Last week, I got into a conversation (as I often do) on access to abortion. The exchange was pleasant and informative, but in the course of the conversation the other party expressed she did not support free choice if “someone is using abortion as birth control.” In my experience (and other abortion ganger’s experiences as well), conversations about abortion often come to this same limit, or some version of ‘abortion is not an acceptable if’ statement.
And when the ‘if statements’ start flying I wonder: Why are we so afraid of liberating the use of abortion for whatever means an individual may choose? Why is it that when abortion comes up, some “moral limit” (within the legal limit) must be placed on the procedure? When society is not being harmed, these arguments against abortion as birth control become moral high-ground arguments that hurt the prochoice movement.
Of the approximate 6.7 million pregnancies a year in the US, about half or 3.2 million are unintended pregnancies (Guttmacher, 2012). Once an unintended pregnancy occurs, even if a person chooses not to use birth control daily/during sex and becomes pregnant, isn’t abortion is the only form of birth control that can be used to control birth? Literally?
Honestly: If we consider that approximately 11% of all unintended pregnancy are a result of sex without contraception (Guttmacher, 2007). The real concern is the US women/couples who are underserved or disserved by the contraceptives and/or reproductive health system available in the US. As KushielsMoon clearly explains here, contraceptives are scientifically different from birth control. Abortion, biologically is birth control, in every case, regardless of if contraception was used during sex or not.
Furthermore, safe, legal abortion is one of the most effective forms of birth control; in the US, abortion procedures only “fail” or need to be re-administered less than .5% of the time (NAF source). Abortion is a safe reproductive experience, and repeating the procedure multiple times has not shown to have negative impacts on future reproductive abilities (See Ms. myth buster article & abortion support blog). However, advocating that using abortion for birth control is totally 100% OK/kosher/great/moral usually terrifies people.
Why? When we think about the burden an individual’s choice places on a society we usually think in terms of financial implications, public health burdens, and how the individual’s choice interacts with social morality.
Depending on how often it is needed, abortion is a relatively expensive form of birth control, but US Governments (unfortunately) are, in most cases, not paying for the procedure. The financial burden of an abortion falls more on the individual, and therefore is unlikely to negatively affect the financial solvency of the state or society. We need to respect the individual’s right to choose to spend their money on whichever birth control they may choose.
In terms of public health concerns, in the US, abortion is a safe and legal procedure. Sure, using condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs would be a better public health approach, but using abortion as birth control is no less acceptable than the IUD or the patch when it comes to concern for STD transmission. The only argument that remains for saying abortion control shouldn’t be birth control is a moral judgment that relying on abortion as birth control is unacceptable.
If someone wants to use abortion as birth control, let him or her do so. Let them because it is immoral to judge and shame a free choice behavior that is non-society-harming. Do it because you radically believe that abortion is moral every time it is done safely and legally. Abortion is birth control. Any time a person draws a moral line about abortion’s acceptability as a reproductive health decision they stunt our movement against stigma and toward free, safe choice.