Abortion is undesirable. We would all like to live in a world where it never happens. That is an agreement we can build on. Yet our inability or unwillingness to build on this agreement, and reach workable solutions to address this very serious problem, is destroying our country. I want to find a way forward.
I call this position “Pro-Whole-Life.” It borrows the best from both the so-called “Pro-Choice” and the so-called “Pro-Life” positions, while seeking to avoid the pitfalls of each. Because it is a middle ground and a way forward, extremists on both sides of the issue will hate it. So will the merchants of division, who will see it as a threat to one of their best cash cows, and to one of the best distractions by which they keep their control over us. I am addressing those of you who are tired of watching our country self-destruct over this issue, and willing to try thinking in a new way.
To begin with, let me respectfully ask the “Pro-Life” thinkers to consider one poignant fact. If you had your way, and abortion was outlawed coast to coast tomorrow, we would simply trade one set of nasty problems for another. Instead of about 900,000 abortions a year, we would have hundreds of thousands of new orphans every year, plus untold numbers of illegal abortions, untold amounts of money flowing into the coffers of organized crime, a whole new set of corrupting influences on our banking and political systems, and untold numbers of babies sold into human trafficking. Do any of us really want that?
That’s because abortion per se is not the problem. The problem is unwanted or unsustainable pregnancies. Abortion is one of the means men and women currently have available, to solve the problem. I know you find abortion morally objectionable and want to foreclose that option, but here’s my point: Nobody aborts a baby they want, as long as they feel they can give it a decent life, and the pregnancy doesn’t pose a threat to the mother or some other member of the family. If the pregnancy is wanted, sustainable, and safe, the rights of the fetus never come into conflict with the rights of the mother, and quietly, invisibly, everybody wins.
Any true solution to the abortion problem must begin by realistically and effectively addressing the problem of preventing unwanted and unsustainable pregnancies. Otherwise, we are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, trading one set of nasty problems for another.
Here is a fact worthy of mention: all pregnancy is 100 percent preventable. All you have to do to prevent pregnancy is just refrain from sex. Simple, right?
If only. Turns out it’s really hard to refrain from sex, once you reach a certain age. The drive to reproduce is every bit as powerful as the drive to eat, drink or sleep. It can be delayed, but eventually it demands to be satisfied. It can be tempered by reason, but it has the power to overcome reason. People are going to have sex. And that’s mostly a good thing.
The first line of prevention is to teach our children both the mechanics of sex, and more importantly, the ethics of sex. This falls to the parents. But not all parents are equipped to teach their children about sex. Churches can help, but not everybody goes to church. Trusted schools can also help. But every child approaching puberty must be taught, and, currently, we are doing a woefully inadequate job of that. The ethics don’t have to be taught from a particular religious point of view. They can be taught as cause and effect. If you get pregnant, this is what will happen. This is what it will cost. This is who it will help, and who it will hurt. This is how it will change your life, and the lives of the people you care about.
The second line of prevention is contraception. No matter how thoroughly we teach our children the ethics of sex, they will not always behave ethically. The sex drive will continue to overwhelm reason on occasion. And when that happens, do we want an unwanted or unsustainable pregnancy to result? Isn’t it better to use a safety net of contraception to provide us with freedom and prevent that set of nasty problems?
I will have more to say about this in the future, but for now, the first few principles of a Pro-Whole-Life approach are clear. The fetus is a human life. Unwanted or unsustainable pregnancies open up a nasty can of problems, including abortion. And vigorous prevention, through education and contraception, is the place to start. But not the place to end.
Columnist Phil Jones is a musician and the executive director of Sunrise Ministries.