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“You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers… if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” – Howell Cobb, founder of the Confederate States of America

“Woman is the nigger of the world.” – John Lennon

Abortion, no matter what the current political climate, is always the most contentious issue in America, the one button guaranteed to be hot, not just in politics but in daily life. And it’s easy to understand why: Feticide – which Webster’s absolutely defines differently than “infanticide” – strikes at the very heart of our pre-programmed DNA. Since the dawn of civilization, we as a species have propagated at any cost, egged on by everything from religious pronouncements to tax cuts. Humans = good. Anything that culls the herd = bad. Animals don’t get to decide how many of them survive, but we humans largely do, so we tend to get upset at the thought of little bits of us being snuffed out before they reach actual humanhood. In fact, we’ve come to practically fetishize children and fetuses as metaphors for our own survival. Unfortunately, we’ve often conflated the two, even though we don’t seem to care what happens to the fetus once it reaches adulthood and gets the same rights we have. That’s when that old law of the jungle kicks in. It’s a delicate balance.

A funny thing happened in the 20th century, however: females, who had throughout history served as the mere vessels for mankind’s regeneration, began to decide that, being not only necessary but also human and — gasp! – now equal in the eyes of the law, they’d actually like some control over what their bodies were used for, and why.

There began the schism. The anti-abortion “pro-life” crowd launched an offensive portraying Planned Parenthood as an abattoir filled with baby chippers that run 24/7, hoodwinking slutty teens interested in no-consequence sex. The pro-abortion “pro-choice” crowd eventually countered that, somewhat feebly, with visions of rape victims forced to have babies they hated and fragile women killed by birthing fetuses their bodies couldn’t handle. Compelling arguments both… If they happened on a regular basis. Which they do not.

There are of course teens who’ve had more than one abortion (14 percent of those under 20), and women forced to have babies put in their wombs by rapists (1 percent of the total), and who’ve had abortions so late in their term that they were practically committing infanticide (1.5 percent), and women who had to make the horrible, horrible choice between their life and the life of a fetus (1 percent). But the average woman who decides to have the abortion procedure doesn’t fit those profiles at all. And even though it’s been legal since 1973, the emotions surrounding abortion are still so raw that few people bother to assemble that composite sketch that would show us the face of the abortion patient. It’s not like the stats aren’t there. 

So what do the numbers reveal? If abortion is murder, who is our suspect?

Well, she’s between 20 and 34 (70-80 percent of all abortions in the US are performed on women in their 20s and 30s). She’s most likely living in a long term relationship, though not married (65 percent). She’s equally likely to be white (36%), black (30%), or Hispanic (25%). She’s almost certainly poor, making less than $20K a year (69%). Either she doesn’t understand contraceptives and how they work, meaning her or her partner used them incorrectly (63%), or she doesn’t understand how her body works, having assumed certain reasons why she probably couldn’t get pregnant or why contraceptives were bad for her (65%).

There’s something she likely knows, however: that she can’t afford a child, either in the literal sense of income or the metaphorical sense of time. When it’s the latter, it’s because she already has at least one child (61%), and/or someone else dependent on her attention (75%). She’s having it in her first trimester (88%), and if she’s having her abortion in her second trimester, it’s not because she wanted to — she had to save money in order to get it (60%), especially if she’s from one of the 86% percent of American counties that don’t have an abortion provider, meaning she also has to come up with traveling money in order to have one. She doesn’t have private health insurance (61%), and she’s paying for the abortion herself (57% of women do — the average cost of the procedure being $450 for someone making between $750 and $1500/mo). She doesn’t get live in a state that might help her pay for one (66%), and they wouldn’t set aside funds for that anyway (86%). If she’s a minor, both her parents have approved of the abortion (60%). And religion isn’t necessarily the answer to her problem: she already identifies as a Christian (65%).

Yes, you say, but abortions weren’t always an option. If we took that option away, it wouldn’t matter why women had them, wouldn’t it? They’d just stop. Trouble is, as the World Health Organization has found, illegal abortions aren’t more rare in countries where they’re illegal, just less safe.

Contraception would seem to be the most efficient way of getting close to zero abortion. Yet the pro-life crowd consistently blocks efforts to prevent the egg from being fertilized in the first place, believing it somehow unnatural. In fact, Arizona’s state legislature believes life begins at ovulation. It’s one thing to conflate fetus killing with baby killing, but conflating ovulation with pregnancy is ridiculously unnatural, especially since, as this excellent op-ed points out, approximately 20 percent of all fertilized eggs are naturally rejected by the female body during ovulation. Clearly, if God really is in charge of every woman’s womb, he’s not too disturbed by the idea of getting rid of a zygote.

Ending the life process has never been pretty, even though it’s gone on throughout recorded history. In fact, before the mid-1850’s, American laws held that the fetus was not a human being for its first five months — until quickening, the moment that the mother feels the baby move. Which means that our Founding Fathers would have actually been just fine with 98.5 percent of today’s abortions. And yet, women in this regard are treated as second-class citizens even more so than they were then: uneducated about birth control and quite often prevented from easy access to it, slut-shamed for wanting it, and, despite the involvement of a partner, expected to pay for the lack of it. Killing a fetus is one thing, but attempting to make a woman grow one is something else entirely.

The one thing both sides of the abortion issue can agree on, in fact, is that the practice, most of the time, is a sign that society has failed itself in one way or another. But if abortion is a product of an unwanted pregnancy, and we have the tools to prevent most unwanted pregnancies, why aren’t we using them? If all pregnancies are wanted, why are we abandoning the social programs which would make these future lives constructive, or even worth living? And the big question: if we trust women to bear our children, and to raise them, why don’t we trust their decisions on when to have them in the first place? Has a loving and knowledgeable God, assuming you believe in one, made them inferior in only that regard? Are these slaves of reproduction, somehow, bad soldiers of motherhood?