I know that the abortion debate is not about abortion because, if it were, there would be common ground discovered and actions taken. We know what prevents abortion and the vast majority of abortions could have long since been a thing of the past if the mis-named "Pro-Life" forces were working with, instead of against, us in trying to shape create the changes that would prevent most abortions by making them irrelevant.
This is how you eliminate the need for most abortions.
- Eliminate all barriers to safe and effective birth control.
- If we were serious, we could make it state-subsidized, free, and easy to get.
- Eliminate all stigma around women's sexuality that would prevent them from getting birth control.
- Make it possible for minor women to get birth control without parental knowledge or consent, so long as it is medically safe.
- Condoms are in men's control and can be sabotaged. They are important for other reasons, but women need control of their birth control.
- Put more public money into developing safer forms of birth control that have fewer side-effects.
- Mandatory comprehensive sexual education for all of our youth that focuses on de-stimgatizing sexuality, gives comprehensive understanding of how to prevent pregnancies, and focuses on sexual consent and communication.
- Make ending rape a cultural and societal priority by embracing a culture that openly discusses consent.
- Strengthen the social safety net, especially funding childcare and parental leave, so that women who would want to give birth and keep the child if their financial circumstances allowed them to do so can make that choice.
There will still be some need for abortion in unexpected and tragic circumstances where the woman wants to have the baby, but there is something badly wrong--with her health or with the fetus. These are, by definition, tragedies and NO ONE outside of the woman, her doctor, and whichever intimates she allows into that inner circle of decision-making even has a right to an opinion.
When I have tried to find common ground with those who swear that they just want to save the unborn babies by suggesting we could work together on any of the above--which would actually prevent abortions--it became crystal clear that this is not about the unborn babies or abortion at all. The so-called "Pro-Life" side actually works against all of the things that we know prevent abortions. The abortion debate is not about abortions.
What the abortion debate is about is whether or not women have full ownership of their bodies, or if that legal, societal, and cultural right is contingent and they can be owned by someone else...be it the father of the fetus, the husband, her father, or the state. If a woman's right to own her own body is not absolute, then she is not legally fully human. She is dehumanized and becomes pseudo-property. If I can be owned by someone else--if the state can tell me that I lose my rights to make medical decisions about my body should I become pregnant--then I am legally much lesser than any man, whether or not I am actually pregnant. I believe that the ability of the individual to have ownership of their body, the very vessel in which we walk the earth, is essential to being fully human. The abortion debate is about whether women are legally full persons or if their legal personhood is contingent. If it is contingent, then women are in a position where they are legally dehumanized.
Abortion is the battleground out of biological necessity. A fetus only exists inside a woman's body. Until birth, the fetus is in a dependent symbiotic relationship with the woman's body. There is no way around that fact. Once the fetus is in a woman's body, she must either have control over her body or someone else has control over her body. You can't act "for the fetus" against the woman, without denying the woman sovereignty over her own body. It logically cannot be done.
In this way women are simply biologically different than men and vulnerable to having their humanity stripped from them in a way that men are not. This is the battleground. There are ways to prevent most abortions without resorting to a battle about whether or not women legally own their bodies--but in the actual abortion debate, there is no compromise. Women either own their bodies, or this basic human right is contingent and women are not recognized as fully human. If you give the fetus rights that supersede the mother, you deny women their full legal humanity.
There can be no compromise on this battleground.
I have never been pregnant and I never will be pregnant, but my legal-standing as a full human equal to men stands in the balance along with all of my Sisters from all backgrounds. This is not about abortion. It is about the emancipation of women.