Why It's Not About Abortion Prevention

Posted on 10.30.2012 by Chantal

I was really excited to read this post on RH Reality Check. The author, Tracy Weitz, reflects on her experiences at a meeting of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstretics (FIGO). In doing so, she touches on a topic that has come up for me several times in reflecting on what I see as the political and strategic failures of the pro-choice movement. I find the framework of abortion prevention to be deeply problematic and misguided.

Talk of abortion prevention is not new. Its been part of the conversation for years, especially among supposedly prochoice policy makers, researchers, and NGOs. If we could just reduce the number of abortions, conservatives and the religious establishment would be forced to get off our backs, right? Wrong.

A recent study out of St. Louis seems to have effectively proven what should be obvious to us all by now: access to free contraceptives reduces the rate of unplanned pregnancies, which in turn reduces the number of abortions. (You shocked yet?) The liberal news media is already lauding this as proof that we were right all along. We hold the key to reducing the incidence of abortion! But Tracy Weitz brilliantly points out the flaw in this logic. Since when are we not okay with the number of abortions?

I believe that all women should have access to free (as in ZERO COST) contraception. But not so that they don't have abortions. I believe that women should have access to free (as in ZERO COST) contraception because women have a right to control their fertility and because women deserve to have a variety of options available to them in order to do so, regardless of socioeconomic status. I also believe that abortion must be one of the options that we offer to women as a means of avoiding unplanned or undesired pregnancy. Yes, free birth control. But also yes, free abortion.

Tracy is spot on when she writes that "not pitting pregnancy prevention against abortion rates may seem like a semantic difference, but it is a critically important one for women." In doing so, I agree that we risk increasing the heavy burden of stigma that so many women are already subjected to. In a time when political and legislative opposition to abortion seems to be stronger than ever, I think we also risk forming an unintentional and dangerous alliance with those who seek to stop abortion all together.

According to Weitz, 46 million women worldwide have abortions each year. And I'm okay with that.