The United States Supreme Court has agreed to review Mississippi’s 2018 policy, an act restricting abortion past the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. The current precedent for abortion legality was set by the 1973 SCOTUS ruling in Roe v. Wade. Since abortion rights are enshrined by court precedent and not legislation, a conservative court’s reinterpreting of reproductive rights could effectively remove these rights. Between October of 2021 and June of 2022, the court will hear the case, and, eventually, decide the future of reproductive rights in America.
Abortion has always been a muddled issue. Since Gallup began polling on abortion in 1976, a majority of Americans have taken the nuanced stance that abortion should be legal in certain circumstances. Abortion is rather unique when compared to other political issues, in how people’s opinions often diverge between ethics and legality. For example, former vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine made distinctions between his personal view on the morality of abortion, and his view on whether it should be legal. Abortion is an ethically and legally complex issue that raises big questions about life, personhood, and state power. I understand why so many voters struggle with the issue of reproductive rights, and why most have a somewhat moderate perspective.
However, abortion is usually discussed in the context of extremes. Republicans constantly raise the issue of partial-birth abortion, despite the practice being federally banned since 2003. In 2019, President Trump even highlighted the “issue” of post-birth abortion, which is illegal, and no politician advocates for. Many Republican abortion claims have been politically motivated and feature inaccurate and misleading information. Despite this, the potential excesses of the pro-choice movement have certainly been explored through conservative backlash. It is critical to explore questions like: how late should abortion be allowed? Pro-choice activists must have cogent answers when pressed.
What I find, though, is that the excesses of the pro-life ideology are rarely explored in as granular of detail. Unfortunately, for many anti-abortion activists, dark, and even dystopian, realities lurk within the logical conclusion of their beliefs. Ignoring theological packaging, the core axiom of opposing legal abortion is as follows: fetuses should, under no circumstances, be killed. And as the aphorism goes, “life begins at conception.” Therefore, the moment after conception, it is the responsibility of the state to protect the life of all fetuses.
The first glaring issue with this syllogism is the prevalence of miscarriages. A surprisingly high 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, with 80 percent occurring in the first trimester. In fact, in the first several weeks of pregnancy, women can have miscarriages without even realizing they are pregnant. To be logically consistent, conservatives would need to do everything in their power to protect these fetuses. Since miscarriages can be caused by a woman drinking alcohol, using recreational drugs, drinking caffeine, or smoking, these practices would have to be banned.
Furthermore, to identify whether a woman was pregnant, an apparatus would need to be created to test all women regularly engaging in sex. To be thorough, every woman would have to register with the government to become sexually active, and then routinely go to a state agency to have a licensed physician conduct a pregnancy test on her. This would have to be done every day, and if pregnancy was identified, the woman would be put under state surveillance to assure she was not drinking alcohol or engaging in any other activities that could increase the chance of miscarriage.
The daily pregnancy testing regiment would likely preclude women from the ability to work. The testing apparatus would also require a massive budget; tens of millions of women would be tested daily.
The criminal justice system would also need to punish all women who did have a drink or a cup of coffee, while pregnant, and the economy would have to find a way to make up for the lost hours of testing, surveilling, and jailing millions of women. And this is where the entire argument would collapse. Because even if the trillions of dollars were allocated for funding this program, even if conservatives were willing to accept the subjugation and massive reduction in quality of life for an entire gender, the program would still not be successful.
Because, at any moment, a woman could conduct an unregulated abortion on herself. In short, the oppressive and expensive police state that would need to be formed to combat abortion, would not even be able to accomplish that.
This is where I offer an olive branch to the anti-choice right. I cannot speak to every person’s unique experience, and how they reached their political opinions. I would not claim that every person who opposes abortion is a sexist Neanderthal, this is a complicated discussion. But I would implore the anti-abortion crowd to adopt a new solution to their goals: expanding contraception.
By subsidizing birth control, condoms, and other contraceptive products, our country can accomplish a bevy of important goals. We can reduce STI rates, avoid unwanted pregnancies, and, yes, significantly reduce abortion rates. Expanding contraceptive access can be a unified goal. Younger Republicans are already making ideological strides in this direction, and I hope there is more progress on this front. Bipartisan, popular solutions are hard to come by, in a political era fueled by divisiveness and mischaracterization. When these solutions appear, we must harness them.