I was lying on the couch, completely nauseated, worrying about whether or not I could handle being a parent, and listening to the dog bark. My husband took the dog outside, then brought me a sleeve of saltines. I was seven weeks pregnant with a child we had so desperately prayed for and evil thoughts slipped into my mind about whether or not I actually wanted to be a mother. “This is why women get abortions,” I thought to myself.
As a devout Christian, and a lover of children in general, I have long had strong, moral objections to abortion. To be honest, I still do. If anyone asked for my advice or opinion today, I would say that abortion is wrong, it is no different than murdering an adult, and that adoption is a much better option. However, it wasn’t until I was in the thick of that lovely first trimester that I finally understood why some women might choose that path, and I couldn’t blame them.
I was elated, but equally miserable. I had a wonderful, supportive, thoughtful husband that was picking up all the slack around the house and was more patient with me than I could have ever dreamed of. That’s not the case for a lot of women out there, though. Some women have partners that continue to be selfish throughout their pregnancies, who don’t want the child, or are in other ways less than helpful. Other women face pregnancies completely alone without any support system whatsoever.
How could I have ever judged these women so harshly in the past? Well, that one is easy. My values and moral perspective didn’t allow me to step outside of my own world viewpoint and think beyond the abstract about the actual, situational difficulties that women face. I have struggled financially, but not while pregnant or mothering. I have faced mental and physical hardships, but not while trying to care for other humans. I’ve gone without medical insurance, but not through a major medical expense. I have been blessed and taken those things for granted.
I honestly believe that no woman ever really wants to get an abortion. It can be as life-changing, emotional, and downright traumatic as becoming a parent. So many women are faced with that difficult decision every day, because they do not have adequate support and did not have access to affordable birth control.
Upon humanizing all of these things, my whole opinion on women’s reproductive rights changed. Although I have always morally been against abortion, I was never against it legally. With that said, I was firmly against subsidized birth control. I held the opinion that if a woman could not find a way to afford birth control, she should not be having sex. Although that is the best way to prevent pregnancy, it is naïve of me to think that everyone would make a decision I would make when we all come from such different pasts and life perspectives. I cannot expect everyone to follow my personal convictions about sex and relationships. Quite frankly, it was absurd that I ever did.
It seems so clear to me now that if I am strongly, morally opposed to terminating pregnancies, then I should make every effort to support the prevention of pregnancy. When you get down to it, the best way to prevent abortion is to prevent pregnancy.
There are so many wonderful programs, both government and nonprofit, that help provide women with birth control options. The issue in their success often comes down to a few things: affordability, education, and access. Although many programs offer free, or almost free, birth control in various forms, not all come with a price tag low enough for those that need it most. These agencies also face high demand and must figure out how to stretch their dollars further than any one of us could imagine.
Even those who can afford the birth control or find it for free may not have the education to use it properly or understand that it is safe to use. Our public education system is failing us in sex education. It would be great if everyone could get a thorough education on sex at home, but we have to recognize that it doesn’t happen. This is either due to the parents’ own lack of understanding, embarrassment, or moral opposition to the topic.
Of course abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy and contracting an STD, but our education system is far more naïve than I am if they honestly believe that telling kids not to have sex will keep them from doing so until they are married or in a stable relationship. Birth control pills and condoms are useless if you don’t know how to use them. I once met a woman that thought she only had to take birth control pills on the days she wanted to have sex. Let me repeat that. I met a woman that thought she only had to take birth control pills on the days she wanted to have sex. If we help teach people to properly use birth control, then we can help curb unwanted pregnancies—and the spread of STDs, while we’re at it.
Finally, many men and women do not have a way to get to the programs that offer this sort of assistance. Sometimes the issue is that there isn’t one in the area. Other times, there just isn’t adequate public transportation to get people there. Working with these agencies to come up with creative solutions to that problem could incredibly change women’s options when it comes to their reproductive rights.
All of those are ideas that I would have scoffed at a few months ago. I would have thought to myself, “Birth control is everywhere and I KNOW you can get condoms for free.” Who would have thought that something the size of a sweet pea would make me change my mind? No one who doesn’t want to become pregnant should be faced with getting pregnant because of inadequate medical care. Let me tell you, it is most certainly worth it if you want a child, but it is no picnic.
Whether you are opposed to subsidized birth control or a proponent of it, I urge you to take a few minutes to think about your feelings if you were in a different situation. What are you doing to help your fellow humans? How would you want them to help you?