By Emily Hancock
At a town hall event in Milwaukee, Donald Trump elaborated on his pro-life stance, stating his intention to ban abortion, and said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who seek one.
“I have not determined what the punishment should be,” he said. “You go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places. But you have to ban it.”
Trump later withdrew his statement that the woman should be punished, clarifying that “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman … The woman is a victim in this case, as is the life in her womb.”
I agree that the woman indeed is the victim. A victim of the government trying to control her reproductive rights, and forcing her to take potentially extreme measures to maintain control of her own life and body. Trump is calling for America to go back to the days where women endangered their own lives in order to get an abortion with unlicensed doctors, and the stereotypical coathangers.
There is little relation between the legality of abortion and the frequency of it, though there is a relation between the legality of abortion and the safety of it. Outlawing abortions will not stop a woman who needs one from seeking it.
When women are forced to go through illegal means to get an abortion, the results are catastrophic. According to NARAL’s “The Safety of Legal Abortion and the Hazards of Illegal Abortions” report, it is estimated that before 1973, around 5,000 women died annually in America due to unsafe and illegal abortions. In 1967, illegal abortion was the most common single cause of maternal mortality in California. Unsafe abortions account for about 13 percent of all maternal deaths worldwide.
Abortions, when done by legal and licenced practitioners, are almost always safe and pose no threat of long-term complications, such as infertility or future pregnancy issues.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of pregnancies in America are unintended, and of these about 40 percent are terminated. Banning abortions would only lead to more illegal abortions and an increase in mothers dying of complications. The increased mortality rate would leave a lot of blood on the hands of America’s politicians.
Trump said he supports abortion only in the case of rape, incest or threatened life of the mother. This position, while seemingly reasonable, is flawed for a variety of reasons. The definition of each of those cases varies from person-to-person. When Trump says he believes in exceptions only in the cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, what does he take into account? What if the life of the mother is in danger, not because of medical complications, but because of factors such as an abusive relationship, poverty or mental illness? Is it only rape if the person is physically forced, or does date rape count? These terms are very subjective, and those most affected by the definitions are not included in the conversation.
In 2012, a study of just under 1,000 abortion-seeking women conducted by the University of California San Francisco found that approximately 95 percent of women who were able to get abortions thought it was the right decision immediately and over three years. They also discovered that of the women who were unable to get an abortion, 67 percent wished they had been able to, and the women were three times more likely to be below the poverty level two years later. Seven percent reported an incident of domestic violence in the previous six months, more than twice the number of women who had successfully received an abortion.
Women are not put on this Earth solely to procreate. The choice to be a mother, a career woman or somewhere in between lies solely with the person making it. When women are forced into motherhood against their will, they are not being set up for success. Many women who experience an unplanned pregnancy decide to carry the child to term and either raise it or give it up for adoption, which is great. But that shouldn’t be a requirement.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, women under 20 make up 18 percent of abortions in the U.S. Of these, about 38 percent are 17 or younger. Forty-five percent of all women who get abortions aren’t and have never been married, and 42 percent of women have incomes below the federal poverty line, which is about $10,830 for single women without children. About 61 percent of abortions are for women who already have children, and 65 percent of women who abort identify as either Protestant or Catholic. And, most importantly, 51 percent of women who abort had used contraception in the month they conceived.
Yes, abortion should not be used as constant contraception when you unintentionally conceive. But it should be available to those who were unable to obtain contraception for whatever reason, or who used it unsuccessfully. Most birth control is covered by insurance, but items like Plan B One-Step can cost $50 a pill, making the price prohibitive for those living under the poverty line.
When such obstacles stand in the way of women’s reproductive health, it is no surprise that women have to resort to abortion. Women seeking abortion also face stiff regulations targeting the doctors that provide abortions. Multi-week waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds and discussion of alternatives to abortion are common roadblocks, as well as limited or nonexistent insurance coverage. Those politicians that cite late-term abortions as abhorrent have created an environment that can force women into late-term abortions simply because they spend too much time jumping through ridiculous hoops.
Abortion should indeed be a last resort, but if we want it to be less frequent, then we need to make women’s reproductive health a priority, and treat those who do seek an abortion with respect and dignity.
I believe that Trump’s controversial statement not only infringes upon the rights of a woman to her own body, but helps perpetuate sexism and misogyny in this presidential election.
If Trump or any politician wants to eliminate abortions, they should start by making contraceptives readily available to all Americans for little or no cost. The idea of women being punished for seeking an abortion is appalling, and Trump’s statement was something you wouldn’t hope to hear 40 years post Roe v. Wade. Trump is helping perpetuate a hostile and dangerous environment surrounding women’s reproductive health, and I very much hope that America isn’t forced back into the shadows with back-alley abortions. We’ve come so far, but we’ve got so far to go.