Rebecca Greene Tuesday, October 19, 2004

At this Thursday’s Philodemic debate, it was argued that we should outlaw abortion because there is no need for it in our society. I wish that this were true. But we live in a world in which it is necessary, and criminalizing it is not the way to make it less so.

The way to decrease the number of abortions is by preventing unintended pregnancies, and the only proven way to do this is with comprehensive sexual education and the use of contraception. Abstinence-only education has never been proven effective and it has been shown time and again that criminalizing abortion does not make it disappear. It simply makes it more dangerous.

In fact, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 44 percent of abortions worldwide are obtained illegally, and, according to the World Health Organization, 95 percent of all unsafe abortions occur in underdeveloped countries.

People who are anti-choice hear this argument and say that simply because something is going to happen does not mean we should allow it. This is where we fundamentally disagree. I think the only responsible thing to do when you know something is going to happen is to acknowledge that fact and deal with it.

In a perfect world, maybe people wouldn’t have sex if they didn’t want a child. But that’s not the way it works and I don’t think anyone believes it ever will be.

I choose to recognize this and ask what we can do to improve the situation. They see the problem and say, “This shouldn’t happen, so let’s act as if it didn’t.” Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

One of the speakers also argued that there are “scientific studies” proving fetal pain. There are no such studies that are accepted by the mainstream medical community, but there are countless studies proving that criminalizing abortion causes higher maternal mortality rates.

This is why nearly all medical organizations, from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to the American Medical Association, oppose attempts to ban abortion.

Listening to many of the speakers I would have thought that the entire medical community considered abortion to be murder and believed it should be made illegal, but that is not the case.

There was much discussion, too, of when life begins. If you believe that a fetus is a life that deserves the same rights as an adult woman from the point of conception, there is nothing I can say to change your mind about abortion. That is an article of faith, and no amount of logic or reason will affect it.

However, the majority of Americans don’t believe this, as an example used by Michael Sandel in defense of stem cell research shows.

If there were a fire in a fertility clinic and you could either save a two-year-old child or 100 embryos, most people would save the child, although if you believe that life begins at conception this would be saving 99 fewer lives.

The point is that there is a difference between an embryo and a person. A zygote is not the same as a human adult. It is a potential life, certainly. There is a difference, however, between this potential life and the actual life of a woman, and we have to recognize this disparity.

Because we cannot determine when life begins, it was claimed that allowing abortion is taking too great a gamble. I would argue the opposite.

When we know that it will cause maternal mortalities, it is too great a gamble to criminalize abortion because there is a possibility that a fetus may be a life. We know that a woman is.

That being said, neither I nor anyone else would ever tell a woman to get an abortion. The whole purpose of groups like H*yas for Choice is to provide women with a choice.

Any time that a woman is forced to have an abortion because her situation makes it impossible for her to have a child is just as tragic to us as any time that a woman is prevented from getting an abortion that she wants or needs. I am not pro-abortion, I am pro-choice.

Rebecca Greene is a sophomore in the College and a board member of H*yas for Choice.

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