these kids were all born in the last few years before abortion became legal, although it was perfectly possible to get one if you had a sympathetic doctor (and/or a lot of money).

            I loved them all, and nurtured them as well as I could under the circumstances, which were far from great. I'm not religeous at all, but my personal feelings, which I couldn't defend or deny by any logical means, were this:

            As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I was personally unable to think of the creature growing inside me as anything but just that; a living creature.  I know, I know, it's just a clump of cells at first, but usually by the time a person knows they're pregnant, it's an actual, separate creature.  It may be a parasite on my body, but it's certainly alive. Human, pre-human, potential human...not pertinent to me. I don't think that humans, in general are more deserving of life than other creatures.

            But unless I knew for sure that this live thing inside  me was so defective that it's life would be a misery to it, I was personally unable to contemplate killing it,however much it was going to change my life and my future. I don't think I ever even considered it, although it's hard to be sure from such a distance. But I couldn't do it back then, and I had enough self-awareness (just barely) to know that my own behavior was the reason for my condition, and that I was responsible for the consequence of creating a new life, and I was responsible for caring for it as best I could.

            But that's me, my own personal choices and feelings, and they haven't changed. But I would never say that my feelings, beliefs or choices should apply to any other human being, since I have no idea what it's like to be in their skin, their head, or their life. I believe absolutely in the right to choose.

            But it does give me a twinge of emotional discomfort whenever I hear people say that an abortion is no different than an appendectomy or the removal of any other malfunctioning portion of the anatomy, because I feel that most abortions do involve the ending of a life, of a living creature.

            That does not mean that I believe that the life of this creature is more important than the life of the woman in whose body the creature is growing. Nor do I believe that a woman who has already made the choice to abort a fetus should be assaulted with guilt-inducing propaganda or unnecessary medical procedures in order to change her mind. But I do believe that equating abortion with an appendectomy discourages people from taking responsibility for the behavior that created their percieved need to dispose of the life that behavior brought into being.

            I agree with all the commenters who say that the craziness about abortion stems in part from an antiquated, biblical attitude towards women and sex. But sex is not a behavior that can be lumped with other behaviors of choice. Intercourse between a man and a woman that has any chance of creating a new life has the potential for profound effects on individual lives and on society as well. This is the voice of experience and lifelong observation, and I'm sure is obvious to many people.

            If this comment gets any attention at all, I'm sure I'll be flamed for this...but I believe that saying to people that ending a life, however small and insignificant, is the same as removing a hangnail, makes life...all life...seem less valuable. It creates or perpetuates in people's minds the idea that maybe a live thing is not so special if it's existence is inconvenient to somebody.

            Full disclosure; this comment is written by a person who is aware of ending a life if she steps on an ant or swats a fly. And who believes this awareness is not a bad thing.

            I am of course aware that sex is not always a behavior of choice, and that I'm not qualified to judge anyone's behavior while unaware of their specific circumstances.

            But it seems to me (on no evidence, but nonetheless) that quite a number of the (how many?) abortions performed could and should be prevented, being necessary due to ignorance or irresponsible behavior.  Fewer abortions seems like a good goal to me.  Working for better sex ed, not just for children, and better availability of birth control seems like a good goal to me. It seems to me that to do this requires an awareness that abortion in general is, if not "bad", at least not optimal.

            thanks for listening
            cgirard

            "I hope for peace and sanity-it's the same thing." Studs Terkel

            by cgirard on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 05:16:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  cgirard, thank you for commenting (0+ / 0-)

              and sharing your story and beliefs.  I do not comment all that often either, but today I was on a roll. But what I love about this site is learning new ways of looking at things, and hearing people's incredible life journeys.

              I think as I have become a bit more informed about politics from reading here, I am also becoming a bit more jaded about the reasons behind the scenes.  And I think this diary about whether or not "rare" should be part of the equation made me question whether this was some type of political framing of the debate.  Because women's rights in Oklahoma are being chipped away at as we speak. And if "rare" is the talking point that really means "limited access" then that is a problem.

              We are human. And life is precious. And we all must follow our paths, and make the best choices we can with the knowledge we have. That's all we can do. And we should be able to do it while being tolerant of others, who may have different beliefs and make choices we wouldn't.

              Peace to you tonight.
              Mrs M

  •  I hate that phrasing too. (14+ / 0-)

    I don't want "rare" as part of the slogans people chant, because once you accept it, someone is going to start quantifying it.

    And what woman wants to be the one who pushes the numbers past the "rare" classification and loses her chance to decide for herself whether or not to bear a child?

    Safe and legal. Period.

    And stay the hell out of my body autonomy.

    I will never understand how some people can screech like they've been scalded with boiling water over government interference in everything EXCEPT what a woman does with her own body.

    "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

    by Brooke In Seattle on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 07:55:40 AM PDT

  •  To me, 'rare' means something different... (10+ / 0-)

    I guess I see "rare" as being the result of having free and easy access to birth control, morning after pills, etc,  and a reality-based (not abstinence-based) sex education program given to all young teenagers before they become sexually active.

    Hmm, then abortions would go down, by default.  But that would be a good thing.  I'm not agreeing that abortion is bad by liking the statement that abortion should be rare.

    Maybe I was misunderstanding the innuendo.

     

  •  I respectfully disagree. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cgirard

    I believe that this decision is one that can only be made by a woman.

    And yet I also recognize that there is a another person to consider... one who does not have a voice in the matter.  

    I read a book a few years back that described a culture where it was acceptable to terminate a pregnancy anytime before birth... and they described a procedure where a needle was inserted into head just before it crowned in birth. I was sick to read that.

    I can't provide you any scientific evidence that will provide a convincing arguement of the precise moment when a person becomes a person. Even the timing of when life can be sustained outside of the mother's womb changes as science advances.

    In light of this open question, I am not sure why anyone would not thing fewer abortions would be a good thing.  Like many commenters noted above, there are plenty of ways to help reduce unwanted pregnancies(education, birth control, family assistance)without taking away anyone's right to freely have an abortion.

    The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me' MT 25:40

    by Ed G on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:38:52 AM PDT

    •  The procedure of which you speak... (7+ / 0-)

      "Intact dilation and extraction" is used to relieve women of the need to have labor or a C-Section for a dead or anencephalic (IE one without a brain or a partial brain) fetus.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      There is no such procedure as a "partial birth abortion." That was a Luntz-ism created to creep people out.

      The next OneCare Happy Hour will be TBA
      Tea Partiers: drunk on White Whine.

      by Pris from LA on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 08:53:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Fewer of lots of medical procedures (4+ / 0-)

      would be a good thing.  

      I am not sure why anyone would not think fewer abortions would be a good thing

      Because it implies that choosing it is wrong and the behaviour that led to it is wrong.

      We don't say having an appendectomy or tonsillectomy is wrong and the need for them should be reduced. Maybe not the greatest example.

      How about heart surgery? Well, the behavior that leads to that may be not eating properly, smoking, what have you. But if you need it, you need it. It's legal. And some people need it who are very healthy and fit. Doctors don't live in fear that they will be killed because they performed heart surgery on someone who ate too much butter.

  •  Increased Education + Increased Availability (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, cgirard, Ed G

    To health care and contraception means less women will "need abortions."

    I don't really get what you are going for here.

    The right likes to paint this debate as having two sides... "pro life" and "pro abortion."

    The left likes to paint it as two sides... "pro-choice" and "anti-choice."

    They're both wrong.

    The two sides are "Anti-Abortion" and "Anti-Anti-Abortion."   Nobody would be "Pro Choice" if there weren't anti-abortion people wanting to change the law.  Plenty of the "pro-choice" women I know say they personally wouldnt' have an abortion under any circumstances.  Beyond that the experience is UNDOUBTABLY traumatic and certainly CAN have effects on the health of the mother.

    I don't see anything wrong with having a goal of decreasing the number of abortions, as long as it's not "At any cost."

    •  Been there, done that. (3+ / 0-)

      And I can assure you it was not traumatic.  It was mildly uncomfortable, but not much more than a standard pelvic exam.  It was not emotional, it was not gut wrenching.  It was a simple procedure to terminate an unwanted pregnancy that, had I been forced to carry to term, would have been traumatic and would have negatively impacted the rest of my life.

      UNDOUBTABLY, it was not traumatic.  And my health is fine.

      My dogs think triciawyse is smart and pretty. They think I'm a strange, frumpy woman wth limitless snacks.

      by martydd on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 09:19:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're Right and it Was Unfair of Me to... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pandoras Box, martydd, Mrs M

        ...generalize.  I can say that I know women for whom it was a traumatic experience--psychologically if not physically, including one who still cries all the time about it.

        But it was definitely stupid of me to speak for every abortion that ever took place in terms of being a traumatic experience and I apologize for that.

    •  I would argue that what is wrong (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TooFolkGR, Pandoras Box, martydd

      with having such a goal depends on whose goal it is. As an individual, you can choose to have a goal to reduce the number of abortions in your own life. If women are truly equal and in control of their own bodies, then how on earth can a nation have a goal of reducing abortions?

      The framework of this issue is faulty to begin with, and the reason why debates on the topic fail every time.

      Abortion is legal. It should be safely available no matter what. And that is all.  There should not be debates about how many there are, or the reasons for them.

      It should not be about sex. Or babies. Or money. What it should be about is women having rights.

      •  I totally agree with this in theory: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, Mrs M

        There should not be debates about how many there are, or the reasons for them.

        But see comment below...

        http://www.dailykos.com/...

        •  I agree that the government (4+ / 0-)

          is involved to a certain extent. But legal, safe, and available is where it should end.  

          Making a national goal about reducing the number of abortions to make it rare is exactly what might lead us back down the path of unsafe backalley procedures. The goal itself implies that women cannot be allowed to make decisions for themselves.

          "Ok, ladies. You can have your legal, safe abortions for now. But if too many of you choose it, and it goes from being rare to rare plus 100, you will have crossed the line and now we will take it away from you."

          We need to change the framework of this debate. I wish I knew how.

    •  It wasn't traumatic for me either (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      martydd, Mrs M

      let me tell you what's traumatic... PARENTHOOD!  ;)

      I also have 22 yr old twin sons

      "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

      by Pandoras Box on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 11:55:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Daily Kos: # of Abortions May be 'Too Low' (0+ / 0-)

    NewsBusters: Kos Article Says Number of Abortions May be 'Too Low'
    http://newsbusters.org/...

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