Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has recently become the subject of controversy when it comes to some of his comments on abortion.
At a town hall event in Hamilton, Ontario, Trudeau was asked about the issue, and how it connected to free speech. In response, Trudeau said, “An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion, the right for women to control their own bodies, is not in line with where we are as a government and quite frankly where we are as a society.”
This statement has even been subject to criticism from the United States, where the issue of abortion is even more controversial than it is in Canada. Trudeau has received such responses as, “this man is reprehensible” from former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka.
But the thing is, I agree with Trudeau. In fact, as a Canadian myself, and as a feminist, I’m proud of my prime minister for his statement.
I am pro-choice. This does not necessarily mean that I am pro-abortion. This does not mean that I hate babies, or that I want all babies to die. What it does mean is that I recognize that abortion is not a simple, good-or-evil issue. I recognize that there are many reasons for why a woman might want to have an abortion, and that I do not have the right to make that decision for her.
One issue that we have in our society is that we don’t seem to understand who is actually having abortions.
The image that we hold onto is of a frightened teenage girl, making rash decisions that she might later regret, or women like Pennsatucky from the show “Orange is the New Black” who use abortion as a form of birth control. This, however, does not reflect the reality of what is going on.
Only 12 percent of abortion patients in the United States are teenagers. The majority of women who are getting abortions (60 percent) are actually in their 20s, and 59 percent already have at least one child. And as much as we commonly accept this myth that women will regret their abortions, this is just a myth—95 percent of women do not regret their decision to terminate their pregnancies.
So why do women choose to get an abortion, if it isn’t because they’re scared teenagers or because they don’t want to be mothers? Well, the most common reason that women give for wanting an abortion is related to finances. Almost half of abortion patients live under the poverty line, and more than a quarter are within 200 percent of the poverty line. Quite frankly, these are often women who cannot afford to have another child.
And for those of you asking why they don’t just give the baby up for adoption: merely carrying a baby to term and giving birth to it is expensive, especially in the United States, where abortion continues to be a hot-button issue. For a natural birth, an American woman is billed around $30,000 on average, while a cesarean section can cost around $50,000. An abortion, on the other hand, can cost anywhere between $0 to $3,275 (a medical abortion also tends to be safer than childbirth). It isn’t difficult to see why a woman living under or close to the poverty line would choose an abortion.
Take note, pro-lifers: if you really want to deter women from getting abortions, you first need to deal with your healthcare system.
Merely restricting a woman’s access to an abortion is forcing a woman to make one of two choices: she can give birth to and raise a child that she does not have the means to take proper care of, or she can resort to an unsafe abortion. Because here’s the thing: if a woman has decided, with absolute certainty, that she needs an abortion, then she will get an abortion. Whether or not that abortion is done in safe conditions is up to the legal system.
There are approximately 25 million unsafe abortions performed annually, the vast majority of which are performed in countries where women’s access to safe abortions is restricted. Each year, between 4.7 percent to 13.2 percent of maternal deaths are attributed to unsafe abortion. Medical abortions, on the other hand, kill 1 in every 15,000 women.
And I do not at all mean to imply that if a woman chooses to have an abortion for any reason besides a financial reason, then it is invalid. In my opinion, there are many valid reasons to want an abortion, including mental health, physical health, the pregnancy being the result of a rape, or quite simply not being prepared for the responsibility of carrying a human being to term and/or raising it afterward.
Abortion is a complicated issue. And I cannot be the one to make a blanketed decision for every woman in my country regarding what she can do with her body and her life. And if I tried to make that decision, it could come with massive costs toward women’s health and quality of life.
Being pro-choice involves trusting that women are capable of making difficult decisions for themselves. It involves thinking of women as rational, intelligent beings with autonomy. And I like to think that we are getting to a place in society where we are doing this. As Trudeau said, “Women have fought for generations for the right to control their own bodies, to be able to choose for themselves what to do with their bodies.”
Being pro-choice is not about hating babies, or condoning murder (something which is an interesting discussion in and of itself, although I might point out that most scientists do not believe that a fertilized egg necessarily constitutes human life). Being pro-choice is about just that: choice. For every single woman out there.
If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. Just don’t endanger other lives by telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. And don’t judge a woman whose life you do not understand.