Where Logic Meets Love

Can We Please Stop Trying to Make Things Illegal and Actually Fix the Damn Problem?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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Can We Please Stop Trying to Make Things Illegal and Actually Fix the Damn Problem? | Faith Permeating Life

Let's get controversial today, shall we?

One thing that I absolutely do not understand is why people believe that making something illegal means that it won't happen anymore.

Here's an analogy. The kids in your neighborhood have rock fights. They find big rocks and chase each other and throw rocks at each other. You think that this is horribly dangerous, not to mention the possibility of breaking windows, etc. And so you create a big sign for your front lawn that says, "Please do not have rock fights anymore." And then you go back in your house.

What have you accomplished? You haven't talked to the kids and explained the dangers of what they're doing. You haven't talked to their parents to see if they're aware of what's going on. You haven't attempted to provide a positive alternative, like giving them Nerf guns or something. If anything, they may stay off your lawn while having their rock fights, but they'll probably still have them.

Yes, I know that with actual laws there are consequences, like getting a fine or going to jail. But so far that hasn't eliminated theft or murder or drugs or any number of things for which you could get into trouble. It just hasn't.

I'm fired up about this for two reasons.

One is that we just passed the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which always stirs up laments (at least in my church and among my Facebook friends) about how terrible it was that abortion was made legal. You want to know something? Do you know that before Roe v. Wade, the number one cause of death among pregnant women was botched abortions? (For more info, see the awesome and frightening book Birth by Tina Cassidy.) Now I realize it's impossible to measure the number of illegal abortions because they're, well, illegal, and typically done in secret, so it's impossible to say what Roe v. Wade did to the total number of abortions in this country. But I can confidently say that Roe v. Wade did not cause women to start having abortions. And making abortions illegal again would not mean the end of abortions in this country. That's just the plain and simple truth.

This is what, frankly, pisses me off: A lot of the people in America who want to make abortions illegal are the same people who want abstinence-only education and who want to prevent any kind of "socialist handouts" to anyone, no matter their situation. So basically, you want to take a girl who grows up in a culture where everyone she knows is having sex in middle school, you want to avoid telling her how not to get pregnant except that she shouldn't have sex at all, then when she gets pregnant you want to make her have the child but give her absolutely no help in feeding the child, getting health care for the child, having a place to live with her child, and so on?

I am not an advocate for abortion. But I am an advocate for having a basic responsibility to take care of each other as a society. And I believe that making abortions illegal accomplishes nothing of value. If you want fewer abortions, you need fewer unintended pregnancies and more help with actually raising children. Period.

OK, you say, but what if she gives the child up for adoption?

This brings me to point number two why I'm fired up about this.

In reading more about adoption lately, it's come to my attention that some people want to completely abolish adoption. The reasoning is generally that it's traumatic for the child and it's always better to keep the child with the birth parent(s). In some cases, the writer will say that we should be providing more education and support for parents so that they don't need to place their child with another family. Fine. But I have yet to read an actual proposal for how we as a society would provide said education and support. Instead, the point of the article or the post is always, "This is a bad solution. Let's end adoption [or sometimes, only allow it in cases where the child is physically unsafe]."

Once again, this does not solve the problem. By all means, start up an organization. Educate pregnant women. Raise money for baby supplies. Fight for paternal rights. These are all good things, and these are all being done by many people in many places across the U.S. But that hasn't stopped some parents from simply abandoning their infants, or from getting hooked on drugs or ending up in jail and having their children put in foster care. It hasn't stopped teenagers with no income and few skills from getting pregnant and having no way to feed themselves and their baby. This is the reality of our country, and you can't just say, "We shouldn't have adoptions anymore," and magically every parent will decide to keep their children and take good care of them.

You know what would probably happen? We'd probably end up with more abortions, legal or not.

Here's something else I don't understand: the term "big government." Apparently, if the government wants to help people and provide something for them they can't get themselves, that is "big government." But for the government to step in and declare something illegal because certain people think it shouldn't be happening, that is not "big government." I don't understand this notion that we as a country need to follow one (Christian) moral code as legislated by our government, but yet the government should be prevented from making sure that its citizens are fed, clothed, sheltered, and given medical attention?

Isn't this the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ actually said we should do?


  1. THANK YOU! You're exactly right. It's like complaining about seeing hobos on the street and then voting against welfare reforms ... what do you think is going to happen?? People just want to get what they want without any work. They just want other people to do what they say without giving them the tools and opportunities to do the right thing that they expect them to.

  2. @Carla
    Exactly. It's so frustrating to me that we expect people to act a certain way without giving them any support to do so. Even at the college level, I see people who expect students to be able to navigate the whole college system but don't want to give them any help in learning to do so. We've got to help each other out, people!

  3. I don't think anyone thinks that making abortion illegal will mean that it doesn't happen any more. What does seem reasonably clear is that to change the legal status of abortion will remove it from, for example, the list of standard medical treatments for prenatal diagnoses like Down Syndrome.

    If it's illegal, and this is just for a start, your doctor cannot anymore discuss abortion with you in your fifth trimester of pregnancy as if it would be *the* clear and rational thing to do should the ultrasound (which you're in the process of refusing to have, because the only reason to have it is to tell you whether to think about having an abortion or not) turn out abnormal.

    I can think of lots of reasons why revoking Roe v. Wade would drastically reduce the incidence of abortion, which is about all we can realistically hope for in an imperfect world, but that's the one that seems the most obvious.

    Incidentally, I'm the wife of an adoptee born in 1962. He is very aware that had he been conceived 11 years later, statistically speaking he would probably not be alive now. Had abortion been a legally-sanctioned option, readily available to his birth mother -- and we know nothing about her circumstances, so anything I might say about her experience of carrying him and relinquishing him for adoption is nothing but pure speculation -- then her family, her baby's father, his family, all the people in her orbit might very well have been pressuring her to solve her "problem" in that eminently rational and sensible and non-life-ruining way, which would have wiped out not only his life, but my life as it is today, and the existences of our children.

    I personally have never heard an anti-abortion advocate also advocate for an end to adoption. The adoption community itself does seem to stress to what seems to me an insane degree the element of trauma inherent in adoption. Certainly this was never my husband's experience, or his sister's.

    Re sex education: if by adequate education you mean the kind of propaganda Planned Parenthood disseminates, which is based on the assumption that my first-grader, for example, needs to know that everyone around her is a sexual being and her parents and grandparents have sexual relationships, and that it is conducive to her mental health to grow up viewing the world through this lens, then no thanks. Teach your child that a)sex is everywhere and everyone is having it and this is the norm to which she should aspire, and b) that pregnancy is the unnatural and undesired outcome, rather than the logical consequence, of all this activity, and you have your next generation of PP clients all lined up. In which, one cannot help thinking, a profitable business might have some vested interest.

    1. I really hope you will read this since your original post was in 2011. The notion that making abortions illegal will lower or erradicare abortions is incorrect based on this and other studies, http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/health-info/impact-of-illegal-abortion/. What you may end up with is unreported abortions that did in-fact occur. If you are truly serious about lowering the number of abortions in this country, which I agree would be a good thing, then you need to educate your audience with alternatives from how to prevent pregnancies to other alternatives once you are pregnant. I urge you to contact your congressman and senator to propose making counseling, faith based or otherwise, mandatory to people seeking an abortion. Another piece to this puzzle is the cost of adoption in the USA makes adoption prohibitive to most families out there seeking to give a child a good home to grow up in. I pray you see the wisdom in my words and find it a more achievable goal to save lives for the Lord.

  4. This is a terrific article! I agree so much. If the effort and money that are going into attempts to make abortion illegal went instead into teaching NFP to every eighth-grader in America, imagine how many abortions could be prevented! (I say eighth grade not because I think that is a good age to have sex but because it's a great age to learn NFP: As a girl's cycle is getting established, knowing when to expect her period is very convenient. Girls need plenty of time to practice before avoiding conception is an issue. Boys would benefit from getting used to the idea of periodic abstinence. And for those kids who DO have sex at an early age, avoiding pregnancy naturally instead of with drugs--or even taking hormonal contraception but being aware of the fertility cycle so that they'll notice an unexpected ovulation--would help reduce abortions and teen parenthood.)

    I just found your site through Conversion Diary and am looking forward to reading more of your views!

    If it's illegal, and this is just for a start, your doctor cannot anymore discuss abortion with you in your fifth trimester of pregnancy

    If your pregnancy has gone into a fifth trimester, your doctor is right to be concerned!

    all the people in her orbit might very well have been pressuring her to solve her "problem" in that eminently rational and sensible and non-life-ruining way, which would have wiped out not only his life, but my life as it is today

    So what you're saying is that you think his life and yours are more important than hers.

    the assumption that my first-grader, for example, needs to know that everyone around her is a sexual being and her parents and grandparents have sexual relationships, and that it is conducive to her mental health to grow up viewing the world through this lens

    I understood that by the time I was in first grade, and it certainly was conducive to my mental health. When some of my peers were just learning the facts of life in fifth grade and freaking out about the "yuckiness" and "scariness" of it all, I was completely used to the idea and calmly looking forward to having sex, menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth in my future. But I was never taught that pregnancy was an "unnatural" outcome; in fact, it was presented (including in the materials from Planned Parenthood itself that were used by my church with eighth graders) as an almost inevitable outcome of intercourse without contraception, so the idea was that if you didn't desire pregnancy at that time you MUST take measures to prevent it or it WOULD happen, and in fact it COULD happen even with contraception so you really shouldn't have sex without having a plan for what you would do in case of pregnancy. "Don't have sex unless you're willing to have a baby or an abortion," is a very different message than, "Have lots of sex and don't worry; you can always have an abortion," and in my experience Planned Parenthood and other advocates of comprehensive sex education are much more likely to convey the first message than the second.

    My son is in kindergarten now. I wouldn't mind at all if he learned that everyone is a sexual being and that his parents and grandparents have sexual relationships; I also don't think that he "needs to know" right away, but I don't think he needs to be sheltered from that knowledge, either, because there is nothing harmful about it. As it is, my particular child has asked questions about pregnancy, childbirth, and circumcision but has shown little interest in exactly how a pregnancy begins and zero interest in other aspects of sexuality. I knew a lot more at his age because I wanted to know.

  5. @Anonymous
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a thoughtful and detailed comment!

    I would disagree with the sweeping statement that no one believes making abortion illegal will put an end to abortion. I know people personally who believe this. And when people march with signs for "an end to abortion," it's generally right along with signs saying that abortion should be illegal. I feel that people often use the term "an end to abortion" as synonymous with making abortion illegal, and I think that massively obscures the conversation by making the banning of abortion the only solution for having fewer abortions. I think it is a solution, but not the best or most effective or most comprehensive one.

    Your comments focus on one specific reason that women seek abortions, and that is to avoid having an "abnormal" child. I am totally in agreement that doctors shouldn't treat abortion as the rational thing to do should you have an "abnormal" ultrasound. But making abortion illegal seems like a roundabout way of addressing this issue (or, more accurately, a sledgehammer solution). Also, if that woman really does believe that a child with Down Syndrome or the like doesn't deserve to be born, then simply taking abortion out of the picture doesn't help that woman change her view of her child or make life better for the child. If we push for fewer abortions without addressing the reasons abortions are happening in the first place, we haven't really solved anything

    Women don't just have abortions to avoid having so-called imperfect children. They have abortions when they have no means of raising a child and no guidance in other options. They have abortions when they know they would be shunned by their communities for their pregnancy. And many other reasons.

    My point is not that abortions should be legal. My point is that if you want to put an end to abortions, then fighting against social services, as many pro-lifers do, is the completely wrong way to go.

    Also, the people arguing for making abortion illegal are not the same people (as far as I can tell) who want to make adoption illegal. I didn't say that or mean to imply that. They are just two examples of areas where people want to make something illegal to try to make it go away instead of addressing root causes.

    "if by adequate education you mean..." is a straw man argument. You are putting out the most extreme version of sex education you can think of in order to shoot down comprehensive sex ed. II'll devote a post to what I think good sex ed is. But I want to respond to this: "Teach your child that a)sex is everywhere and everyone is having it and this is the norm to which she should aspire" -- what parent or school is teaching their child this? This is what the culture and the media already teach children, period. And if you have a supportive family with strong values who is going to counteract this, great. But if you are a child with no family support, who sees the above played out in your community and among your friends, then a school saying, "Don't have sex," is not going to do anything for you.

  6. @'Becca
    Thanks! I completely agree that 8th grade is an appropriate time to start teaching girls about understanding their cycles and their fertility. And that it's important for boys. My husband went to an all-boys Catholic high school where they taught about NFP and the female cycle, and you can bet I'm glad!

    Good catch on the "fifth trimester." That made me laugh :)

    I read about the book "Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex" on Carla's blog and I'm really looking forward to reading it. My husband and I are always discussing how we don't want sex to be a scary or gross thing for our kids. As I once heard a speaker say, "We teach our kids that sex is this horrible, nasty thing you should save for someone you really love." So true! Things can be introduced at an age-appropriate level, as you clearly have done with your son. Kudos to you!

  7. *clap clap*

    I normally do not like reading posts on political or religious views or any other extremely controversial subject but I'm glad I took the time to read this. You are SO right. In fact sometimes making things legal makes them safer as they can be regulated.

  8. @Callista
    Thanks! I am not necessarily a big proponent of the regulation argument because I think again it doesn't address root causes (e.g., Why do people use drugs? Are people really going to stop abusing drugs if they're regulated? How might we help people who are addicted?). I think arguments of legality often obscure conversations about causes. But you're definitely right that being fixated on making something illegal can ignore potential benefits to its being legal!

    Thanks for your comment and I'm glad the post resonated with you!

  9. Excellent post. Very, very well said.

  10. This is an amazing post Jessica, I agree with every word!

  11. Very well said, Jessica. Thanks for posting this.

  12. Some people think that adoption should be made illegal? Oy. Like you, I am in no way an advocate for abortion, but I also agree that making abortion illegal isn't going to solve the problem, the same way that gun control won't stop people from shooting each other. It's a heart and education issue, not an availability issue.

    But seriously...adoption? That's quite possibly one of the most ludicrous things I've ever heard.

    I don't know anything about the actual statistics, but the large majority of people I know who have adopted have done so overseas, many from China where families are only allowed to have one child (unless something has changed in recent years that I haven't heard about) and that child essentially MUST be male or their family line will die out.

    What happens to all of those children? Even if you did somehow magically fix the irresponsible or incapable parents in the United States, that doesn't negate the necessity for adoption elsewhere. That just leaves you with a lot of couples with a heart for adoption (some by infertility, some by choice) and thousands of children without parents across the world who are unable to come together and be a family. Ridiculous.

    1. Yeah, it's pretty ridiculous, but for some reason it's some people's gut reaction. "This system is not completely perfect? Let's outlaw it!"

      And yes, China still has the one-child rule; my understanding is that if you have additional children you have to pay a fine.


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