Though Jan. 22 marked the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the abortion debate is far from over.
It’s always been a heated and polarizing issue, certainly, but the influx of Republicans into varying positions of power assures that this legal right of women will once again be at the forefront.
Is abortion in itself a problem? No. Unwanted pregnancy is a problem. Criminalizing abortion would presumably not affect unwanted pregnancy – despite certain anti-abortion propaganda, not all women who choose to terminate a pregnancy are selfish, carefree individuals for whom abortion is a simple and painless decision.
It’s important to add that according to the Guttmacher Institute, neither do women necessarily suffer increased mental or health problems as a result of abortion.
With the number of providers dwindling and institutions such as Planned Parenthood constantly fighting for funding, legal abortions have become ever harder to obtain.
The question over whether or not abortion should be legal is in reality a question over how safe we want women to be.
Women, for any number of reasons, will continue to make this decision and when there is a lack of responsible care, they will suffer.
The recent case of Kermit Gosnell makes this fact horribly clear. Gosnell was a Philadelphia doctor who performed illegal late-term abortions in a filthy, unsafe clinic with untrained, unlicensed staff. He has been charged with, among other things, eight counts of murder.
Women go to people like Gosnell when their situation is desperate and they have nowhere else to turn. Criminalizing abortion or making it more difficult would only lead to even more cases like this.
Women should not be placed in this situation in the first place. Abortion should remain an option for those in need, but structures should be set up so that fewer women will be in need.
There does exist common ground, between both sides of the debate. Both sides, for instance, desire fewer abortions. The thing to do, then, is reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies.
Here is where the two sides often diverge. The anti-abortion faction tends to also be vocally against contraception, especially its distribution to vulnerable groups such as teenagers, which leaves abstinence as the only option for preventing pregnancy.
The problem is that most people live in a reality-based universe where sex happens. To enable women to live real lives without constant fear that their life will be set off course by pregnancy, cheap and reliable contraception needs to be widely available, along with education on how to use it.
It sounds so simple, but then again we are on a college campus, most of us have insurance and we all have access to some form of contraceptive.
Life isn’t this easy for everyone.
We can also find common ground in support for pregnant women and mothers. I hear a lot about the rights of the fetus, but all too often the anti-abortion side pays only lip service to the life of the woman.
Some women do not want to deal with pregnancy or childbirth because they understand the real economic costs associated with children. With health care costs still extremely high, public assistance programs facing constant budget cuts and employers not required to provide substantial paid maternity leave, having a child can look like the worst possible decision for some women.
More restrictions to abortion access won’t take long to get on the books, but I’ll bet anything you won’t see realistic and positive ways enacted that would reduce the necessity. What restrictions will do is make life more complicated and difficult for women who aren’t in an easy place to begin with. This is morally reprehensible.
Abortion does not exist in a bubble, but in the same environment as various social, economic and cultural structures. The best solution is always more complicated than it first appears. If we truly want to help women, adding more restrictions to the already difficult decision is not the answer.
Ali Free is a sophomore majoring in women’s studies at the University of Kansas.