I’m the youngest child of three. After my mother had her second, the doctors told her that she had a condition and that if she were ever to have another child, it would kill her. Naturally, she and my father did everything they could in terms of birth control, but since I’m here telling this story, I guess you know how that turned out. The point is, when she became pregnant with me, the doctors urged her to abort for the sake of her own life—at the time, that was the only way it was legal. But she wouldn’t do it. She chose my life over her own. Even though she actually ended up surviving my birth, it doesn’t change the power of that decision, so naturally, this is an emotional issue for me.
When I started Deep Water, I said that we were going to be handling difficult, sensitive topics, and this weeks may well be the most controversial in the world right now. Let’s start with some basic facts. About 18 percent of pregnancies last year ended in abortion—up from 16.3 percent in 1973 when it was first legalized. About 24 percent of all women have had an abortion by the time they are aged 45. In total, that’s 862,000 abortions last year, and about 38,400,000 since 1973.
Here’s another fact from my own personal experience in 30+ years of counseling and therapy: the absolute hardest, most devastating issue that I’ve had to deal with is the unexpected death of a child. The second worst is with women who have had an abortion in the past. In many cases, they are haunted by that decision for decades, and it’s the one thing they seem totally unable to put behind them.
Today, I don’t want to try and tell you whether or not abortion is wrong, but only to provide some perspective and maybe dispel a few myths. For example, one argument I sometimes hear is that women are often pressured into abortions and end up getting them almost against their will. Now, I’m not saying that doesn’t happen sometimes, but the research I’ve seen seems to indicate that it’s a pretty rare occurrence. One 2004 study found that 64 percent of women who had an abortion did it for a single reason—and of those, only half a percent said it was due to a parent or significant other. It certainly happens, and when it does that’s a horrible thing, but based on what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem fair to use this as a criticism of abortion in general.
Another argument that seems to me in bad faith is that abortion is dangerous. I’d say this one is pretty plainly false since even with modern medical advances it’s still much less dangerous than childbirth. Back in 1973, when abortion was legalized, studies indicated that it resulted in about 8.8 deaths per 100,000 procedures. The death rate of childbirth was twelve to thirteen times higher.
One of the really big hot-button issues is what sort of responsibility a mother has to their unborn child. Whether, for example, there should be laws in place to punish them for unintentional abortions resulting from something like drinking. The opponents of abortion tend to say that they would never punish women for aborting—I’ve often seen them refer to the aborting women as the “second victims.” I’m sure many of those people are sincere, and I can’t speak to the real intentions of any particular group, but when the law goes in a pro-life direction, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Only a few years ago in 2017, my own home state of Tennessee passed a law that can put pregnant women in jail for taking drugs and other sorts of act behavior that could endanger the fetus. Two years later in 2019, Alabama passed a law that could jail women for up to 99 years for facilitating an abortion for almost any reason at all. So whether the pro-life movement as a whole intends to punish these women or not, that seems to be the result when the issue becomes law.
Lastly, it just wouldn’t be honest to talk about this issue without addressing the moral and religious discussion that surrounds it. Now, I’m not going to tell you whether or not abortion is immoral or “sinful,” but once again I think I can at least contribute some helpful perspective. First of all, there doesn’t appear to be any weight to the idea that only materialistic, godless people get abortions. Of those performed last year, about 81 percent of the women said that they presently had a religious affiliation.
Secondly, even among those who believe that abortion is a sin, no one who knows what they’re talking about claims that it is an unforgivable sin. I’ve heard many religious scholars weigh in on the unforgivable sins. Naturally, there’s some debate over it, but no one is putting abortion on that list.
As for its morality, I’ll just say this. Just like in everything else, we should try to act in harmony with our conscience and in accordance with love, rather than making decisions based on fear and selfishness. That’s not to say that abortion is necessarily a selfish decision, though I think there is often a lot of fear involved. Ultimately, I think the best thing you can do is try to make the decision that will lead you to lasting peace.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!