In my life, I have come down on the pro-choice side of the ledger for personal and community reasons. I cannot see my way to telling another person how to make that intensely personal decision without being a paternalistic asshole. (Indeed, the "abortion is bad for women" argument is horribly paternalistic.) I believe that forcing women to bear children they do not want is wrong. We don't force people to be kidney, liver and lung donors, but we would force equally traumatic and debilitating medical procedures on women?
I believe that our community is a better place when both men and woman have equal rights and authority over their own bodies.
I write this today because a recently-published study has shown an alarming relationship between abuse and forced pregnancy.
Young women and teenage girls often face efforts by male partners to sabotage birth control or coerce pregnancy -- including damaging condoms and destroying contraceptives -- and these efforts, defined as "reproductive coercion," frequently are associated with physical or sexual violence, a study by a team of researchers led by UC Davis has found.While "rape and incest" are generally accepted as reasonable reasons for an abortion, coercion and abuse are not. This is a problem because coercion is a bigger problem, and doubtless under-reported. It is those women who are most likely to feel helpless and alone who are most susceptible to coercion, and are thus most in need of the protection of the community from such coercions. A coerced act is not a decision, and people should not be forced by the state to bear the consequences of things they were coerced into doing.
"This study highlights an under-recognized phenomenon where male partners actively attempt to promote pregnancy against the will of their female partners," said lead study author Elizabeth Miller, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the UC Davis School of Medicine and a practitioner at UC Davis Children's Hospital. "Not only is reproductive coercion associated with violence from male partners, but when women report experiencing both reproductive coercion and partner violence, the risk for unintended pregnancy increases significantly." - ScienceDaily
Imagine you were coerced by a sexual partner into donating them a kidney. Would that be okay? No. And the state makes sure no one can force you to do so.
The obvious retort is "a child is not a kidney!" To which I reply, a blastocyst is not a child. We can have a debate about where the line is, but there is a line. And before that line, it's not a child, it is a choice.
I have wondered if the debate over abortion and choice would benefit from more people "coming out" about their experiences. If it was more widely known that 10-25% of all pregnancies ended in spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), would our idea of when life begins be different? If all the women who had had abortions or miscarriages "came out" and forced their friends and families to deal with the issue on a personal, rather than abstract level, would opinions change the way they have with gay marriage? It is one thing to hold the opinion that "abortion is always evil." It is another thing to tell your sister that, to her face, when she has shared with you the most traumatic moments of her life.
I believe this discussion should begin, and end, with the people for whom it has the most significance: our mothers, sisters and daughters. Ultimately, that is why I have come down on the side of choice, because I cannot and will not presume - as a man - to tell the women in my life what they can and cannot do with their bodies.
(Note: Since I know this subject is going to be very sensitive and likely to stir virulent response from many, I have turned comments off. I am sharing my opinion on my blog and not attempting to start a wider debate here.)
[Update] Here is a link to a great philosophical discussion of the question: On Abortion.