by Lindsey Abston Painter  |  14 September 2021  |  

Only if you have been living under a rock would you not have heard that at the beginning of September the state legislators in Texas passed a draconian law criminalizing abortions past six weeks of pregnancy. Not only the woman who has an abortion will be treated as a criminal, but anyone involved in any way, including any doctor or medical personnel involved—and even a person who drove her to the clinic or offered her shelter. Women who leave the state to have an abortion are to be immediately prosecuted when they return. 

And, perhaps most horrible of all, a website has been created where citizens can report their family, friends, and neighbors to the government of Texas for suspected abortion. 

I live in California, so I am not likely to be personally affected by this law, other than that it sets a horrible precedent for any future abortion laws elsewhere. But I’ve hardly spoken about it publicly, because I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe my horror. 

I think a lot of the abortion debate is shortsighted. One side talks about a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth, while the other side is talking about babies and their right to live. 

Not that simple

For those who have never been pregnant, let me break this down for you a bit. 

The “clock” for pregnancy begins on the first day of the last period. Which means that the first two weeks of a “pregnancy” are before the woman is even pregnant. Let’s say a woman gets her period on July 1. Two weeks later, on July 15 or so, she might have sex and get pregnant. But no pregnancy test would tell her that she is pregnant until she misses her next period which might be around August 1st. That means that the absolute earliest possible time to even discover a pregnancy is at four weeks. If a woman is very intentional about checking for a pregnancy at the earliest possible moment, that gives her less than two weeks to consider her options, make appointments, and get an abortion. 

Most women don’t even realize that they are pregnant until seven or eight weeks. The law is unreasonable, but of course, that is its intention. 

There are many reasons why a woman would need an abortion for medical or trauma reasons. I personally know women who cried their way through an abortion because they wanted their baby but their pregnancy was killing them. Some women are told their baby will die now or later, and do they want to carry and deliver a dead baby or abort it now? How can you, a person not involved in her life, judge her for making that choice? 

When a woman is raped, the resulting pregnancy will tie them to their rapist forever. Did you know a rapist can sue for child custody in those cases? 

Furthermore, accidental pregnancies do happen. Even if someone is being very careful, they might get pregnant. Condoms are not 100% effective. Neither is birth control. Neither are vasectomies. People make mistakes. Or birth control fails. 

I know women, for example, whose doctors failed to inform them that a round of antibiotics would affect their birth control, and they ended up accidentally pregnant. I know women who were told that breastfeeding would keep them from pregnancy. Women who weren’t informed that the first month of the pill isn’t effective. Women who used a condom but the man slipped it off without their knowing. 

It’s about children

But I think both sides tend to neglect the part about what happens after the birth.

I work in human services. Part of my job is to train foster families and assist in the fostering process, as well as help with placement in group homes where kids end up if they have nowhere to go. I am part of a team of people who get calls from the police or the county that there has been an emergency child removal from a home and “Do you have a place for them? Right now?”

I think everyone would agree that raising a child is an enormous responsibility. As a person who has two children myself, I am well aware of what it takes. We’re talking 20 years of dedication, self-sacrifice, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, among other investments. Can we at least agree that not everyone is willing or able to take on that kind of responsibility? 

I see the results of these forced, unwanted pregnancies. Children neglected, abused. Children whose parents think of them as a burden instead of a joy. Our foster system is overflowing. Hundreds of thousands of children with serious trauma are out there. No one wants them. Is that what we want? To force more children into the world who are not wanted, who won’t be cared for? 

But what about the families who would not abuse a child, but are in a situation that doesn’t allow them to provide a loving home for a child? Let me ask you, reader. Yes, you, reading this right now. If you discovered, today, that you had to raise a child, how would you feel? 

Are you a man? You are still responsible for this child for the next 20 years minimum. 

Are you past childbearing years? You are still responsible. Are you ready to take that on? 

Are your children older and the idea of raising a baby is exhausting to you? You still have to raise this child. 

Are you struggling to afford to live right now? You still have to be responsible for this child. 

Changing diapers, waking up in the middle of the night. Paying for doctors appointments. Buying them clothes. Taking them to Pathfinders and Sabbath School. Paying for private school. Packing lunches. Missing work because they’re sick. Going to Disneyland on your vacation instead of London. 

This isn’t just a birth. It’s a life. An actual entire life. 

Do you want to take that on? Because that is what you are asking some women to choose. 

No one wants abortion

Like most of the pro-choice people I know, I do not love abortion. If we could eliminate abortion I would be in immediate favor. But my choice for eliminating abortion would be better and more affordable birth control. Better education about reproduction (and sex!) for kids and teens. Better support for families, such as affordable daycare options, better maternity and paternity leave. 

These are the things that actually reduce abortion. Statistically, abortion is reduced when these measures are taken, and it actually increases under restrictive abortion laws. 

So laws like those in Texas aren’t actually about reducing abortion at all. They’re about morality. The assumption is that women who want an abortion are living immoral lives, so they should be forced to live with the consequences of their actions! So the children are unwanted, and they suffer. In what respect is this logical? 

(Don’t even get me started on how men are also involved in this “immorality” but are expected to suffer none of the same consequences.)

I wish I could work myself out of a job. I wish the foster system didn’t have to exist. I wish that every child who is born into this world were wanted and cherished and loved. 

There is a lot of talk about how every life is precious to God. But does God only care for fetuses? Doesn’t God also care about those children who are growing up unwanted? 

If abortion has to exist so that every single child born into this world is loved and cherished and wanted, then personally, I’m in favor. 

Lindsey Abston Painter is a mental health trainer living in Northern California. She is passionate about feminism, social justice, and sci-fi. She is a proud parent, and has way too many cats and one goofy dog.

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