There’s very little in the world that feels too taboo to write about – at least for me. I’ve written books about suicide, rape, self-harm, racism and domestic abuse, and I deliberately chose those topics in an attempt to represent unheard voices in our communities. Full disclosure (if you didn’t know already): I am a straight, white male, and some might say I have no voice in these types of topics. In most instances, I would be considered the perpetrator, rather than the victim, of many of these subjects.
And yet, when I see women victimized and then denied justice for the crimes committed against them; when I see black people fall foul of a justice system that is built from the ground up to destroy them; when I see injustices in the world, I feel for those victims. Let’s be clear: I do not know what it’s like to be raped. I do not know what it’s like to have racial slurs hurled at me, or to be arrested for a crime I didn’t commit because of my skin color. But I do know people who have suffered through these things, and I do know it isn’t right.
Despite my comfort discussing – and listening to others about – these topics, there is a subject that is uncomfortable even for me, and so it is for millions of people across the United States (and the world, but we’ll be focusing on the US for now). It’s a topic that is almost universally polarizing, and people seem to have an opinion on it whether or not it’s ever affected them personally or not. It’s also a topic that shouldn’t be taboo, swept under the rug, or otherwise minimized, and the laws governing this subject are questionable at best.
I’ll preface this by saying this isn’t a topic I am personally well-educated about, though there is no shortage of information about it available. If I’m honest, I’ve shied away from it simply because it’s uncomfortable to think about. I think a lot of people do the same. But that can’t be an excuse for ill- or uninformed opinions, and really what I want to discuss the long-reaching effects of people whose opinions will affect the lives of millions of people across the country.
The topic in question is abortion. As many of you are I’m sure aware, the state of Texas recently passed a law prohibiting the performing of abortions after six weeks of gestation – purportedly the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected by modern ultrasounds – and long before many women are even aware they are pregnant. The bill was blocked very recently, only to be reinstated less than 48 hours later, indicating clearly some of the controversy around this particular subject.
There are several aspects of this bill that are notable. A major point of contention is that, as mentioned above, the bill bans abortions at a point in the gestation before many women know they’re pregnant, meaning it could potentially force women to carry to term unwanted pregnancies.
A second notable point is that the law doesn’t strictly forbid abortions on a state or government level, but rather allows the litigation against anyone who performs an abortion after six weeks by any member of the public. In this way, the criminal justice system won’t necessarily be overwhelmed by doctors in breach of the law, but rather allows plaintiffs to sue those doctors should they perform illegal abortions. This begs the question, then, of whether or not Texas is more likely to see ”back alley” abortions rise, as theoretically it isn’t just doctors at risk of litigation, but anyone who performs or facilitates such an abortion. For example, it could allow, in theory, a father to sue a mother for a self-performed termination – even if the end of the pregnancy’s cause is dubious (miscarriage vs. abortion).
The wider ranging significance of this law is that, of course, if Texas is allowed to pass such a measure, it could spread to other states, and of course could eventually become federal law, wherein abortions across the country of the United States are effectively outlawed.
Whilst there are a number of views surrounding abortion and abortion law, all of them essentially boil down to a simple divide: is abortion right, or wrong? I’ll dive deeper into the nuances of abortion later, but I put it into this simplistic perspective for the moment because that’s what’s really at stake: not whether or not women should have the right to choose, or whether the fetus has a right as a human, but rather whether the people who are signing these laws believe, deep down, that what they’re deciding is fundamentally right or not.
On the one side, of course, there are those who believe that all human life is sacred, and should be preserved to the greatest extent possible: every conceived fetus deserves a chance at life, whether that fetus was deliberately created or not. This viewpoint would claim that abortion is tantamount to murder, in that it is effectively ending the life of another human being. Worse still, it’s ending the life of an infant, a human that has no say in the matter, no power of debate or defense, and who could have potentially been born, grown up, and become the next Einstein.
On the other side are those that are ”pro-choice”; that pregnancy is inextricably linked to the mother and her body, and that the choice to carry a pregnancy to term or not should be no one’s choice but the mother’s. This view would claim that a fetus is not a fully developed person, and shouldn’t be subject to the same rights and restrictions as a born, living, breathing human.
There are, of course, millions of nuances to both of these views, but as far as I can tell, it mostly boils down to these two perspectives, more or less.
Abortion is already a difficult and uncomfortable subject to broach, for many of the reasons already noted above. Some people believe it to be fundamentally wrong, whilst others believe it to be a fundamental right of the mother. The problem with abortion laws specifically, however, is that wide-reaching decisions are often made by people on the conviction of their beliefs, and have little or nothing to do with the people their beliefs affect.
When Texas governor Greg Abbott signed the ”Texas Heartbeat Act” into law in May of this year, he was following through on a career built out of conservative legislation and acts: acts that included supporting the ban of same-sex marriage, sex toys (sex toys don’t help with the purpose of sex, being to procreate), and lifting prohibitions relating to gun control. Even without direct quotes (which I’m sure I could look up if I were so inclined), prior to the Heartbeat Act Abbott backed bills that required abortion clinics to bury or cremate aborted fetuses, thereby seemingly conferring them human status.
This history makes it clear that Governor Abbott fundamentally believes that abortion is wrong. The problem here is that, as a man in a position of high power, his beliefs have led him to make a decision that now affects the direct lives of millions of women across the state: women who have no say or recourse to fight back. The very next women who wishes to have an abortion in the state of Texas (after six weeks) has effectively been told by Abbott that she must carry the fetus to term.
There are a lot of loud voices on either side of this debate, from politicians to activists to celebrities. I recently saw a post from singer Billie Eilish that she almost decided to cancel her shows in Texas because of the law. Apparently she eventually decided to go on, but made a statement during the show regarding the law with the words “bans off our bodies” flashing on screens behind her.
Anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson responded later, stating “If it has a separate heartbeat and DNA than you, it’s not your body.” What makes this particular person interesting is that until 2009, Johnson was a director for Planned Parenthood, until apparently witnessing an actual abortion on ultrasound turned her around completely. (Incidentally, this speaks to me of someone who can’t stomach the reality of their convictions.)
I also heard someone point out that a lot of men remain remarkably silent on the matter (presumably in support of pro-choice), as though it doesn’t matter or make a difference to them. This is a difficult concept as well, because I think a lot of men – perhaps more than women – would err on the side of pro-life, for the very reason that it is easier for a man to dismiss pregnancy, and that it doesn’t directly make a difference to them.
Should We Stay Silent?
As a man, this is where things trouble me. I’m usually very conflict-avoidant, and it absolutely is easier for me to stay out of the way. But that doesn’t mean that’s the right decision, even if it’s the easy one. The problem here is that, in a topic such as abortion, one is pretty much forced to pick a side: if you’re not with, your against. Because if I side with the pro-choice movement, the pro-life side will hate me. And vice-versa. If I say that all human life is valuable, then I can’t necessarily advocate for killing humans – even potential ones. And yet if I side with those who believe in body-autonomy and that there shouldn’t be laws that govern what women can and can’t do with something literally growing inside them, then I can’t really complain when something that could potentially be considered alive is killed.
At the absolute heart of the matter, I believe, is the inherent worth and value of human life. Is a fetus more important than its mother? Is a potential life as valuable as an existing one? I think that certain far-right views, such as sex for reasons other than procreation is wrong, are ludicrous; millions of ”potential” lives are wasted every time people have recreational sex. For that matter, a ”life” is lost every time a woman menstruates, if you follow that logic.
But is human life actually all that valuable? Does it really matter? At the end of the day, does what we do on this earth for the scant few decades we’re given really make any difference? And I think that here, we should turn to science to find the answer.
After all, science doesn’t really care what you believe; the rigorous scientific method is designed to take human thought and belief out of the truth of the universe, because whether you like it or not, the world, and the universe it exists in, will carry on long after your and your aborted fetuses are ash and dust. And at the end of the day, there are 8 billion people already in existence on this overpopulated world; what difference does one more make?
A Deeply Personal Decision
If that seems like a somewhat nihilistic view, it’s probably because it is. I don’t believe men should make decisions that affect women, and in that light, I vehemently oppose the Texas Heartbeat Act. I also don’t believe that personal beliefs and convictions should be taken into account when making decisions that affect the lives of others, and to that extent, I think that it would be far better for abortion guidelines to follow a strict scientific method to determine when an abortion can and should be performed.
Outside of that, the truth is, humans kill humans all the time. We kill each other by accident, and we kill each other on purpose. In that context, I think that if we’re to view abortion as killing, then it’s probably far more merciful to kill a human whilst still in the womb, before it’s had any chance of experience or life, than to kill one that’s lived for months, years, or even decades.
Ultimately, though, abortion is a deeply personal decision – perhaps one of the most personal decisions a human can ever make. Many people neglect to take into account the fact that most women who seek abortions also end up in months, if not years, of therapy and counseling to help them cope with their decision. It isn’t an easy choice to make, even when everything that led to the pregnancy was equally unwanted (e.g. rape).
So who should make that decision? In that regard, I believe that the only person qualified to decide whether or not an abortion is appropriate is the person it would affect the most: the mother.
In that regard, perhaps men should stay silent. Just for once, let the women raise their voices on this one. Let them make the decision.
So Governor Greg Abbott: fuck you and your bill.