How do you end abortion without criminalizing it?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? But if you think the way to end abortion is to make it illegal and walk away, then may I ask you: did the Prohibition work?

I recently tweeted about the amazing 180 video. Well worth the watch. I had a question, however:

What does “vote to end abortion” mean? Will a vote to make abortion illegal actually “end abortion”?

A fellow tweeter responded: “It might not stop women from getting an abortion, but it will make it criminal and punishable by law.”

Well, yee-haw! Crime and punishment, oh boy! So I asked: “What is it you want, to end abortion, or to make criminals and punish them?” To all politically right-wing pro-lifers, I ask you the same question. Which do you want? They are two totally different things.

She responded by asking what I want–fair enough–and how I think abortion can be ended without criminalizing it. As inconvenient as it may be, the answer to that question simpy cannot be contained in 140 characters, nor can it be contained in a blog post. It is, however, a good question, and so, I share my preliminary thoughts.

Ending abortion must begin by creating a society that supports women in the act of bearing children. This means everything from providing basic healthcare (both to the mother and to the child) to monetary and social support for raising a child, to making sure that women will have equal opportunities in their career whether or not they choose to have a child.

Abortion is irrefutably linked to poverty. Not surprising, considering it is more expensive in many cases to pay the hospital bill for labour than to pay for an abortion. Not only are those faced by poverty often in desperate situations, they also lack education.

I am by no means suggesting this as a justification for abortion. In answer to the 180 video‘s question: “It is okay to kill a child in the womb when _______ ” I cannot and will not give an answer. I’m passionate about working towards a world with no abortion. I am pro-life. I just don’t see how the pro-life goal can be reached through right-wing politics. The issue of abortion must be addressed from a social standpoint. It is a moral issue, with social implications.

That’s what bugs me. Pro-life political rhetoric seems to suggest that when every state in America (and every province in Canada) has declared abortion illegal, their work is done. They can go home and celebrate their victory (and get busy … punishing?). That solves the problem for them, but it doesn’t solve the problem. How does it solve the problem for them? It allows them to feel righteous, to feel like they live in a righteous country, and to no longer have to deal with the “unrighteousness” around them. Such unrighteousness can be conveniently labelled as criminal activity, and can be shoved under the carpet with all of life’s other un-pleasantries so that conservatives can get back to good-clean living. Meanwhile, abortion continues. Out of feelings of abandonment, desperation and fear, women will hide themselves in the dirty underground and will tear babies out of their wombs with coat hangers. Many will die in the process; those that don’t can be tried and punished. Is this the pro-life solution? It’s a pathetic, insensitive, unedcauted, and entirely selfish solution.

I’m not saying that all those who have abortions are poor and are doing so for lack of money and resources. Many are not. I’m not saying that legislation to further regulate abortion, to limit abortion, and maybe to eventually make it illegal might not be part of the long term solution. Also, continuing to ensure that the world is talking about abortion, and is discussing the moral implications of abortion is imperative to the pro-life movement. If all you’re fighting for, however, is to make abortion illegal, you’re putting a Barbie Bandaid on a severed artery and walking away.

The issue is big; the problems are many. Through further efforts, however, to educate women about prevention and about the beauty of adoption (and the many parents on waitlists, longing for a child), through the provision of healthcare, resources, and community, social, and financial aid, and through overall efforts to eliminate poverty and to bring equal opportunity to all human beings–women, men, children, and unborn children alike, we can provide women with real choices, and can create a world where every child is a wanted child, and where abortions have ceased.

I am pro-life, but when it comes to “voting to end abortion,” I ask you, what does that mean?


About Bronwyn

Love avocados, making forts with my daughter -- love and lattes with my man. Professional communicator interested in sustainability, poverty, motherhood, and God.
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2 Responses to How do you end abortion without criminalizing it?

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and views. Sadly, the only way to ensure we are a country of law and order is to make laws against killing other human beings. Sure, some women might still risk their lives&self abort,but as before Roe v Wade many women chose to abstain. Birth control pills and abortions have made it easier for women to say yes to sex and no to motherhood. Over half of abortions occur because the woman’s birth control failed and because she consented to sex. 98% of abortions,according to the CDC and Guttmacher statistics, show that the majority of women because they don’t feel like giving birth,raising a child yet,etc choose abortion. Therefore, the abortions are not medically necessary,but elective and intentional killing. Sadly, 60% of women/teens are coerced into abortion by family,friends,boyfriends,husbands,etc. [according to statistics found at

    I think we won’t end abortion until everyone learns to respect human life and is educated in the scientific fact that human life begins at conception and that the abortion issue is a human rights issue. Without the right to life we do not have any human rights. Once a woman conceives she is pregnant,told to take care of herself,take prenatal vitamins,get regular prenatal checkups,eat well, etc for the health of the mother and the baby. Yet, too many women who resort to abortion are lied to by abortionists like Planned Parenthood who tells them abortion is simply a medical procedure that terminates a pregnancy,removes a blob of cells and empties their uterus. Many women have been lied to and continue to be lied to and come to regret their abortion because they know they have ended another human beings life.

    I would not say ‘right wing extremists’ are the only ones who believe abortion should be made illegal and criminalized but many believe that when someone takes the life of another human being,such as murder,feticide,etc. the person or accomplice in the taking of that life should be charged with a crime. If you don’t criminalize unjust and inhumane behavior you are allowing it to go unpunished and without consequence and enable it. Sure, people might still abort,just as people still kill others and abuse their children,but we must have laws to protect all human life and defend their right to exist. The unborn,disabled,children,the elderly are most vulnerable in society,yet we are allowing them to be killed because their mother doesn’t feel like having a child yet.[see my recent post on this topic here: ]
    People need to be held accountable for their actions,especially when 98% of abortions are elective and due to consensual sex. Children are not mistakes, planned or unplanned, they must all be protected by law from the moment of conception.

    Criminalizing abortion has nothing to do with being ‘righteous’ nor wanting to control someone’s life,but about human rights and allowing everyone the right to be born&protecting that life. I agree we need to support programs that try to help women provide for their child and support crisis pregnancy centers,etc and make more women aware of the help that is available, especially when women often feel like they have no other choice. Parents of teens need to teach self respect and personal responsibility,handing out condoms and telling them to be safe is not enough. They need to teach abstinence,personal responsibility and respect for human life from womb to tomb because we all started out in our mother’s womb.

    Finally,women are given more opportunities to work and raise children. More women are actually making more than men in many positions in society. [see this link: Women are no longer the ones who stay home and raise the kids, men are taking a more active role and are more involved with child rearing. Women are not just ‘incubators’ like the prochoice movement likes to describe those who choose life,but we are able to have careers or stay at home and raise our children. It is a fallacy to think otherwise. Sorry for such a long reply..but as you said 140 wasn’t enough to discuss this topic&there never will be a one size fits all solution, but we must protect all life even if we have to criminalize those who should be nurturing life.

    • Hi Patty,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and to post a thoughtful response. I’m super encouraged that there are people willing to have a discussion on this controversial topic!

      You said:

      “Sadly, the only way to ensure we are a country of law and order is to make laws against killing other human beings.”

      I think this is where we begin to defer. For me, the issue isn’t about living in “a country of law and order.” To me, this would be indicative only of a symbolic and outward display of morality–and as comfortable as that may be–it doesn’t deal directly with the hearts and struggles of real people. I’m interested in the issue at the level of people, not government. I’m interested in changing situations, and providing the support necessary for individuals to make the choice to save a life, because only then, will all lives be saved.

      Thanks for providing the statistics. It is true; they are so sad. I agree that it is WAY too easy to get an abortion, and that many have stopped even questioning its moral implications. This has got to change. If, however, the pro-life movement does nothing to improve the situations leading to these statistics, but merely advocates criminalization while waving the abstinence flag, there will be no discussion. We will turn people away from discussing the issue of human-life and morality, because the alternative will seem so preposterous to them (as sad as that is).

      I agree that it is too easy for women to say yes to sex, and no to the consequences. The statistic about un-planned pregnancies while on birth-control is interesting, but did you know that the vast majority of birth-control failures are due to a failure to use them properly? Here, education could play a huge a role. Also, your paragraph about women in careers, and men taking on the role of raising children is true, but it is far less true in some demographics than in others. Sadly, the demographic where abortion is the most common is also the one where women have the least options. They may not have access to healthcare, education, good jobs with benefits, and are often alone and single. It is sad that in our society, men having consensual sex still have the ability to flee the consequences. I don’t agree that giving women that same ability is the answer, but I do believe that taking that ability away from women while doing nothing to ensure that men share the burden equally, presents itself as an archaic solution.

      You say:

      “I think we won’t end abortion until everyone learns to respect human life and is educated in the scientific fact that human life begins at conception and that the abortion issue is a human rights issue.”

      I agree with this completely, but I don’t think that advocating criminilization is going to help people come to this conclusion, and if we’re not changing hearts, we’re not really solving the problem.

      I’m not completely against criminalization. I’m just against it as a first step, and as an only step. I realize that it is not just the far-right-extremists that want to criminalize abortion. I do, however, think it is a fair generalization to say that most who would vote for the criminalization of abortion, would also be voting against public healthcare, social programs (like government funded daycare), and government initiatives to help poorer communities, etc. This, I see as a problem, and as a contributing factor to the polarization of the issue–a polarization that causes pro-choice extremists to no longer be willing to discuss the issue in terms of human rights.

      In the end, we want the same thing: a world where abortion is as unthinkable and as socially, morally and ethically unacceptable as the thought of murdering a three-year old child. I just think that the road to achieving this is full of super hard work at the level of reaching out to people, serving people, and working with people to provide them with the support and resources necessary to be able to question morality and to come to the conclusion that abortion is ethically wrong. This won’t come without the sacrifice of many for the sake of a better life for all … and life period, for those who are currently being robbed of that right.

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