You don’t see too many — well, I can’t think of any so far — posts about the ongoing abortion/choice wars here. Mainly, I see that as more of a political issue than an atheist issue, though it’s true that most anti-abortion agitators are right-wing Christians, and many atheists tend to be liberals who come down on the side of choice. (Though certainly not all; there is an organization called the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League.)
I myself am no great fan of abortion; I think it’s a sad and tragic decision for any woman to have to make, and it cannot come easily. And I think that’s actually a view held by almost all pro-choicers, too. No one supports abortion rights because they think it’s way cool to vacuum a fetus out of a woman’s womb. The issue is that the choice to have any medical procedure performed ought not to be taken out of the hands of private citizens and put into the oh-so-reliable hands of the government. Especially when that government is overrun by religious demagogues who think the “right to life” of a blastocyst takes precedence over that of an actual living breathing woman.
Texas, being the kind of big Bible Belt stronghold where you can actually drive down highways and see “pro-life” billboards as well as those trying to make virginity look like the most bitchen thing ever, has come up with a new weird twist in the ongoing wars over who gets to say what happens with women’s bodies. State senator Dan Patrick has just introduced a bill that would pay women $500 for choosing adoption over abortion.
There are so many things weird and wrong with this it’s hard to know where to begin. First off, it’s rooted on the assumption that only broke, unmarried women get abortions. It assumes that women are so shallow that they can be bought off making a difficult and morally troubling decision simply with a little money. In the case of abortions undertaken following rape, it instantly transforms the woman from unwitting mother-to-be to unwitting state-sponsored prostitute. (What’s next, I wonder? Offer underage rape victims an iPod?) And, as some people have already pointed out, it comes creepily close to the illegal act of baby-selling.
I can think of other reasons to object to the bill. If one were a conservative, you’d think this bill would look remarkably like, you know, welfare. After all, aren’t conservatives the ones who complain about a welfare system that tosses loads of taxpayers’ money at low-income families who keep having kids they can’t afford? So how is Senator Patrick’s bill any different? After all, it’s not his $500 he’s offering to ambivalent moms-to-be, it’s ours. It looks like you’re just giving women a nine-month headstart on the whole welfare process. So why would a conservative be anti-welfare yet pro-let’s-give-a-bounty-to-pregnant-women?
As an adopted child myself, I’m all for adoption. But the way to reduce unwanted pregnancies is not simply to buy women off. It’s to provide fact-based, comprehensive sex education in the schools, in a program that provides students with all available information about the consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior — including not only abstinence, but info about STD’s and the proper use of contraceptives. Never underestimate the power of education. I attribute the fact I’m a non-smoker today largely to the ghastly photos of diseased lungs I was shown in health class in my impressionable youth.
Alas, with religious demagogues, irony is never too far away. And as we all know, the same people who oppose a woman’s right to control her own reproductive organs are the same people who want to inhibit the kind of proper sex education that young people need, replacing it with an abstinence-only mantra that has already been shown, time and again, not to work. It’ll take a lot more than 500 bucks a head to undo the damage done by ignorance.