Last Thursday, in a speech before the irrationally titled anti-choice group “Susan B. Anthony List,” failed Vice-presidential candidate and currently underwhelming Republican leader and Representative Paul Ryan said, “We don’t want a country where abortion is simply outlawed. We want a country where it isn’t even considered.”
At present, we have no model for that: no such country exists. Making abortion illegal won’t prevent it from being considered; abortion rates are higher in countries where the procedure is illegal. Outlawing it also makes it more dangerous. Making it illegal won’t prevent it from being considered. Paul Ryan can read, so this must be obvious to him. So if he doesn’t mean to outlaw abortion, what kind of country would we build where it wouldn’t even be an option?
Well, it would ideally be a world in which there were no unwanted or unplanned pregnancies in the first place. Abstinence-only education is possibly the worst way to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Not only do kids have sex, when they do, they’re inadequately informed as to how to find and use birth control. So a country where abortion isn’t considered would have to start with a comprehensive sexual education program from the time children are old enough to get pregnant - nine years old, apparently, but we should start at 7 or 8 to be safe. We’ll obviously have to end child rape, because abortion will surely at least cross the minds of guardians, medical professionals, and child advocates if a nine year old girl is found to be pregnant. In addition, birth control will have to be free, and not only easily accessible, but abundantly available.
Stopping adult rape totally will be a challenge. People will need to be indoctrinated from birth to accept that, once born, their lives, no matter what the costs or circumstances, need to take a backseat to the unborn. Oh, you’re an adult who got raped and now you’re pregnant? To not even consider abortion, you will have to be good and convinced – brainwashed, honestly – to not even consider that your life, sanity, peace of mind, bodily autonomy, independence, future, dreams and hopes should not be 100% certain to take a backseat to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term that is the product of a traumatic sexual assault. That’s the reality.
There’s also the issue of non-viable fetuses. At this point, in the world we’re creating, there are only wanted pregnancies. Still, a person who realizes they’re carrying a child who has no brain – literally, a tiny body with no working brain – knows that pregnancy is not going to come to term with a happy ending. There are also cases of children who would only live a few days, in the hospital, in severe pain, fetuses with no heartbeat that for some reason are not naturally still-born and simply remain in the uterus, and other extremely severe fetal medical issues. It’s hard to imagine that one wouldn’t at least consider an abortion when it’s clear that the fetus is no longer alive, or as a mercy when a child who was born would suffer terribly. The solution would probably be to no longer classify this as abortion. It would be considered carrying a pregnancy all the way to term – term would end when a child was born, or a fetus was no longer viable.
So we’re going to have a world in which birth control is free and abundantly available and easily accessible, in which there is no more child rape, and in which adults are conditioned to believe that the life of an unborn fetus is more important than the life of anything else, ever, at all, under any circumstances. We’re also going to stop defining certain medical procedures as abortions. Are we now living in a world where no one will consider abortion?
Probably not. Although abortions for medical reasons – the so-called “health of the mother” exemption – has been mocked by the GOP, pregnancy can still be life-threatening. There’s no way around it. Not having an abortion can still mean that you will die. Or your mother will die. Or your wife, or your partner, or your sister, or your child. At these moments, it would be impossible not to at least consider abortion. Most people would let that option cross their mind. Many people – however selfish this option was made to seem – would consider how much they still wanted their spouse, their child, their parent in their lives. Some people – maybe, under those circumstances, even most people – would have a hard time accepting this preventable death. Hell, we fight cancer even when death isn’t preventable. We really hang on to our loved ones. I think it would be hard to condition that out of people – even for a perfect, abortion-free world.
So if there’s no such thing as a perfect, abortion-free world, it might be worth considering that a perfect world includes abortion. Abortion isn’t a problem, it’s a solution. It’s a medically necessary solution to a number of problems that are part of our real lived experiences: rape, medical complications, miscarriages, and, unfortunately, because humans are imperfect creatures and we make mistakes and because we currently live in a system not designed to any way help us avoid those mistakes, unwanted pregnancies. When abortion is considered no more problematic than any other incredibly useful medical advancement that can and improve millions of lives, we’ll be a huge step closer to a perfect world.
I have some thoughts on how to get there, too. I’d like to think Paul Ryan, being a smart guy, would want to help, but he probably won’t consider resigning.