In conversations about abortion, I keep on seeing interactions like this one:
When it comes to abortion, it seems like a certain number of anti-abortionists operate under quite a startling misunderstanding about what it actually is.
It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Especially since the same people tend to spend a lot of time salivating over graphic descriptions of (what they imagine) abortion to entail. None of which, by the way, involve someone who’s a handful of weeks pregnant taking a few pills over a few days, chasing them with some painkillers and curling up on the sofa with a hot water bottle for a day or so.
I’m sure when these people picture abortions and the people they have them, they imagine someone who can’t wait to tear apart the foetus growing inside them. It’s all about violence. It’s never about context: who the pregnant person is, what they want or need, and why.
Abortion isn’t about killing a foetus
This is something that people find incredibly difficult to grasp. If you think about it, though? Killing foetuses isn’t what abortion is about at all.
It’s about someone who is pregnant wanting or needing, for whatever reason, not to be. Maybe they never wanted to be pregnant in the first place, or their circumstances mean that parenting would be a terrible idea. It’s not about the foetus. It’s about the pregnant person.
Or maybe someone wanted to be pregnant, but it turns out that the foetus wouldn’t survive birth, or would damage the pregnant person’s health severely (or risk their life). Again, this isn’t about killing a foetus. It’s about making the best decision possible, saving someone’s life/health, or preventing needless suffering and pain.
I can’t think of a single instance where a pregnant person thinks “y’know what? I would love to kill a foetus today, and it just so happens that I have one handy”. That doesn’t happen. (Also, I’m pretty sure that a person who did that might be better off not being someone’s parent. Just saying)
What’s a 38 week abortion?
You know what we call abortion at 38 weeks?
If you’ve figured out that abortion has nothing to do with killing foetuses, this makes perfect sense. If you’re 38 weeks pregnant and you want/need not to be, then that baby is generally perfectly capable of surviving outside in the world. Sure, someone’s going to need to take care of them. But at this stage, it doesn’t matter for their survival if that someone is their birth or adoptive parents.
If the 38 week old fetus isn’t capable of surviving in the world? That happens. And it’s probably going to be one of the worst times in a family’s life. The decisions that they make around that should be treated with the dignity they deserve.
Context, context, context
If you don’t think about context, it’s easy to see absolute decriminalisation of abortion (making it free, safe and legal for everyone who wants/needs it) leading to horror-movie scenarios of 38-week pregnant women killing their fetuses ’cause they simply couldn’t be bothered to wait another few weeks to have the baby. Or ’cause 8.5 months in, they changed their minds.
This is as insulting as it is absurd.
We know that where it’s legal, 90% of abortions happen in the first 12-13 weeks of pregnancy. We also, by the way, know that in countries like Ireland where abortion is illegal, they tend to be delayed by a fortnight or so. More, if the pregnant person has to deal with visas as well as raising funds. Even so, we know that less than 1% of abortions happen after 20 weeks. We know that when this happens, it’s almost always because of a grave risk to the life/health of the pregnant person, or because the fetus isn’t going to survive birth.
Knowing all of this, don’t 38-week scare stories seem ridiculous? Doesn’t it seem less like a genuine concern than a deliberate attempt to turn people who have abortions into monsters? Doesn’t it feel badly tainted with stereotypes of emotional, unreliable, hysterical women who need someone rational to tell someone what they really want or need?
Doesn’t it just?
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