Arguments for Abortion
I would describe my views as not merely pro-choice, but pro-abortion. I do not believe abortion is an act society must grudgingly tolerate, but a positive and responsible choice that when freely made should be celebrated. I want to outline here some of the many ways in which unfettered access to abortion benefits women.
Abortion is far safer – physically and mentally – than childbirth
Abortion is a safe procedure with extremely few major complications – fewer than ¼ of one percent of procedures – which makes it a safer procedure than having one’s wisdom teeth removed. When compared to childbirth, the safety of abortion is particularly evident – the risk of death from childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion.
Abortion is far better for women’s mental health than being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. The overwhelming majority of women who get abortions don’t regret them; more than 95% of women surveyed in a recent UC San Francisco study felt that abortion had been the right decision both before and after the procedure. Conversely, women who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and who then give up the child for adoption often experience deep regret and poor mental health years after the adoption. In one study, over half of mothers who gave up a child for adoption experienced severe depression, while 97% of mothers experienced some level of depression.
Abortion frees women from abusive relationships
An often underreported benefit of abortion access is its association with a decreased risk of domestic violence. Women who seek abortion are frequently victims of domestic violence; many women state that a concern about violence is a reason they seek abortion. Terminating the pregnancy allows women to escape domestic violence, while carrying a pregnancy to term ties women to the abusive partner. A longitudinal study from BMC Medicine shows that abused women who are able to get an abortion experience a significant reduction in violence over time than women who can’t terminate their pregnancies. This corroborates the common-sense observation that a woman who can get an abortion will be in a much better financial and physical situation than one who can’t, and will be more likely to be able to exit an abusive situation.
Women who can access abortion go on to have healthier families
Another largely unreported benefit of abortion is its effect on the life outcomes of women who do go on to become mothers. Children born after denial of abortion experience significantly worse maternal bonding and live in greater poverty than children born after a woman was able to access abortion services. As Diana Greene Foster states in her study on this topic, “These findings suggest that access to abortion enables women to choose to have children at a time when they have more financial and emotional resources to devote to their children.”
Abortion is often framed as a choice that society must simply tolerate if women are to maintain autonomy over their bodies. While bodily autonomy is extraordinarily important (and often misunderstood) I want to highlight the benefits abortion access brings to both women and the larger society.
Of course, many pro-life activists will claim that any benefits abortion bring are outweighed by what they believe are the harms of abortion. In my responses to pro-life arguments, I explore why these arguments are unconvincing and do not provide a convincing basis for opposing abortion at all. In fact, I believe these arguments are based on an incoherent and life-hating belief system that ought to be wholeheartedly rejected.