There are several anti-abortion amendments on the ballots this November, but two that are particularly relevant to me. Amendment 1 in Tennessee, where I currently live, and Amendment 67 in Colorado, where I went for my late-term abortion.
Amendment 1 states, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.” Assuming my understanding is correct (and I’m pretty sure it is, since I’ve read plenty on it), the amendment wouldn’t initially change abortion laws in TN. Instead, it would give politicians the power to make any changes they want later on, including banning abortion entirely, even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s health (and presumably, situations like ours where it was in the baby’s best interest, to allow them a quick, easy death instead of a painful, protracted one).
The most common defense of this amendment that I’ve seen has been that it is intended to allow further regulation in order to make abortions safer for women. But, “If they’re actually worried about women’s safety, and the ‘women who have died’ obtaining abortions in other states, then the measures they’re trying to take will only ensure that happens more frequently. The most certain way for a woman to seek insufficient medical care is enacting rules so stringent they force most currently legal abortion clinics to close. See Texas, where all but 8 clinics were forced to close after recent legislation (that the supreme court has now overturned). That’s when women are forced to go to back-alley, black market-type places, or here in Texas they go across the border. I mean, have you even SEEN Dirty Dancing? (Ok, kidding…sort of). A recent study found that getting a legal abortion is safer than childbirth — much safer. So safety clearly isn’t an issue.
Finally, if anyone thinks this is about ‘safety’ and isn’t a pro-life measure, it specifically says on the Yes on 1 website, ‘The wording of this Amendment was carefully drafted by the nation’s top pro-life constitutional attorneys and organizations so that it would be compatible with what we are trying to accomplish.’ If you’re pro-life and that’s why you want to vote yes, then fine. But own that. Don’t try to pass this off as something to protect women, because it does the opposite.” (Quote from an online friend.)
Also, “a common argument (to restrict abortion)… is that requiring admitting privileges by the physician performing the abortion will protect women’s safety. However there are no demands on other facilities that perform much riskier procedures. The mortality rate for a colonoscopy is more than 40 times greater than abortion, but there are no bills requiring gastroenterologist to have admitting privileges. The logic doesn’t hold. The restrictions are to make abortions harder to get, not to protect women… The harder it is to get an abortion, the more dangerous it is for the woman.” (Also from an online friend.) And I will say, when we first realized that we were going to have to have an abortion for our daughter’s sake, it was made clear to us (without anyone saying it outright), that if we couldn’t get to Colorado or another state where it would be legal, our doctors would help put us in contact with someone who could do it illegally for us. Banning abortion absolutely will not stop women from having them, it will only make it more dangerous for them when they do.
Basically, I am all for making abortions safer, but that isn’t what this amendment will accomplish. It will put far too much power in the hands of politicians to make decisions that should be between a woman and her doctor, in consultation with her family and her faith. Abortion simply isn’t a black and white issue, and I don’t think politicians should be deciding what’s acceptable and what’s not for me. Like I said, this amendment opens the door on banning abortion entirely, even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s health (or baby’s best interest). It also could wind up leading to a “personhood” law, which leads us to Amendment 67 in Colorado.
Amendment 67 is what is known as a “personhood” amendment. “The official ballot question reads as follows: Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?” (source) This is the third personhood amendment to be proposed in Colorado, and the first two were voted down. From what I’ve read, this one came about as a result of a drunk driving accident that killed a woman’s unborn child. As it stands, the drunk driver cannot be charged with murder, because an unborn child isn’t considered a “person” legally. Having lost three unborn babies, including one late-term, I sympathize. I really, truly do. But the consequences of a bill like this are SO much farther reaching than just giving “justice” in a situation like this. “Here’s what Amendment 67 would really do:
- Outlaw all abortion in Colorado, even in cases of rape and incest.
- Ban some of the most common and effective forms of birth control, including the Pill and IUDs.
- Make it illegal for a pregnant women with cancer to choose treatment that could save her life.
- Restrict options for women wanting in vitro fertilization.
- Any birth that isn’t a live-birth — so miscarriages and still births — could be deemed suspicious deaths and would be investigated by police.” (source)
I lived in Colorado when I had my two miscarriages. “In El Salvador, when women come to hospitals seeking treatment for a miscarriage, they can be detained until a forensic vagina investigator can arrive and perform an exam to see if they had an illegal abortion.” (source) This is something I could have been subjected to, had this amendment been in effect. Certainly my late-term abortion, which we procured in Colorado as a selfless choice to give our daughter a relatively quick and easy death after her brain was destroyed by severe hydrocephalus, would have been impossible. And the doctor who helped us is older; his home is in Colorado. If this amendment passes, I don’t know that he’ll choose to move to one of the two remaining states where he could legally continue his practice. He might just choose to retire, and then we’ll be down to only two doctors in the entire country who will help women who face an impossible choice. Here’s a great article on the realities of what it would be like if abortion were to be banned entirely, as this amendment does in CO. What if Abortion Were Illegal? One example: “If abortion were illegal, women with unwanted pregnancies would seek out home remedies. They would try to induce abortions using methods they had heard on the grapevine, passed from person to person, or order abortion-inducing pills online and take them at home. Some would take the wrong amount, or at the wrong time in the pregnancy, and end up hospitalized.” Once again, women would not be safer or better off because of this amendment. If you’re pro-life, I understand; I was pro-life up until my early 20’s. But this amendment is much, much too far-reaching.
Outlawing abortions doesn’t stop them from happening (or even lower the rates). Like I said, it only makes them more dangerous. If you are truly pro-life, and you truly want to stop abortions, there are two things that have been proven to help lower the abortion rates. First off, birth control. Both easy access and proper education are critical to stopping abortion. Because obviously, the fewer unwanted pregnancies there are, the fewer women will feel the need to abort said unwanted pregnancies. Unfortunately, it is frequently the same people who try to ban abortion who advocate for abstinence only sex education (which has repeatedly been shown to be ineffective in lowering teen pregnancy rates) and limited access to birth control. If they truly want to lower abortion rates, they should be doing the opposite.
And secondly, if you want women who have unwanted pregnancies to choose to carry them to term anyway, provide better support for women so that they can afford to have and raise their children. “The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.” (source) “If we found a way to offer more aid to parents, if we mandated things like paid maternity leave, subsidized childcare, and universal health insurance for pregnant women and for children, some women who would otherwise abort would almost certainly decide to carry their pregnancies to term. But the odd thing is, those who identify as “pro-life” are most adamant in opposing these kind of reforms… If those who oppose abortion really believes that abortion is murder, they should be supporting programs that would make it easier for poor women to afford to carry pregnancies to term. Instead, they’re doing the opposite. Overwhelmingly, those who oppose abortion also want to cut welfare and medicaid. Without these programs, the number of women who choose abortion because they cannot afford to carry a given pregnancy to term will rise. Further, they are working against things like paid maternity leave, subsidized daycare, and universal health insurance for children, programs which would likely decrease the number of women who choose abortion because they cannot afford to carry a pregnancy to term… This makes utterly no sense if the goal is to save babies.” (source)
So please, regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, take some time to consider what these amendments would really accomplish, and vote accordingly. Abortion, like so many issues in life, simply isn’t black and white. There is a lot of grey area, and these amendments completely fail to take that into account. The choice to terminate a pregnancy, electively or for medical reasons, is a deeply personal decision, and I truly believe that no good can come of giving politicians this kind of sweeping power to decide what is best for every woman and every child.
Some more articles for those who would like to read more:
How I Lost Faith in the Pro-Life Movement (Strongly recommend reading this! It is excellent and explains my points far better than I did)
Questions For Pro-Lifers (This raises some excellent questions about the realities of enforcing an abortion ban. I’d really like to get hear some genuine answers to these questions.)