By Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson
Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson is an abortion doula and Ph.D. student in religious studies at the University of Alberta. She is the author of the Humanist Ceremonies Handbook (Humanist Press, 2018) and the upcoming The Companion: An Abortion Doula Handbook. You can visit her at her website http://albertaabortionaccess.com/. She can be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here she responds to a comment on abortion seen over Facebook.
This month I address not so much a question as a comment I received on my personal Facebook page. I think it is incredibly important that I do this because it displays a lot of the prejudice and assumptions that abortion patients face and part of my calling is to help destroy the stigma. Please note that the post I have copied below might be hurtful to the 1 in 3 people who have experienced abortion (in fact, it’s a good rule of thumb to remember this statistic before spouting off unfounded opinions. 1 in 3 means that someone around you is hearing this bullshit and putting you on their “not safe” list).
Human sacrifice is human sacrifice PERIOD. No matter how logical or justifiable the reason may sound. If you dont [sic] want a child, use protection, or adoption services. The only it should be an option is if it comes down to a choice between the childs [sic] life or the mother’s were the pregnancy to be carried full term. Making abortion so acceptable and accessible enables people to escape consequences from poor decisions and selfish lifestyles. Its [sic] the Devil’s work, and good people have been tricked into championing for what is undeniably an act of human sacrifice. WWJD?
This response, from someone I went to high school with about a hundred years ago, is almost the perfect anti-abortion response because it hits on all the generic anti-abortion talking points. So, I’d like to take a minute to go through each one and explain what is wrong with the reasoning and the assumptions that lie behind it.
Just Use Contraception
Every single one of my clients save one used protection. In fact, almost half of unintended pregnancies in the United States result from protected sex. But let’s look at that other half. Are they simply not being responsible? Perhaps (though I’d argue with the term “responsible”). But my experience shows me that there are a large number of people who cannot use the most accessible forms of contraception whether because of allergies or illness. But also, especially in the United States, access to contraception is still contested and costly. One might counter that one can get free condoms at health departments which is true. But condoms also have the second highest failure rate (13%), withdrawal being the least of effective of all (20%). The “just use contraceptive” argument is based on several assumptions: that contraception is easy for all people to use, that it is accessible, that it has low failure rates, and, finally, that people who don’t use it are simply irresponsible.
Just Give It Up for Adoption
This one is perhaps the easiest to pull apart of all because adoption is NOT an alternative to pregnancy; it is an alternative to parenting. Someone who does not want to be pregnant for whatever reason will not find relief in the idea of adoption. And even for those patients who are aborting for financial reasons, etc. find adoption untenable because it can be emotionally coercive and has a history of racism and exploitation. Anyone reading the stories of women who were forced into adoption pre-Roe comes to understand that adoption is not an easy or simple process and that this is why so very few women choose it.
Abortion Should Only Be an Option in Extreme Cases
Many people use this line. In this case, my high school acquaintance believes that only when the pregnant person’s life is in danger should abortion be okay. This is very interesting to me since he previously states that abortion is human sacrifice “no matter how logical or justifiable the reason may sound”. Does he then mean that human sacrifice is okay in certain circumstances? Is there suddenly a logical and justifiable circumstance that overrides his previous statement? I’d say that what my friend thinks but isn’t quite willing to admit to himself is that abortion is complicated and not the black and white situation he at first paints it. The truth is that childbirth is extremely dangerous, with a higher complication rate than many realize, especially in the United States where maternal care is substandard and the rate of death in childbirth has substantially increased in my own lifetime. That many pregnant people want to avoid childbirth is hardly shocking. We also need to take into account other ways that someone’s life can be impacted by being forced to give birth. Lack of access to reproductive health services has negative outcomes for families who are already struggling. It can all but ensure the continuation of generational poverty, for instance, or it can exacerbate existing mental health issues for the pregnant person.
But finally, and simply, no one should be forced to incubate a fetus against their will, regardless.
People Who Have Abortions Are Avoiding the Consequences of Their Actions
That we would assume that someone needed to face the “consequences” of “poor decision making” by being forced to give birth is alarming. The assumption here is that the pregnancy resulted from irresponsibility (and thus we come back to assumptions about contraception, etc.) and that the pregnant person needs to be forced to carry to term as a form of discipline for their irresponsibility. Put simply, pregnancy is not, nor should it EVER be, punishment. If someone reading this believes that it should be then you need to revaluate how much you actually respect “life” or motherhood. One cannot exalt motherhood and at the same time use it as punishment.
I’m not sure that my high school friend will read this with any degree of generosity or that it will make him think. I hope it does, but I’m not counting on it. The anti-abortion racket thrives on stereotypes about the kinds of people who have abortions. Lucky for them, I have actual experience working with people every day who are choosing abortion often for loving and logical reasons, and I’m proud to stand up for them every chance I get.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson.