We’ve all heard the pro-choice argument that if abortion is made illegal again, women will be forced to go to dangerous back-alley abortionists, and women will die as a result.
There are many pro-life responses to this. You can explain that maternal deaths from abortion actually decreased before Roe v. Wade, due to advances in emergency medicine and antibiotics. You can point out that legal providers are frequently unsafe anyway. You can bring up all the international research showing that it is possible for a country to have pro-life policies and good maternal health outcomes.
But perhaps the best argument of all is one that is rarely brought to the forefront: the pro-choice argument about “back-alley” abortions assumes that women are stupid and/or without meaningful agency.
Women will be forced to avail themselves of illegal abortion procedures, abortion advocates say. They’ll have to. It’s inevitable. The idea that they might choose life instead? Preposterous.
In short, they are saying that the average American woman, living after the reversal of Roe, would be completely incapable of the following train of thought:
This pregnancy hasn’t come at a good time. There’s a pregnancy center a couple miles from here that might be able to help me out, but will that be enough? I suppose I could take a semester off. Or maybe I could take online classes instead. Will I have to take out a loan? Move back in with my parents? Get a second job? Go on welfare? Place my baby with an adoptive family? I’m not thrilled about any of these options. On the other hand, they are much better than the option of sticking a sharp object up my privates and hoping for the best.
Of course, whether or not it’s legal, there will always be a few people who make unwise decisions. I recently became aware of the fact that women are dying from black-market silicone butt injections. Cosmetic surgery is obviously legal, but legitimate doctors refuse to perform this particular procedure due to its risks. The alternative procedures that cosmetic surgeons are willing to do are prohibitively expensive. So you have a situation where women are risking their lives to exercise full control over their bodies.
Raise your hand if you think that the solution to the butt injection problem is to make the procedure available on demand and without apology.
Raise your hand if you think that that’s a horrible idea and maybe, just maybe, the better approach is to attack the root cause (e.g. body image issues) and continue to punish the sleazebags who profit off of women’s suffering.
That’s the difference between the pro-choice and pro-life view in a nutshell. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that abortion alternatives aren’t perfect. More can, and should, be done. But we have made significant progress since Roe. There are now more pro-life pregnancy centers than abortion facilities in the United States. We’ve come a long way when it comes to the prevention of unplanned pregnancy, too. There are real options for women other than abortion, and after the restoration of the right to life, any woman in her right mind would exercise them.