What a Serious Anti-Abortion Movement Would Actually Look Like

abortion Forty years after Roe v. Wade, the anti-abortion movement is a radical failure by the very metrics that Pro-life leaders cite to inspire their base. What would an effective anti-abortion movement look like?

U.S. women have obtained nearly 53 million legal abortions since 1973. At least in part, that is because self-described abortion foes ignore or oppose the most powerful strategies for making abortion obsolete. The anti-abortion movement is dominated by religious fundamentalists whose determination to control sex—who has it, with whom, for what purpose—takes priority over their desire to reduce abortions. This focus has seriously interfered with eliminating the supply and demand for abortion services.

If the top priority of the Pro-life movement were to end abortion, both tactics and results would be radically different. Imagine a fictional person whose chief life goal is to reduce abortion by, say, 90 percent over the next twenty years. This person might devoutly believe that every fertilized egg has a soul and that fetal demise is a tragedy; or he/she might simply think that abortion is an expensive, invasive, emotionally-complex medical procedure that should be made obsolete. Either way, this person believes that moving society beyond abortion is the most valuable cause to which he or she can devote a lifetime.

It might come as a surprise to the audience of today’s anti-abortion theater—but our protagonist’s goal is attainable. Armed with just the information and technologies available today, someone genuinely committed to reducing abortion by 90 percent in 20 years could map out a plan to get there—and even make people’s lives better in the process.

Skeptical? Let me map it out. When someone gets serious about building an effective beyond-abortion campaign the strategic plan will look something like this:

Serious beyond-abortion advocates will ensure that all Americans have the knowledge and means to prevent the kind of pregnancies that lead to abortion.  

1. Since many parents had poor role models for birds and bees conversations, serious beyond-abortion activists will promote programs that help parents to overcome discomfort and create healthy, age-appropriate conversations about genitalia, sexual health, sexual pleasure, intimacy and reproduction.

Conversations between children and trusted adults delay the onset of sexual activity while increasing the percent of sexually-active teens who protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy (and so the need for abortion). Therefore, serious beyond-abortion activists will help parents build trust and credibility on sexual matters. Despite the discomfort of aging traditionalists, who might prefer to avoid frank conversations about sex, serious beyond-abortion activists will keep their eye on their prize, which is fewer abortions.

2. Since preventing abortion is a higher priority for them than promoting chastity, serious beyond-abortion activists will promote open, honest conversations about sex within religious communities.

Approximately 85% of Christian youth have sex before marriage and the rate of abortion is as high among Christian believers as non-Christians, so beyond-abortion advocates will work diligently to ensure that Christian young people are equipped to manage their fertility and thus initiate pregnancy only when they are prepared to carry forward a new life. Because beyond-abortion activists are single-mindedly intent on reducing abortion, they will take to heart the social science research showing that shaming—for example through abstinence-only sermons, books and classes—drives down intimate conversations and preparations for safer sex while doing little to delay or reduce more impulsive sexual activity. They will recognize that guilt and shame about normal sexual urges can lead to denial, wishful-thinking, church-avoidance and impulsive high-risk behaviors. They are also committed to helping young people understand and manage sexual desire and pleasure rather than simply trying to suppress those urges, which has been shown not to work. They will challenge old attitudes that treat youth contraception as “premeditated sin” or pregnancy as a punishment and will instead help young Christians to explore the spirit and purpose of ancient chastity laws. They will develop faith-compatible programs like Our Whole Lives, which was created by the Unitarian Church and United Church of Christ to integrate thoughtful, responsible family planning with other spiritual and moral wisdom.

3. Serious beyond-abortion advocates will treat the school system as part of the sexual education “village.”

To quote a research summary from Advocates for Youth: “Evaluations of comprehensive sex education programs show that these programs can help youth delay onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use . . . teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education.” Recognizing that some families struggle with addiction, mental illness and other challenges that keep kids from getting excellent health information and care and recognizing that some children suffer unwanted sexual contact at home, serious beyond-abortion activists will support school efforts to fill knowledge gaps. They will invest in accountable, effective sexual health curricula demonstrated to delay sexual initiation and reduce risky sexual behavior (as measured by self-report, STIs, pregnancy and abortion). They will also lobby for age-appropriate education that starts long before youth become sexually active. When public dollars are limited, they will fund these materials and programs through charitable giving. Beyond-abortion advocates will insist that family planning be integrated into educational and career planning, not because this helps students attain their goals but because preventing surprise pregnancy prevents abortion.

4. Serious beyond-abortion activists will accept that policies and programs designed to restore traditional gender roles and the traditional family formation sequence (education-marriage-sex-childbearing) have largely failed. Consequently, they will recognize that abortion prevention must adapt to a shifting pattern of pair bonding and family formation. Expanding beyond abstinence-till-marriage, they will deploy whatever tools are necessary to reduce the pregnancies that lead to abortion.

For over 20 years, advocates for child well-being promoted a return to traditional marriage as a means to ensure that parents get ready before getting pregnant. Lead advocate, Isabelle Sawhill (National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Generation Unbound) concedes that the changes in family structure are likely irreversible and that new methods are needed to support well-timed pregnancy and family flourishing. To reduce abortions, serious beyond-abortion activists will adopt a pragmatic approach to intentional childbearing and family well-being, including community services for young families and access to better birth control.

5. Serious beyond-abortion activists will drive a technology revolution in contraception—from every-day and every-time birth control methods to long-acting contraceptives like IUDs and implants that radically reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion.

Long-acting contraceptives are the most dramatically-effective means to date of reducing demand for abortion. A St. Louis program that offered top-tier, long-acting contraceptives to 9,000 women and youth dropped unwanted pregnancy and abortion to less than half the local average. A Colorado program that provided long-acting contraceptives to sexually-active teens reduced teen pregnancy and abortion by 40 and 35 percent respectively. Serious beyond-abortion activists will challenge the false perception that these methods work to end rather than prevent pregnancy and instead promote the science-based awareness that these methods are true contraceptives with bonus health benefits. They will work to reform liability practices that undermine development and distribution of better birth control.

6. Serious beyond-abortion activists will ensure that young and poor women in marginalized communities have access to excellent reproductive health services free of charge, since these are the youth and women with the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy.

While unsought pregnancy and abortion are declining for middle and upper middle income families, they are on the increase among those least able to absorb the impact of another child. But making excellent contraception available to teens at no cost can drop the abortion rate by three quarters. As is, Title X family planning services prevent 2.2 million unplanned pregnancies yearly, without which the abortion rate would be two-thirds higher. Drawing on tested models like A Step Ahead in Memphis, serious beyond-abortion activists will create programs that recognize the complexity and financial challenges of life in poor communities. These programs will provide rapid response, single-visit services and they will systematically eliminate financial barriers to better birth control. They will address anxiety (and contraceptive avoidance) that is due to forced sterilizations and other bad history and ensure that women are freely able to choose and switch contraceptive methods, as well as have them removed as desired.

7. Serious beyond-abortion activists will insist that medical practices be updated so that family planning becomes a routine part of adolescent medicine, family practice, prenatal care, and hospital labor and delivery services.

Women and men are most likely to engage in effective pregnancy prevention when primary care providers and other doctors routinely assess family plans and fertility management as a part of all medical care. Serious beyond-abortion activists will promote innovative and effective programs that treat pregnancy intentions like one more vital sign for both healthy and chronically-ill patients. They will ensure that continuing education programs teach doctors how (and why) to include family planning conversations in prenatal care and birthing services. They will monitor hospitals and other care systems to ensure that the best fertility management options are available on patient request.

8. As both unintended pregnancy and abortion decline, serious beyond-abortion activists will ensure that any woman who does end up with a surprise pregnancy will never be driven by financial or educational or career concerns to terminate that pregnancy.

Forty percent of women seeking abortions cite financial concerns as a factor in their decision to end a pregnancy. Serious beyond-abortion activists will tackle structural barriers to broad family prosperity including policies that create income inequality and cause families to fall out of the middle class. They champion family-friendly workplace norms and public policies including maternity leave, paid family leave, affordable childcare, and mom-friendly education alternatives for youth and women who decide to carry forward a surprise pregnancy.

9. Serious beyond-abortion advocates will work to minimize maternal health problems and fetal anomalies by promoting pre-conception care and prenatal care and by ensuring that fertility management is integrated into care for chronic conditions such as diabetes and HIV.

Only a small percent of abortion is triggered by threats to maternal health and life, or by fetal anomalies, but serious beyond-abortion activists will work to prevent these difficult situations. They will raise awareness that preconception care can prevent some fetal anomalies and maternal health risks and they will make sure that medically-compromised women receive integrated care so that high-risk pregnancies occur only when a woman or couple actively wants a baby.

10. With an eye to the future, serious beyond-abortion activists will aggregate $200 million in philanthropic dollars, public research funds and investment capital to develop better birth control for men and take it to market.

A man is involved in every pregnancy and men are involved in many abortion decisions, but today male contraceptives lag behind female contraceptives by almost a century. As of 2015, the best reversible method for women has an annual pregnancy rate of 1 in 2000, while the best for men (the condom) has a 1 in 6 annual pregnancy rate. Serious beyond-abortion activists will recognize that giving men better means to manage their fertility will result in fewer surprise pregnancies and fewer abortions.

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, the anti-abortion movement is a radical failure by the very metrics that Pro-life leaders cite to inspire their base—or would be if the goal were to eliminate abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are in decline, thanks to a number of cultural and economic factors and better birth control. But American care providers still serve over a million women seeking abortions annually, and over 900,000 of these women terminate a pregnancy.

Today, self-described abortion foes in Congress pass copy-cat TRAP laws (targeted restrictions of abortion providers) that drive up the cost of abortion services. Other self-proclaimed abortion foes have launched a multi-year “yuck factor” media campaign aimed at triggering moral and physical disgust. Still others harry women and care providers, forcing them to walk gauntlets of posters and prayers at clinic entrances or stalking and doxing them online. Indeed, self-described foes have so stigmatized abortion care that most of us have no idea which third of our female friends have terminated ill-conceived pregnancies.

But, if a half century of evidence from around the globe is to be believed, no amount of shaming or harassing women, nurses and doctors—however well-organized and sustained—will produce anything close to a 90 percent reduction in abortion. Nor will another 800 restrictive laws like those passed in the last twenty years, even if they criminalize women and providers. Such approaches may force some women to carry forward unwanted pregnancies, but their effect is limited by the power of human desperation.

Extreme restrictions and stigma in Eastern Europe filled orphanages with unwanted babies but also filled backrooms with bleeding women. In pre-Roe America, compassionate clergy became weary of burying dead parishioners and helped to create an underground railroad to safe abortion services. Around the globe, 22 million women each year undergo a back-alley abortion rather than carry yet another unwanted pregnancy to term, and over 20,000 pay with their lives. More restrictions, more disgust, more stigma—these may feel righteous to some, but at best they produce an impasse that destroys dreams and hopes and even lives, and that satisfies no one.

By contrast, we know what it would take to make most abortion simply go away. Ironically, the upstream solution lies in the common ground between those who oppose abortion care and those who support it—the value we all place on empowering young people to flourish and parents to love and care for their children. The only question is whether a beyond abortion movement will emerge that takes this challenge seriously.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt; Deas and Other Imaginings.
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60 Responses to What a Serious Anti-Abortion Movement Would Actually Look Like

  1. DW Fisher says:

    An excellent, well-thought out article. I would only point out the missing prefix “anti-” in step #9.


  2. Jeff Forsythe says:

    A truly great post! i hope to find a way to put some small part of this wisdom to practice in my small bit of the world. Thanks!


  3. Sha'Tara says:

    Deep waters here, Valerie. Thanks for the insightful, penetrating comments on the problems with anti-abortion people, of which I once was, if briefly, a member. There is so much ignorance among anti-abortion forces; so much false information. It isn’t “love” that moves religious anti-abortion people. It’s their religious programming based on fear and hate. The validity of the points you make for them, they aren’t likely to see until they literally leave their religion and discover the real world for themselves. I’d like to be wrong about that; at least I’m certain to be wrong about some of them anyway and that will be because of people like you who stick their necks out and not only tell the truth but help map out positive strategies to help solve this “abysmal” problem. Take care of yourself, Valerie, this world needs you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Endre Polyak says:

    Thank you for your inspiring article. Fundamentalist denominations have absolutely nothing to do with being a Christian. Being a Christian is not repeating 300 times daily “Jesus” and praying 6 hours daily. It is doing the right thing at the right time.


  5. john zande says:

    Tremendous article!


  6. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, Valerie,

    Your points are entirely antithetical to he position of the Republican Party. Therefore, to achieve these goals, step number one would be obvious. :)


  7. juliew810 says:

    omg – this may be your best article yet ! how to publicize?!can you imagine if the anti abortion people put their energy into doing this??maybe you should join fores with them and work from the inside – like seriously, meet with the big wigs on your shared goals of abortion reduction and how to really achieve them – specifically the LARC!

    Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2015 05:00:32 +0000 To: juliew@msn.com

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Debbie says:

    Very good article, the one point missing is the rape/incest. What about that? What of the violence perpetrated on women and children? That leads to unwanted pregnancies. Why is there never an outcry in society about that? I think boys/men should be taught in school about not becoming rapists.
    Otherwise you hit every point. I commend you in a well thought out article.

    Liked by 4 people

    • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss says:

      Debbie, you raise an important point. Education should include “what is unwanted touching,” and that you alone own your body. Well beyond that is the necessity of knowing what constitutes rape. Probably most adolescents are ignorant of sexual assault statutes, which can vary from state to state. More adults are aware of the harm caused by rape, whether or not pregnancy results. A girl’s life can be changed forever. Boys need to know they can be charged with criminal sexual conduct if there is a certain age difference between them and their sex partner. In some cases, just a few years’ difference in age can be important — this depends on the state statutes. Education should protect both girls and boys.

      It is not common knowledge that a rapist has visitation rights if a child results from rape, a factor which will influence a pregnant woman’s decision about the pregnancy. DNA analysis has changed the landscape of paternal rights and responsibilities! Unfortunately, males and females do not learn these life-altering facts until it is too late.

      Valerie Tarico’s emphasis on education is of the utmost importance.

      Liked by 1 person

    • All of that is true. And everyone should feel outraged, balanced by compassion and moral concern. To seek justice and to go beyond mere justice, we will have to do some deep soul-searching as a society. This is particularly true for those of us who are the inheritors and/or beneficiaries of a thousand cuts of oppression and violence: white privilege, Western power, class war, capitalist exploitation, and on and on. At this point, this is an old critique made by black and brown feminists, along with poor white feminists.

      Yet, even to limit ourselves to rape and incest and such, it is a large and overwhelming problem that few in our society, men and women, want to fully acknowledge. Yes, according to US data, men are most of the perpetrators of sexually abused girls. But then again, other US data similarly shows that women are most of the perpetrators of sexually abused boys. As such, it is far worse than most of us want to confront and seek to resolve. Which group alone can be blamed when the perpetrators are found across numerous demographics?

      Then consider that, going by other data still, a significant number of these perpetrators themselves apparently were abused as children, often by those of the opposite sex. The vicious cycle of trauma, in how so many victims become victimizers, operates partly because we obscure the dark reality and shameful truth. We become splintered and dissociated, not only as individuals but as an entire society of vast, widespread trauma across generations. The culture of trauma is far more disturbing and threatening than the demographics of trauma.

      A Fucked Up World

      Not All Men, And Not All Women, But Some

      Black Feminism and Epistemology of Ignorance


    • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss says:

      The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey | 2010 Summary Report states the following:
      “Most perpetrators of all forms of sexual violence against women were male. For female rape victims, 98.1% reported only male perpetrators. Additionally, 92.5% of victims of sexual violence other than rape reported only male
      perpetrators. For male victims, the sex of the perpetrator varied by
      the type of sexual violence experienced. The majority of male rape
      victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators.”

      Click to access nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

      Education is important to prevent sexual violence against any gender. What sometimes gets lost in discussion is that only a uterus can be impregnated — thus, there can be different consequences for females. The possibility of carrying a pregnancy for ten lunar months is a concern few men can relate to.


  9. Sharon Ammen says:

    This is superb. Thank you.


  10. archaeopteryx1 says:

    That is the most comprehensive coverage of the issue I have ever read – bookmarked!


  11. allanmerry says:

    First, I “Second” all the earlier enthusiastic responses: Superb; and Inspiring. Truly. I get and heartily agree with all. And thus the QUESTION still in my Head. How can we get the legions of misguided and uninformed “Pro-Lifers” to READ it? (Same with the legions of the “destructives” on the myriad variations of the “Religion” and Accommodation issues.) Read it Openly and without feeling criticized? Is/are there something(s) different WE need to do, to “get through” more successfully ourselves? As I read sympathetically through the Lettered sections, I was thinking how those whom we’re trying to reach might “hear” it. Each single one of them with their unique, terminally complex life experience. Might some find bits of the “critique” triggering their defensive feelings? For myself, not here of course. But I know that, (despite my feeble efforts to remember my own incomplete self knowledge and universal knowledge), my “unresolved” defenses go off in my head continually, with the “Conservatives” and the Believers. Even with the seemingly more “reasonable” of those “breeds.” So, Yeah, that I need to work on. Both ends of it. When I’m hearing “differing” viewpoints, and when I’m thinking how to respond. How else are we going to reach peaceful accommodation? For our survival. Closing here: One current personal experience: My recent new next door neighbor. In my usual Liberal incarnation, I might call him “poster guy” for a near 60 YO, HunterGatherer; MountainMan; HardCoreNRA, WorkingClass Republican.” But it turns out he’s also extremely smart, very widely well travelled and well informed; a very good guy! (He and his wife along with other of our neighbors regularly gather on one or the other’s porch and drink too much wine. There, HE, who shall not be named, tells me: “Allan, you and I are complete opposites on most of the common issues, but you know what? I love talking with you. Because you listen to me. I can tell you hear me. And, sometimes, I get a new thing- a new slant on something- from you.” And so naturally He and I go on this way and are hard core friends. I want figure out how to do that again. And again. .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’m sure I put in “poison pills” if you will that would make it hard for a Pro-life person to hear, which is not smart on my part but difficult to avoid. Were there some specific pieces you suspect would be triggering?


  12. Pingback: Deconstructing the Anti Abortion Activist | Pro LIes across America: 21st Century Domestic Terrorism

  13. Jim Beckstrom says:

    Ms. Tarico,

    I am so grateful for people like you, people who write such reasonable, productive ideas about advancing our quality of life.  By the depth of your understanding of how to better things, you really highlight the blind terror over change so many people are stuck in.Jim BeckstromA “newbie” to AHA. From: ValerieTarico.com To: jrbeckstrom@sbcglobal.net Sent: Saturday, September 12, 2015 1:00 AM Subject: [New post] If the Anti-Abortion Frenzy Were Actually about Abortion . . . What a Serious Anti-Abortion Movement Would Actually Look Like


  14. Pingback: If the Anti-Abortion Frenzy Were Actually about Abortion . . . What a Serious Anti-Abortion Movement Would Actually Look Like | charles' log

  15. There is one simple point that I find the most relevant.

    Data has shown that countries that ban abortions either don’t decrease the abortion rate or else actually increase it. The main thing that changes is that abortions are no longer legal and so are instead done illegally and hence unsafely. This increases the number of women that are harmed and die. Also, because of the abortions that fail, the number of babies born with deformities and brain damage increases as well.

    So, what exactly about this is supposedly “pro-life”? Is it about controlling the sexual rights and freedoms of individuals? Or is it actually about saving lives and preventing abortions?

    The only policies proven to decrease the abortion rate are those that decrease the unwanted pregnancy rate. That includes full sex education, better women’s healthcare, more availability of family planning centers, easy and cheap or even free access to contraceptives and birth control, etc. Those are the policies a genuine pro-life advocate would support.

    The problem is that these culture war battles are never actually about the outward issues. It isn’t about solving a problem. Rather, it is about punishment and control. It originates from a particular religious worldview. Practical politics is not the central concern. These are symbolic issues that touch upon even deeper sources of fear, anger, and righteousness. The outward issues are a distraction. The real battleground is elsewhere.

    Rational analysis and discourse won’t change anything, although I’m personally a fan of such.


    • Sha'Tara says:

      [quote: “These are symbolic issues that touch upon even deeper sources of fear, anger, and righteousness. The outward issues are a distraction. The real battleground is elsewhere.
      Rational analysis and discourse won’t change anything, although…”]
      Nice to read that someone is finally getting to the crux of the matter. Yes, it is all about power, and no, rational, philosophical discourse will never provide the solutions being sought. Unfortunately for proponents of change, they are still swimming in the polluted waters of the system: can’t get out and really look at the big picture. It’s not just abortion, women’s inequality with men or even wars. That’s piece-meal approach. The whole species needs to make a quantum leap away from how it interacts within itself and with its environment. None of the “old ways” can work, or can be fixed. People need to find the courage to look at all their sacred, time-honoured and “what the hell for” beliefs, turf them out and try something actually new. Go to the mattresses. Dive to the bottom. Die and be reborn. Practice personal freedom in self-determination and empowerment. Sexuality without control of any sort – left entirely to the individual’s choice, whatever the age. Public nudity: go for it – clothing is nothing but control programming. Do: test it, enjoy it, suffer for it, whatever, until it balances itself out on an entirely new level of personal and social interactions worldwide. You’ll have to get there eventually and you’re now in the eye of the storm you’ve created as a species by not recognizing that you’re attempting to control something that was never meant to be controlled by anyone, and that’s called life. Societies and civilizations are artifacts invented to control life, and power dynasties evolved from that to control and enslave the people within those societies and civilizations, the end results being endless chaos, destruction and death. I have no doubt that the Earthian species can do better; can rise above this — it has the knowledge and certainly the power, but it lacks vision and will.

      If this offends, ask yourselves why it does; why it should.


      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        Public nudity: go for it – clothing is nothing but control programming.” – I’m not saying you’re wrong, but there are some bodies I really wouldn’t ever want to see!

        But seriously, Sha’Tara, surely you can see that the Power Elite would never allow this, as they would have to relinquish control, and that’s simply something they could never do. As proof, I give you only one little faction – climate change – despite reams of data proving its reality, acceptance of that is being resisted at every turn.

        We tried something similar during the Hippy Era – drugs were brought into the equation to destabilize the movement, it was infiltrated by the powers that be, and the leaders of the movement – which, granted, had no real, formal, organization – were discredited and/or removed for petty crimes.


      • Sha'Tara says:

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply. The point of my comments is only to make people (any people, with any kind of belief or education) realize how much of what they accept as normal, isn’t – it’s power propaganda cum programming aimed at total body/mind control of individuals. I wouldn’t go waltzing down a city street naked either – but I know why not, that’s the point. I certainly have no reason to be ashamed of my own body, but the social reactions and legal ramifications to its exposure in public would not be worth my while to endure, though it would prove my point!

        You’re right about climate change, a combination of natural earth weather pattern changes with a lot of help from man’s out-of-control abuse of a finite resource. In my way of thinking, man’s abuse of earth (and of children, women, the weak, the poor, the refugees and finally each other) can be traced to power propaganda: religious, administrative, economic. “We” are forced to do things (particularly participate in jobs) that are blatantly detrimental to the environment, our own neighbourhoods, families, even personal health because the set-up dictates that having a job is what matters and the job makers are the ones we account as responsible to make sure such employment does not destroy the only planet we have to survive on. A vicious circle that cannot be broken under current dominant beliefs and rules.

        Most of our social conflicts are deliberately staged so people can never see the big picture; the manipulation that goes on. I see this in the discussions and comments on this excellent blog. Much effort, much honesty, much intelligence expressed, yet the efforts are like an organized sport: they remain within strict bounds and proceed under strict games rules.

        So, I ask myself, what will finally break the vicious circle? What will really make a difference and begin to “drag” the entire species into a whole new way of interaction with its social and natural environment? What will it take for people to say, enough of this treadmill, already? Enough of the Band-Aids and the aspirin? Who’s going to change the end game; going to take the human-holding fishbowl, carry it out over the ocean and smash it so there’s no turning back for anyone? Because for real change to happen, that’s what it’s going to take.


      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        I may be a little smarter than the average bear, but I admit I don’t have the answers to those questions, Sha’Tara – if you come up with any, please share.


      • It doesn’t offend me. I’m fine with out-of-the-box thinking… and even behavior. But I’m not sure what will lead to actual change.

        I am all for experimentation, though. Some radical experimentation is definitely called for. The only way to find out what might work is to try it. Let a hundred flowers bloom!

        Whatever we do, it should be done with intelligence and insight. We should focus our energies effectively.


      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Sha’Tara,

        I have several ideas regarding people’s resistance to change. I’m not trying to be simplistic or reductionist, although I think that my ideas hold as a general rule. That said, here’s my thinking.

        1. As a general rule, humans are risk averse. This is likely a holdover from prehistoric times. (Is that rustling in the bushes the wind or a saber toothed tiger?) Whether it’s evolutionary (humans with this trait are the ones that survived) or learned (children are taught not to take chances), most humans are, indeed, risk averse. The right wing media has been able to exploit this risk aversion by suggesting, for example, that doing something about pollution, or making the workplace safer, might result in job losses. (Note that there’s a certain amount of stupidity here as well; people who are worried about their jobs vote for the political party most likely to give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.)

        This has certainly been true as well for social change. Unfortunately, the right wing has been able to exploit people’s paranoid fears about e.g. gay marriage or immigration.

        2. Many people are apathetic, and think that they can’t make a difference. In fact, just the opposite is true; it’s those who do take the time, and make an effort, that make a difference! Unfortunately, it does explain low voter participation.

        3. Many people are intellectually lazy. The latest example of this is Donald Trump. Apparently, the suggestion that he has a solution to everything relieves many of the responsibility to think!

        Well those are my thoughts. IMO, the largest of these is risk aversion. I’ve always characterized the middle class as “people who don’t have much, but have enough that they’re worried about losing it.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sha'Tara says:

        Hi Lowell,

        I agree with your points, inasmuch as they apply to humanity. As a species (collective) humanity is a paradox. While it is true it is (has become increasingly) risk averse, it nevertheless plunges into self-mutilating and destructive violence blindly, thoughtlessly: war, attacking the environment, mob reaction, rape, oppression, violent organized sports and extreme sports and vicarious participation in mindless violence on TV, movies and internet-based interactive games. And I would be remiss if I did not point out that abortion is part of that mindless violence; a stop-gap measure that future generations will look back upon in horror; as probably the worst form of violence done to helpless individuals, admitting here that the alternative under the present Matrix-controlled political/religious/financial dictatorship is equally damning: the protagonists (as groups) have painted themselves into opposite corners and can’t get out.

        As a species, people are addicted to violence. They love the emotions that temporarily free them from their System shackles; that pull them into a reality where they can freely lash out, get even, beat up enemies and even win, something that in their slave-society set-up they can never completely experience in their day-to-day interactions. Even their rich, maybe more so, are bound to rules which if broken can send them plummeting to the bottom of the food chain. For example, give all your money to alleviate famine, or homelessness and you’re no longer rich.

        The default setting for Earthians is denial. You mention voting. Imagine you’re a spy in deep undercover work and your safe house is compromised. It’s been safe for ten years, you’ve grown comfortable in it, you believe in it, you are attached, so you refuse to leave it. Naturally you get trapped in it and are taken prisoner. Man’s entire “safe house” as a society is entirely compromised to powers he lives and dies for but fails to understand. He remains in the safe house because of attachments. He makes deals with his captors and they let him live on a short leash. Voting means belief in politicians: compromised. A truly intelligent being knows voting only empowers his Matrix captors. Just one example, since you mention it, and the job thing follows the same pattern of thought, of belief.

        What should man do? Man is a collective therefore man can’t do anything. Collectives are de-facto, upon creation, immediately compromised – no exception. Having done the environmental struggle thing; the politics; the corporate job thing, the family thing, I have found that freedom to think, self-determination and real power can only be found in complete detachment; in mentally eschewing every kind of collective-minded operations, including one’s immediate biological family or one’s lover(s). All relationships are Matrix-controlled, bar none. One can of course interact with others, but not in attached relationships: that’s the key. If any Earthian truly seeks to know what’s going on and desires to experience freedom, s/he must perforce develop a personal discipline of self-empowerment, a path that begins with that famous single step and leads endlessly anywhere and everywhere. For an average Earthian intelligence, this is not something achieved overnight. We’re looking at decades of very tough mind-discipline. The upside is, anyone can do this. A matter of will power and minute by minute deliberate choice, accepting any and all consequences with no regret. Once on this path there is no turning back. Conclusion: man’s problems are solved from an individual basis; on independent thought leading to individual choice moment by moment.


      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        2. Many people are apathetic, and think that they can’t make a difference.
        While I’m not arguing that this isn’t true, Lowell, I AM arguing that the thinking is erroneous – people coming together brought about the end to the war in Viet Nam and the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, that opened many, many other doors.


      • Sha'Tara says:

        I know, not addressed to me, but, Arch, their involvement did not actually change anything at any fundamental level. In fact “America” is embroiled in deeper war-related shit today than it was at the end the Vietnam war. Revolutions are circular; they remain on the wheel. The only “solution” is for an individual to “boldly go where no man has gone before” and simply step off the wheel. This “power of one” is really what the System doesn’t want people to ever realize or believe it could have any power to change anything. Hence the programming, and the propaganda. No war has ever ended – every one has morphed into another, changing only in location, numbers and technology. If what you claim is true then the “end” of the Vietnam war of necessity had to spell the end of US military intervention in any country anywhere in the world from that time on. Simple logic. Let me restate that saw: “Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”


      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        If what you claim is true then the “end” of the Vietnam war of necessity had to spell the end of US military intervention in any country anywhere in the world from that time on.

        I can’t see that that logically follows. I will be quick to agree that both Korea and Viet Nam were manufactured conflicts, as well as was the war in Iraq, but I can’t say that there aren’t nations in the world that are in need of our help to resist outside aggression.


      • @Sha’Tara – In being notified of new comments here, I came back to read back through what was discussed and saw your above comment again. You wrote that it’s, “Nice to read that someone is finally getting to the crux of the matter. Yes, it is all about power, and no, rational, philosophical discourse will never provide the solutions being sought.” I’m always glad to meet others who share this understanding. But I can’t take all of the credit. Corey Robin has written about this with great insight.

        Anyway, I agree that, “Unfortunately for proponents of change, they are still swimming in the polluted waters of the system: can’t get out and really look at the big picture. It’s not just abortion, women’s inequality with men or even wars. That’s piece-meal approach.” That gets to the comment I just posted in response to someone’s rightful outrage about rape and incest, What I noted was how this is part of a larger pattern of violence and oppression, a much more vast culture of trauma and cycle of victimization.

        Denying the Agency of the Subordinate Class


    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      So, what exactly about this is supposedly ‘pro-life’?

      It’s really quite simple, Benjamin – their god says don’t screw before you’re married, but once you are, pump out as many babies as possible and teach them all to fear that god. And they insist that everyone else believe as they do, or at the very least, follow the same rules whether they believe in them or not. As a reward, their god lets them live after they die.


  16. Valerie says:

    This is the best article I’ve ever read on abortion. Thank you.


  17. MarciaX says:

    Wow. Many of these ideas have also occurred to me at one time or another, and this article pulls them all together in one place. Thanks so much!


  18. Katatonic says:

    “Indeed, self-described foes have so stigmatized abortion care that most of us have no idea which third of our female friends have terminated ill-conceived pregnancies.”

    This is so true. I have co-workers who are vehemently anti-abortion that I’d just LOVE to educate about life choices when you’re pregnant and 19 and completely unwilling & unprepared to bear a child at that point. I wonder if their heads would explode upon learning I had an abortion…? Or if they’d just ostracize me until I quit?


  19. archaeopteryx1 says:

    Speaking of making a difference, I would like to draw all Americans’ attention to HR 2902 and S 1598, otherwise known as the misnamed “First Amendment Defense Act.” The stated purpose of FADA is to protect the tax-exempt status, government contract, or any other Federal benefit of those whose religious beliefs tell them that marriage is between a man and a woman, or that sex is reserved for marriage.

    This act’s true impact would allow for sweeping, taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children – all under the guise of religious liberty. It would also eviscerate federal employment nondiscrimination laws by allowing individuals to discriminate against women who have children outside of marriage.

    You can register your objection to these bills with your State’s Senators and your District’s Representatives at http://action.secular.org


  20. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, archaeopteryx1,

    I’m afraid that my views on the civil rights movement are far more jaded.

    I used to think that the civil rights movement was one of the few cases in which religion actually contributed something good to society, until I looked into the matter further. In fact, this movement was blatantly sexist. Its objective was to create employment opportunities for Black males; Black women were supposed to be content cleaning toilets and emptying bedpans.

    Worse yet, in 2008, Black people overwhelmingly voted to deprive another group, Gays, of their rights (Proposition 8 in California). Blacks and other People of Color are the easiest targets of bigotry. The fact that any person of color would vote for bigotry truly boggles the mind! Even today, Black people are less than 50-50 on Gay marriage. They stand as the only group other than Evangelical Protestants opposed to marriage equality. (To be fair, there are notable exceptions, such as the late Julian Bond, and, of course, President Obama.)

    The civil rights movement also had another unintended consequence: It unleashed what was known at the time as the “White backlash”, admittedly oversimplified as “love those Black people in Alabama, but keep them out of my neighborhood”. The Republican Party was all too eager to court their votes!

    My views on the anti-Vietnam War movement are similarly jaded. Although the originators of the movement were certainly sincere in their convictions, IMO, the movement as a whole amounted to little more than mindless conformity. People demonstrated against the War because their friends were doing so. My strongest evidence for this position is that the so-called “’60’s Liberals” voted overwhelmingly for Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

    Worse yet, the movement didn’t have any politically savvy leadership. The end result of its efforts was the election of Nixon in 1968, and the McGovern fiasco in 1972.

    Also, note that this is particularly relevant to today. IMO, the election of Nixon was the beginning of the decline of the American working class in general, and of unions in particular. Within months after Nixon took office, companies began shipping jobs overseas.


    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      The purpose of the Civil Rights Movement, Lowell, was to bring about racial equality under the law – it accomplished that. Only time can bring about racial equality in our minds, that’s not subject to legislation.

      The purpose of the End the War in Viet Nam movement, was just as the title implies – it accomplished that.

      If others manipulated the results of those movements, that’s a horse of a different color, and perhaps should have been the target of yet another movement, but the two movements in question did what they set out to do.


  21. allanmerry says:

    Valerie, I’m replying to your Sept 12 response to my comment posted that day, concerning how to get anti-abortion folks to listen. You asked if I could spot any examples of “put offs” in it. I Didn’t find any “poison pills.” :-) My point was that just that it’s helpful for all of us to always be thinking, as we speak and write, how our correspondents may be hearing us. (I need to work on that big time.) Anyway, maybe a possible “Allan try” beginning in the “Introduction.” “I take it as a “given” that ALL of us, from one end of the “Pro-Life” Abortion spectrum to we at the opposite end, all want the same thing: That unwanted conceptions of human life are reduced to the absolute achievable minimum. The efforts of the “activist” anti-abortion movement so far have not achieved must success. (insert statistics) And a reasonable person might come to believe that many of the pro-life movement’s strategies have not only been unsuccessful, but seriously counterproductive. With some serious changes in strategies, the goal we all want CAN be achieved. So, what follows below is a series of categories where I believe the anti-abortion movement has been unproductive; and for each of those categories, what far more successful strategies would be. So I will entitle it “What a Rational, Serious and Successful Anti-Abortion Campaign Would Be Like.” And maybe some similar softening there on. You Valerie are vastly better with words than, and the above is presumptions of me to even try. (I’m embarrassed.) What you write is powerful and hugely valuable as is. We just need to go on spreading it.


    • Thank you, Allan. Good thoughts to ponder, and much appreciated.


    • Lowell Bushey says:

      Hi, Allan,

      You asked for statistics, so I’m going to provide them.
      The number of abortions divided by the number of pregnancies, i.e., the abortion ratio, for teenagers in the US (around 35%) is much lower than that of other countries (as high as 68%). That has one unfortunate consequence. Millions of young women screw up their lives by carrying through with an unintended pregnancy.
      Lest you doubt me, here are the statistics. A woman who becomes a mother by age 18 has a 2/3 chance of living below the poverty line, only a 38% chance of finishing high school, only a 2% chance of receiving a college degree by her 30th birthday, and a 1/3 chance of going on welfare.
      Hopefully, we can agree that the way to minimize the number of abortions is to minimize the number of unintended pregnancies. (Abortions are performed due to fetal anomalies, such as Anencephaly. However, the lion’s share of abortions are performed due to unintended pregnancy.)
      The greatest single factor in preventing unintended pregnancy is the use of birth control. Here are the statistics.
      The 16% of women who don’t use birth control have 52% of the unintended pregnancies. The 19% of women who use birth control inconsistently have 43% of the unintended pregnancies. The 65% of women who use birth control consistently and correctly have only 5% of the unintended pregnancies. Thus, 95% of unintended pregnancies could be prevented by the proper use of birth control! Also note that, with the advent of “state of the art” IUD’s, the 5% figure could be reduced to near zero if every sexually active women who didn’t wish to become pregnant used one.
      The information that I’ve presented here leads to one obvious conclusion: Both the means and the technology are available to reduce the abortion rate to a tiny fraction of its current level! Unfortunately, the implementation of a solution encounters vehement opposition from the Religious Right. They (apparently) feel that a woman (but not her male partner!) should have to bear the consequences of the “sin” of non-marital sex, and have lobbied hard for “alternative” measures, such as “abstinence education”.
      The results have not been pretty. In 2006, thanks to the support of “abstinence education” from the Bush administration, the rate of teenage pregnancy (and abortion!) increased after years of steady decline.
      The Religious Right has supported other measures that make the problem worse, such as the current effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides (nonjudgmental) information about birth control to anyone who walks through their doors. This clearly reduces unintended pregnancy; in fact, it’s estimated that defunding Planned Parenthood would increase the number of abortions in the US by around 810,000!
      So there you have it. A solution to the “abortion problem” exists, and is available TODAY. The main obstacle to its implementation is opposition by religious extremists!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Andrew says:

    So, in other words, turn our girls into whores (like you) who are as well versed in preventing pregnancy as any working girl.


    • Ah, so your concern isn’t actually about abortion, it’s about who you think should have sex, and when and why.


    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      If there was ever a pregnancy that should have been prevented, it was your Momma’s. Here’s a great plan, teach girls that sex is dirty and despicable and to be avoided at all costs unless a priest or a minister says words to an invisible magic man who lives in the sky – then it’s OK to hit the desire button. Now THAT’s plan!


  23. salome says:

    The Right wing believers in any religion are against Pre marital sex.In these days when so many marriages have gone to divorce,Live in relationships are very common,sex is enjoyed and the woman knows contraception,it is for girls and women to be careful in those days as after conceived ,the girl,woman feels very guilty to do an abortion and she has more to lose than a man,and men will never understand woman’s feelings ,particularly on this.And sometimes teenage girls do not know about contraception properly and become pregnant ,teenage abortions are there.but the burden of it is always on the girl,woman.


  24. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, archaeopteryx1,


    Here’s the part that really galls me. (I don’t know if this the “elephant in the room” that nobody mentions or something that few people consider, although I suspect the latter.)

    Although the situation faced by people living in poverty in the US is undoubtedly better than by those living in, say, Bangladesh or Niger, it isn’t unreasonable to refer to them as “third world”.

    One would think that THE VERY LEAST a “pro-life” organization could do for a woman who forgoes an abortion is to take steps to ensure a decent future for her and her child. From the statistics that I’ve presented, this is clearly not the case.

    The “pro-life” people evidently have no problem with her (and her child!) living in poverty, and receiving third world medical care, which includes a third world infant mortality rate (50% higher for people living in poverty) and a third world life expectancy (5 years less for people living in poverty). Worse yet, they seek to defund one of the few organizations that will provide these essential services at a price she can afford. For individuals who purport to respect human life, and/or to speak for some benevolent deity, I find this appalling, disgusting, and unconscionable!


    • Sha'Tara says:

      Quote from comment by Lowell Bushey: “One would think that THE VERY LEAST a “pro-life” organization could do for a woman who forgoes an abortion is to take steps to ensure a decent future for her and her child. From the statistics that I’ve presented, this is clearly not the case.
      The “pro-life” people evidently have no problem with her (and her child!) living in poverty, and receiving third world medical care, which includes a third world infant mortality rate (50% higher for people living in poverty) and a third world life expectancy (5 years less for people living in poverty). Worse yet, they seek to defund one of the few organizations that will provide these essential services at a price she can afford. For individuals who purport to respect human life, and/or to speak for some benevolent deity, I find this appalling, disgusting, and unconscionable!”

      And so one should. However, ever think that these people are just programmed talking heads, brainwashed, not so much by their churches and preachers as by the propaganda of their plutocrats who rule the American empire? It is very costly to maintain the lifestyles of the rich and (in)famous, along with the military that makes that lifestyle possible on a global scale. America has been systematically drained of every form of resource since its inception. It is dying, and its [child] poverty levels, second highest in the developed world, are going to keep plunging down even as it is being scoured for its last natural resources. The empire is dying and Americans, only too willing to support it and flaunt an unsupportable lifestyle in the face of a world their military-industrial complex was exploiting and extorting, are now going to feel the rising squeeze as their dinosaur turns to the “homeland” to feed off what’s left until it expires.

      These braying “pro-lifers” are just like the paid-for demonstrators I’ve encountered time and again during the “Reagan years” to counter the real demonstrations against US exploitation whose slogan was “El pueblo unidos hamas sera vencido!” You must have heard that one. Pro-lifers are not pro life, they are cultic, comparable to feral dogs whose owners have abandoned and collect in packs to attack whatever appears to threaten or offers the possibility of food. Their dreams of controlling the nation haven’t materialized despite all the hashed promises of Neo-cons and fundamentalist religion, so they are backed into a corner, using any and every “weapon” on hand to lash out, hoping that they can turn the tide in their favour. Typical of bullies, they attack those who can least defend themselves. Historically this is standard fare in any empire/nation whose war-based economy shrinks upon itself as battle after battle is lost. By definition, these “pro-life” people are not, nor could ever be, rational. Once that’s understood and accepted, their rants make sense.

      From Wikipedia:
      Recent census data shows that half the population qualifies as poor or low income,[15] with one in five Millennials living in poverty.[16] Academic contributors to The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States postulate that new and extreme forms of poverty have emerged in the U.S. as a result of neoliberal structural adjustment policies and globalization, which have rendered economically marginalized communities as destitute “surplus populations” in need of control and punishment.[17]

      In 2011, child poverty reached record high levels, with 16.7 million children living in food insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels.[18] A 2013 UNICEF report ranked the U.S. as having the second highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world.[19]


      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Sha’Tara,

        Sorry for my late reply, although waiting provided me with a cogent example, i.e. the resignation of John Boehner. (I’ll get to that later. :))

        In agree with much of what you say, although my perspective is different. IMO, in a country where per capita GDP is over $50,000, there is NO EXCUSE for anyone, much less a child, to live in abject poverty.

        I also more or less agree with your “surplus labor” argument, although my perspective is again different. IMO, the primary reason that companies ship jobs overseas is not to save money; it’s to keep unemployment sufficiently high that they can control the workforce. (My main rationale is that a company shipping goods from e.g. China has to pay for a boat to ship goods here, and (for all practical purposes) to go back to China empty. Thus, even though labor costs are cheaper in China, shipping goods here can be expensive.)

        If I’m right, this leads to one important conclusion: The private market will never provide full employment. Unfortunately, it appears as though most people are deluded to the contrary.

        I’m not sure how to copy and paste a graph here, so I’m going to ask you to try something: Draw an upward sloping line, and a downward sloping line. The upward sloping line is the labor supply curve, and the downward sloping line is the labor demand curve. The intersection of these lines determines the equilibrium wage (vertical axis) and the equilibrium level of employment (horizontal axis). Now increase the labor supply by drawing a new supply curve to the right of the old one. Notice what happens to the wage. It goes down! This is what “welfare reform” did to wages in this country. (Admittedly, the model is oversimplified, but it’s essentially true.) This of course led to vastly increasing numbers of the “working poor”, individuals who are employed, but living in poverty. (Although, IMO,it’s unconscionable for people in the US to live in poverty, its especially unconscionable for people who work hard every day.) Needless to say, big business pulled a gigantic “fast one” on the American public!

        Although we agree on many issues, we do have vast disagreement on whether anything can be done to remedy this situation, and, if so, what should be done. IMO, the US is experiencing its current situation due to “wedge issues”, such as abortion and gay marriage. Knowing full well that individuals will vote against their own economic interests due to these issues, big business is more than happy to adopt socially Conservative positions.

        (And now to my point about Boehner) IMO, since 2010, the House of Representatives has been one continuous “clown show” of Right Wing extremists. Nonetheless, Boehner has faced stiff opposition on some issues because his positions aren’t extreme enough!

        I, for one, don’t believe that the situation is hopeless, however. My main cause for optimism, and/or call to action, is that people with no religious affiliation (22% and rising) outnumber religious Fundamentalists (17% and falling). Even if the rest of the population is split evenly, we can prevail, but only if we vote!

        Liked by 1 person

  25. aliowens says:

    This article is amazing. It’s like you got inside my head, organized all the thoughts I’ve had on this matter into something concise and presentable (which I have as yet still been unable to do to my liking) and laid it out into a beautiful editorial piece. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  26. mnb0 says:

    Alas I only today met this article; it reflects to a great extent my views on abortion. See, I personally am anti-abortion indeed. I just don’t think I have the right to impose that view on other people. But abortion very well might have been a reason to divorce. And I would have accepted all the consequences if I would have convinced my female counterpart to get the baby and give it to me: raising my kid alone (something I largely have done after our actual divorce).
    And I have supported your strategic plan for years.
    When having a discussion with so called “pro-lifers” (I actually think legalized abortion a “pro-life” view) I have brought up points like yours. They invariably double down, try to bring up empirical data that seem to support abstinence only programs etc.


    • Pretty much everyone is pro-life. But people have different views on how to promote life and to lessen suffering. Any genuine debate would acknowledge that. The problem is some people put ideology about ‘life’ above actual life. No amount of data is going to convince them otherwise, even data that directly contradicts their beliefs. It will just lead to the backfire effect.


  27. I just referenced this article yet again, this time on the issue of evangelicals voting for Trump. If evangelicals weren’t one-issue voters (“I always vote for the pro-life candidate”), we might not have a narcissistic sociopath with zero experience as president-elect.


  28. jnnpppnk says:

    Reblogged this on idigadonut and commented:
    It’ll never happen, sadly. Too fucking stupid, incredibly.


  29. TinnyWhistler says:

    This is fantastic. This is pretty much a better-articulated list of all the points I try to make when talking to other pro-life people. This article was linked in the comments of another and I’ve bookmarked it so that I can whip it out as needed!


  30. Robert T Wood says:

    I would add that men need to be taught that they are not only responsible for providing financially for a child they helped create, they are also responsible for their share of hands-on care.


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