Gray Areas Matter: Abortion

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Abortion is one of the hottest topics of conversation today, and for good reason. It’s an issue that affects millions of women around the world and involves a great number of religious and ethical complications. It’s certainly too complex to cover entirely within the scope of this column. That being said, let’s take a look at the abortion issue, how it is oversimplified by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, and how a pro-choice perspective can and should be used to reduce abortion as a societal phenomenon altogether.

Consider a person who takes ethical issue with the act of abortion. As is reflected by the Democratic Party’s representation of the issue, the party’s platform leaves little to no room for policymakers who hold pro-life beliefs. On the other hand, the Republican Party holds a similarly hostile view toward any Republican candidate who expresses a pro-choice perspective. This all seems perfectly natural, but I believe that it demonstrates the fundamental flaw in how our society talks about abortion. Abortion views aren’t binary. When both the Democrats and Republicans are polarized over abortion, they only offer platforms consistent with completely pro-life or pro-choice views. There is no middle ground. But just because an individual holds beliefs that reject abortion as an ethical option, it does not mean that they necessarily need to, or even should, take a traditional pro-life stance and combat abortion by instituting burdensome regulations and outright bans. 

Allow me to elaborate. I believe that pro-life and pro-choice supporters fundamentally want the same thing. It’s certain that pro-life advocates want to see fewer abortions. I think it’s equally certain that most pro-choice advocates want the same outcome, albeit by extraordinarily different means. So how can the two groups work together to achieve that common goal?

The Netherlands has done just that by consistently achieving one of the lowest abortion rates in the world, and it didn’t use bans. According to a study published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling, the Netherlands achieved its remarkably low reliance on abortion through progressive attitudes about sexuality, funding for birth control and investing in sex education. All of these factors culminate in a low rate of undesired pregnancy.

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If conservative pro-lifers are willing to embrace the empirical data about the effects of sex education and birth control and pro-choicers are willing to be more open-minded when it comes to the ethical questionability of abortion, this country can make leaps and bounds in the name of preserving unborn lives and protecting women’s rights simultaneously. It’s truly a win-win situation. 

Anyone who says that abortion is completely ethical is speaking with no authority. From science to philosophy, the ethics of abortion are damningly elusive. I cannot emphasize this enough: There is no one right answer. We need to protect a woman’s right to choose while trying to reduce the country’s abortion rate.

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