When it comes to abortion, look at the men

Indiana’s new abortion bill is on its way to Gov. Pence’s desk. The “fetal anomaly bill” makes it illegal for women to abort a pregnancy for reasons related to, among other possibilities, Down Syndrome. A similar bill was introduced in Ohio and passed in North Dakota a few years ago.

This is almost certainly red meat for the religious wing of Indiana. It’s a pretty lousy bill as bills go. Not unlike Indiana’s “no texting” law, no one ever said anything about “no tweeting”, so too no one says here a woman can’t just say, “I want an abortion for other reasons”. There’s no requirement for them to say precisely why. It does, however, tack on some additional requirements, like no group therapy sessions and declaring that birth happens the moment sperm fertilizes an egg.

So I was wondering earlier what Indiana’s abortion rate looks like. Finding impartial data is cumbersome, but the best I can find is actually the top Google result. However, it dates to 2011.

In 2011, Indiana’s abortion rate mirrored the US average for the 10 years prior, and was about half the US rate. But even before all of the abortion restrictions passed in the last few years, almost no county in Indiana had an abortion provider. In 2011, 9,430 women obtained an abortion, or about 7.3 per 1,000 women of reproductive age. This doesn’t account for people traveling out of state, however. Which is likely possible in northwest and south central Indiana where women may travel to Chicago or Louisville.

The fetal anomaly bill isn’t likely to do much to prevent abortions. Most likely it’ll just spawn a bunch of lawsuits and money for lawyers who will no doubt successfully argue that the bill is poorly written, imposes undue burdens on women and providers, and doesn’t adequately outline the standard by which a pregnancy is likely to produce Down Syndrome or other anomalies.

I am the first to admit I am so out of touch with what would induce a woman to have an abortion. I get that there are many academic reasons why: cause of conception, familial burden, financial, etc. More specifically, I don’t get the emotional and mental work required in conception, pregnancy, and birth. No surprise why: I’m a man and I don’t have to ever put my mind in that place.

The Institute’s report does catch my attention in two other figures:

Moreover, a broad cross section of U.S. women have abortions. 58% of women having abortions are in their 20s; 61% have one or more children; 85% are unmarried; 69% are economically disadvantaged; and 73% report a religious affiliation. No racial or ethnic group makes up a majority: 36% of women obtaining abortions are white non-Hispanic, 30% are black non-Hispanic, 25% are Hispanic and 9% are of other racial backgrounds.

In other words, poor, young, white, women are making up the majority of abortions nationally. Whether this is because they have better access to abortions than minorities or some other reason is worth researching.

The very small group of American women who are at risk of experiencing an unintended pregnancy but are not using contraceptives account for more than half of all abortions. Many of these women did not think they would get pregnant or had concerns about contraceptive methods.

And in other words here, no access to a contraceptive is the cause of most abortions.

This is where my personal understanding starts to form and diverge. Presumably “easier access to contraceptives” really just means “the ability to take a contraceptive pill.” Because if it means condoms, I’m not sure how making those easier to obtain is even possible short of dropping them from airplanes. They sit in bowls in dorms. They cost a quarter or less. They’re literally hanging on the walls of gas stations and supermarkets and dollar stores and convenience stores and doctor’s offices.

The free market, the public sector, and our culture have all moved to a place to make that possible, much to everyone’s benefit. Access to the pill is no doubt more difficult than a condom because of higher costs, insurance policies or a lack thereof, and physician approval.

Which makes me think that half of all abortions aren’t caused by women, but by the men! Because I can totally understand why a woman wouldn’t have a box of condoms in the nightstand. And I can understand how in the heat of a sexual encounter, a man would just not stop or permit time for a woman to talk about a condom. To be clear, I’m not saying that’s a rape; but where both adults are consenting and the encounter just too sudden can easily result in saying “Forget about the condom”.

In my mind, for the majority of abortions that occur because the pregnancy is simply unwanted (so no rape, incest, health issue, emergency, etc.), this is a legitimate use to say there is personal responsibility to handle this. But it’s at least 50% the man’s responsibility, and one could argue it’s more. Men are the ones who have much more access to easy, cheap, contraception. And I’m aware condoms aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty darn close.

It’s offensive and rude to suggest women should just “keep an aspirin between their knees” or suggest they just shouldn’t ever have sex at all. Sex, like alcohol, is perfectly legal when used responsibly. Abortion is legal, but should be rare. And in lawmakers’ pursuit to effectively zero-out abortions in Indiana, perhaps we’re better off talking to and targeting men as much or more than we are women.

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