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In light of the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion a legal practice in the United States, the following article offers an alternative way for our culture to think about and handle unplanned pregnancies. Often, abortion is a choice born out of fear. What if fear of an unplanned pregnancy was rendered unnecessary? This article was first published on another blog by the author.
• • • • •
I was recently browsing through my Twitter feed when a Newsweek article entitled, “How to Stop Unplanned Pregnancies Ruining Careers,” came up. Since my job revolves around unplanned pregnancy prevention and education, I, of course, was enticed to read.
One major thing about the article struck me before I even began reading; the author’s premise that unplanned pregnancies ruin careers. I think that’s a suspect claim (which I can explain why in just a moment). But trying to give the benefit of the doubt, I jumped into the article. And after reading the first six paragraphs, I was tracking with the author. I thought, “Okay, he might have something good to say!”
Then things took a turn and this happened…
But are they doing everything they can? In particular, are they shouting from the rooftops about one of the most promising, game-changing, society-improving technological marvels to be developed since sliced bread?
I’m referring, of course, to the IUD.1
Why am I not surprised? Somehow, a new and improved form of birth control is the answer.
Now, I’m not going to argue for or against contraceptives here. But is the IUD really the answer to preventing unplanned pregnancies? Is it what we can consider “promising, game-changing,” and “society-improving?” And, does it really keep unplanned pregnancies from “ruining” the future careers or plans of women who find themselves in such a situation? Lots of questions, I know. But here’s my response.
I question two assumptions the author makes. (1) Does having unexpected children ruin a career (or someone’s entire future, for that matter)? (2) Is any form of birth control really the answer to the problem?
I think he makes good assumptions in the article, too, so I’m not trying to say his perspective is totally wayward. Bringing the abortion rate down is a positive and needed goal. Teaching kids to think about their future goals and to delay sexual activity is on point. But do we really need to sell them on more forms of birth control? Really? Let me deconstruct each assumption.
Assumption 1: Unplanned Pregnancy Ruins One’s Future
First, I don’t think having children unexpectedly has to ruin anyone’s life or future. This kind of thinking only perpetuates a culture of abortion. “Children are undesirable and unwanted, at least in certain circumstances. So, if you have them they’ll ruin your life,” so the argument goes.
But what makes that true? Foundationally, I think it’s our cultural zeitgeist that makes it true. What I mean is, having children in our society isn’t encouraged; at least, not if you want to get ahead and make something of yourself. Children are seen as a barrier to success. So if you wanted to become a high-powered lawyer, or doctor, or business person (or whatever) and make a name for yourself, and make lots of money, then you can’t have kids because they’ll ruin your plans… none of it will be possible because kids are a financial burden and take up so much time.
Let’s be honest, kids are burdensome, for sure. They make a parent’s life more difficult, especially if that parent has to go at it alone with a small to nonexistent support network. But is it really fair to say that children ruin their lives?
If we’re thinking reasonably, to perpetuate a healthy society means to not only be productive yourself, but also to have children and raise them to be healthy, happy, productive members of society, as well. Why are we looking at them like they’re a barrier to our futures when they (in a very real sense) are our future?
First, perhaps we need to change our cultural view of having kids, unexpected and unplanned or not! But second, we need to change our cultural system. I’m not talking about more welfare, either. I think the federal welfare system is grossly misguided and perpetuates entitlement and unproductivity. I’m talking about changing the overall way our societal pillars handle people who have kids. I’m talking about colleges and employers encouraging, or at least supporting, students and employees in parenthood. I’m talking about on-site daycares and extended maternity leave with pay. I’m talking about laws that encourage employers and schools to do these things, and perhaps even help them make it financially viable. I’m talking about encouraging a healthy society rather than encouraging a healthy individual. No doubt, healthy individuals make up a healthy society. But for that to be the case, you can’t focus on the individual first; that creates narcissism and individualism, not community and human flourishing.
In a very real sense, encouraging parenthood is a win-win for everyone. It alleviates the fears of most unexpected mothers financially and allows them to still pursue their personal goals and dreams if they so choose. It gives children healthier environments in which to grow up because they’re wanted, loved, and well-cared for (at least financially and emotionally). For employers, it makes their employees who are parents more productive because they’re not struggling with fear, anxiety, or guilt over these issues. Which is all ultimately good for perpetuating a healthier and more productive society.
Notice, too, how alleviating fear and anxiety can potentially eradicate abortion. Nine times out of ten, women terminate their unborn children’s lives out of fear for their future. If we don’t give them reason to fear as a culture, then the likelihood that they’ll feel pressure to choose abortion will go down. Let’s show people that whether or not their future plans have to change because of a child, children are still worth it!
Assumption 2: Birth Control is the Answer
If my advice above is heeded, we may not have as much of a burning need to curb unplanned pregnancies for fear of ruining someone’s life. However, we still need to teach children (or anyone, for that matter) to delay sexual activity as long as possible when they’re not in a committed, life-long, monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. Generally speaking, these kinds of relationships are the least risky when it comes to sexual behavior. Sex outside of such a relationship still bears the risks of STDs and negative emotional and psychological consequences.
The answer isn’t a new-and-improved form of birth control (which does nothing to stop the spread of STDs, by the way). The answer, again, is a change in our cultural perception of sex.
In our society, instant gratification is the name of the game. “If people aren’t able to give in to and live our their basic desires, they’re unable to truly be who they are,” so they say. Yet, that seems to be how animals act. Last time I checked, humans are different from all other animals in that we’re cognizant of ourselves and others, and are able to self-reflect unlike any animal. This gives us the ability to do something many people have never heard of: exercise self control.
The assumption that birth control is the answer simply perpetuates sexual promiscuity, which is highly risky. Why delay sexual activity until a committed, life-long, monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner? Because there’s little to no risk!
This assumption also fails to take into account the health risks involved in using various forms of birth control, like an IUD, or the ethical implications that may arise, as well. Health risks with IUDS may include perforation of the uterine wall, expulsion, and infection. While the statistics on those risks may look small, would you want to be the one they affected? You have to ask, are the risks worth the use?2
Ethical implications of birth control, especially hormonal and chemical birth control, are serious for those who view abortion as morally reprehensible. Studies found that if someone gets pregnant with and IUD still in place, the likelihood of a spontaneous abortion rises to 40%-50%. You have to ask again, are the risks worth the use?3
What’s the Point?
So, how do we stop unplanned pregnancies from ruining our future? We stop treating them like they will, and stop putting a bandaid on something that needs major surgery. Children are valuable, and will ultimately take over our society one day. Let’s teach them that they’re more important to us than our instant gratification.
Let’s change the cultural perception of parenthood, and teach people to delay sex until they find a committed, life-long, monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. It’ll ultimately make for healthier and more satisfied individuals, as well as a healthier and happier society.
Carter Mundy is the Assistant Executive Director for Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center. You can follow Carter on Twitter @carterpmundy or on his personal blog carterpmundy.wordpress.com.
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- http://www.newsweek.com/how-stop-unplanned-pregnancies-ruining-careers-413549 (accessed January 21, 2016) ↩
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2971735/ (accessed January 21, 2016) ↩
- Ibid. ↩