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Diane Miessler: Abortion never an easy choice

Diane Miessler | Other Voices

He was a singer, like me. Charming, with a British accent, doing handyman work on my friend’s house. I was in love. And, I later found out, he had been sober for only two weeks (that would last another four) and was loose with the truth and willing to help himself to the money in my purse without my knowledge.

Just as I was realizing the whole thing was a mistake, I found out my birth control had failed.

Luckily I had a choice, but it was a sad and hard choice. And it’s not so simple. I have a dear friend who is a Christian (the loving kind), who believes abortion is killing a baby. I don’t, but I feel for those who do.

I find the Bible to be equivocal on this question, and there are verses where God instructs his faithful to cut babies out of the wombs of unbelieving Samarians (Hosea 13:16).

Mainly, though, I believe that forcing unwanted babies to be born into bad situations is the greater sorrow.

Early fetuses are a cluster of cells that have great potential, like a seed, but are not sentient. The question of when they become so is an impossible one to answer, and I have a harder time with later abortions (which are more common where access is limited), but I can’t accept that aborting that cluster of cells is murder. And I believe the choice must be the woman’s.

Women sometimes find themselves in impossible situations, as I did. This is not a question of convenience, and I don’t know any woman who has had an abortion who has found it easy.

Sadly, the states that are the most restrictive on abortion also offer little in the way of social support, making the “pro-life” road a difficult, impoverished one.

My choice was not to have a baby with an actively alcoholic sociopath. I was worried about his genetic and characterological contributions to the child, and about co-parenting with him for 18-plus years – a man who was willing to steal from me and drive drunk.

I’m so glad I made that decision, painful as it was, and so grateful for my two much-wanted children.

And it wasn’t an easy choice. Granted, better judgment and restraint on my part would have avoided the situation, but I was in love and my judgment was clouded.

The demand for abortion won’t go away with its banning. It will just become more dangerous. Abortion existed as early as the 1500s, when the Roman Catholic Church allowed early abortion, which it would for 300 years until 1869.

A certain number of women have always found themselves pregnant (with the help of a man) in untenable circumstances. There are three possibilities when this happens: forced childbirth, unsafe abortion, and legal abortion. Incredibly, abortion legislation has never been in the hands of women.

The most effective way to decrease abortions is to make birth control widely available. Moralists who want to ban both are out of touch with reality. Fear of pregnancy has never made women (or men) abstain from sex, but birth control can make abortion unnecessary.

There were about 30 abortions per 1,000 women in 1981; that figure had dropped by half in 2020. The drop happened while abortion was legal and birth control easily accessible.

Women with unintended pregnancies are, like all of us, flawed human beings who could have made different choices. But forcing a woman who doesn’t want a baby into motherhood, and a baby into an unwanted childhood, is the cruelest of all choices.

Diane Miessler lives in Nevada City.

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