- Sex & Drugs
- 21 May 18
But the best way to reduce the number is proper sex education and access to contraception. You won't hear the 'No' gang admit this. So remember to vote 'Yes'.
Here is a simple fact of life: abortions are sometimes necessary. Most of you, I am sure, know the reasons as well as I do.
First, there are health reasons — fatal foetal abnormalities; and a risk to the life, or the health, of the pregnant woman. Then there are the compassionate reasons, including pregnancy as a result of rape or incest. Many societies with severe restrictions on abortion will allow terminations for any of these reasons.
Reasonable people, even if they are for the most part anti-choice, will admit that, in these cases, abortion should be available. That’s because these are seen as a proportionate response to tragic or violent circumstances.
Elective abortions: it would be silly to imply otherwise. Again, there are many reasons for these too: because the pregnant person is too young to have a child or is still in college; because she is not able to afford a child — or, as is often the case, another child; because she is in an abusive relationship, or their relationship has broken down; or because they are not in a relationship at all with the person who made them pregnant.
These are sometimes thought of as “bad” abortions. They are the ones that really trouble fundamentalist anti-choicers. In their view, anyone — but particularly any woman — who does not want to have a baby shouldn’t be having sex in the first place.
Anti-choicers may claim to love them both — and perhaps some of them genuinely do — but the truth is that many see pregnancy as a punishment. Because of that, abortion is seen as an attempt by wily sluts to circumvent the Lord’s holy retribution for their promiscuity.
ABORTION RATES FALLING
Anti-choicers here and elsewhere, particularly the USA, often use the rhetoric of “personal responsibility.” But this is essentially the same fundamentalist argument dressed up as dispassionate rationality. In reality, choosing to have an abortion is taking responsibility. If you are not in the position to look after a child, a termination is frequently the most responsible choice.
I believe that as a society, we should do everything in our power to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to keep the numbers of abortions as low as possible. Even with access to abortion services, a crisis pregnancy is still a crisis. Luckily there is a magic formula to address this. That it works is borne out by research from around the world. We are talking about comprehensive sex education and access to contraception – which is linked to a lower number of unplanned and teenage pregnancies.
Here’s one example — in 1990 , at 75.3 and 70.6 per 1,000 teenage girls respectively, Texas and California had roughly the same number of teen pregnancies. In 2003, lawmakers passed the California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Act. In contrast, it was not until 2011 that Texas phased out abstinence-only sex ed. By 2014, California’s teen pregnancy rate had fallen to just 21.1 per 1,000 girls; Texas’s teen birth rates dropped too, but much later, to 37.8 per 1,000 girls.
Now look at the Netherlands. A report in the British Medical Journal this year noted that the country’s teenage pregnancy rates are amongst the lowest, and contraceptive use the highest, in Europe. The reason for this is Rutgers – a non-governmental organisation that promotes sexual health and reproductive rights. Over the course of the fifty years since it was founded, Rutgers has helped to remove the stigma of discussing matters of sexuality. As a result, Dutch teens are well-informed and knowledgeable about contraceptives. This sex education also means that the Dutch overall have some of the lowest abortion rates in the world, at 8.6 per 1,000 last year.
Here’s another thing the anti-choices won’t tell you. Globally, abortion rates have nearly halved in the past 25 years, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, released earlier this year. The study found that between 1990 and 1994, there were 46 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Between 2010 and 2014, this had dropped to 27 terminations per 1,000 women. Abortion rates did not drop evenly around the world — countries where contraception was easy to access had the biggest decline in abortion rates. The report also found that lack of access to abortion — as in Ireland and in Malta — doesn’t decrease the rate of terminations compared to countries where abortion is legal.
Contraceptives are the best way to avoid an unplanned pregnancy – yes, better than abstinence. Mistakes can still happen. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are best of all, as they mitigate human error. LARCs, however, are expensive initially. Government subsidies for these would be a huge step forward, as well as free access to the pill and condoms.
FORM OF TORTURE
Hopefully, this will be the way forward in Ireland, given that the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment recommended that Ireland should have both free access to contraception and comprehensive sex education.
There is, however, one other important thing that we need — a bit of Dutch courage. We must become better at talking about sex and sexuality in an open, straightforward and honest way. If parents and teachers cannot talk to teenagers about sex, they will turn to the internet for information. We need to be able to discuss the risk of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, without treating sex itself as the problem. We need to talk frankly about the various ways people can have safe sex, whether that is by using contraception or by engaging in non-penetrative sex, so that young people are empowered to make the decisions that are right for them.
We also need to acknowledge that anyone with a womb can experience a crisis pregnancy. It doesn’t matter whether you are an educated adult or still a teenager; married or single; already a parent; practising safe sex, and rigorous about using contraception, or not – unplanned pregnancies still happen. And we should be compassionate about that, and allow every woman to decide the course of action that is best for them.
Nobody should be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy. The United Nations regards forced pregnancy as a form of torture. As our law currently stands, half of all our citizens are at risk of being tortured by our constitution. Crazy, isn’t it?
You, me and all of us have been given the opportunity to change that. We have a responsibility to ensure that every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy, and every child a wanted child. Make sure you know where you are voting, speak to your friends and family about the referendum, and get out to vote.
Most importantly, on 25 May 2018, when you are in the booth at your polling station, with that little bit of paper and your government issued pencil in your hand, please do the right thing — please vote “Yes.”