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Hi and welcome back! I haven’t written a whole lot about the Texas abortion law, mostly because an audio file of me screaming wordlessly would get old really quickly. But I saw this opinion post on a Kentucky Christian site that asked a question. As usual, the Christian asking it had no curiosity at all about the answer to his stated question, and he instead answered another question entirely. I can see why he didn’t want to answer it, too. So today, since I’m feeling helpful, let me answer his disingenuous question: ‘What if abortion finally became illegal?’

(Claudio Schwarz.)

(I call those seeking to criminalize abortion “forced-birthers,” because that is their entire focus. They are not interested in lowering the abortion rate, nor in helping the families their dystopian laws would impoverish. All they want to do is force women to gestate against their wills. And so they are forced-birthers. Also, I’m aware this post will sound cisnormative; forced-birthers don’t know that some men have uteruses and therefore can face unwanted pregnancies. Instead, their crusade focuses entirely on cis women. So that’s largely how I approach this topic.)

The Question About Abortion That Herbie Newell Would Rather Answer.

The author of today’s opinion post, Herbie Newell, is the leader of a large forced-birther organization that focuses on adoption. Obviously, he’d much rather focus on questions that lead to increased donations and business for his (ahem) ministry.

So the title of his opinion post is “What if abortion finally became illegal?”

That’s his actual question.

But we soon learn that Newell wants to ask a whole other leading question that is far easier for him to answer. Here is his moved-goalpost question:

If abortion becomes illegal nationwide, is the Church prepared to respond to the needs of mothers who choose life and their children?

The answer to that question, of course, is a resounding NO. No, it is not, and no, it does not want to be, and no, it will never be.

Forced-birthers have never been very helpful or kind to poor women and single mothers. If Newell thinks they’d suddenly start practicing compassion and generosity once they achieve victory over their tribal enemies, he hasn’t been paying any attention at all to his flocks.

A Listicle That Has Nothing to Do With His Actual Abortion Question.

Herbie Newell really wrote his post to offer a fantasy of a listicle of what would happen in a perfect Republic of Gilead if he were in total control of not just women’s bodies, but also Christians’ checkbooks and behavior.

This is what he wants Christians to do:

  • be nicer to single mothers and poor women who have babies they don’t want and can’t afford
  • encourage adoption and foster care to unburden those women
  • offer job training and “other resources” that poor parents need to handle the burden he demands they shoulder
  • make sure to convert those hussies to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ (of course)

And, um, none of that is going to happen. Ever.

If forced-birthers could do any of this, they’d already be doing it. If they’re not doing it right now, it’s because they don’t wanna. And nobody can make them, so they won’t.

Let’s not forget that when single Christians do become adoptive parents outside of marriage, the tribe tends to stomp on them hard — just like they do when a single Christian woman bears a child.

I suspect he’s just saying all this because he stands to benefit directly from a proliferation of unwanted babies. It’s pure wishful-thinking drivel.

So now, let’s get down to the question he actually asked:

‘What If Abortion Finally Became Illegal?’

Let’s say that in some hellhole future, American forced-birthers managed to completely criminalize abortion. If the United States government were to take that step, they would join such stalwart protectors of life, human rights, and dignity as:

  • Madagascar
  • Angola
  • DR Congo
  • Egypt
  • Iraq
  • Laos
  • Nicaragua

Gosh, what august company for the United States to join! I can’t wait to see what our Allied Freedom Jamborees will look like.

Luckily, we have some studies that tell us what would really happen if Herbie Newell’s fantasy came true.

The first thing that would happen is that the abortion rate itself wouldn’t decline. Study after study confirms this fact. Women still seek abortions — even when they’re completely outlawed.

(In fact, the steps that actually send abortion rates into sharp decline tend to be steps that forced-birthers categorically reject, like comprehensive sex education and affordable, reliable contraception. It’s like they’re TRYING to bring about more unwanted pregnancies. Weird!)

What Would Happen Next in the Abortion War?

So we’d still have tons of abortions happening. In fact, we might even see more abortions taking place. One study has found that abortion rates are highest in countries that restrict access to this care.

The likely reason for this increase is less access to contraception. Forced-birthers don’t like the idea of letting women control their own bodies at all, so they’ve always opposed easier contraception access. I’ve no reason in the world to think that the United States would do anything different under a forced-birther stranglehold.

That study also discovered that countries that don’t restrict access to abortion tend to have lower abortion rates. In the United States, for example, abortion numbers are dropping — despite forced-birthers’ efforts, not because of them.

Instead, this decline comes down to more access to good contraception. Fewer people are getting pregnant in the first place with unwanted fetuses. Ta-da! Fewer abortions! But that better access would likely end in a forced-birther regime.

Ultimately, if forced-birthers had their way, not only would abortion numbers not drop, they would almost certainly rise instead.

And Whither Next, Abortion War?

But but Cas, I hear someone asking, if abortion access is destroyed, how-oh-how will these abortions be happening?

And that leads us to the next stop in our What-If game today.

Before Roe v. Wade was decided, American women died in droves due to illegal abortions. Many of those abortions were self-induced. Others were provided by unqualified medical personnel or in unsanitary conditions. Y’all, hospitals had entire wings devoted to caring for these women.

These are called botched abortions, and they are absolutely deadly. The Atlantic tells us,

In parts of the world where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8 to 11 percent of all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 each year.

That article then reveals that almost half of all abortions worldwide are not performed safely — and botches are far more common in areas that criminalize abortion care.

So to answer Herbie Newell’s actual question, if his merry band of domestic terrorists ever did manage to criminalize abortion care, abortions would still happen. They might even become more numerous than ever before. Either way, they would become exponentially more dangerous for the women risking them.

(Not that forced-birthers would care. I’ve literally lurked their forums to hear them gloating over all those dead women. On their moralistic high horses, they tut-tut and shake their digital fingers at their many imaginary victims. They’ve no sympathy or compassion at all for the victims of their artificially-concocted culture war. Much pro-life, very dignity.)

The Icing on the Worst Sundae Ever.

What Herbie Newell presumably wants to criminalize is elective abortion. But that’s not the only kind of abortion. There’s also a kind called therapeutic abortion. That’s when an abortion is medically mandated, usually because a pregnancy has imperiled the physical life of its mother.

Forced-birthers don’t worry their pretty li’l feather heads none about miscarriages — their god waxes around half of all fertilized human eggs, and these fanatics don’t care at all. I’ve never once seen them campaign to decrease that number. As for therapeutic abortions, most forced-birthers reluctantly concede that these might could possibly be allowed, maybe, as long as the mother can move their stony hearts well enough.

(Many forced-birthers even want to criminalize therapeutic abortions. They’re all too happy to sacrifice real women’s lives in their “pro-life” crusade against human rights. But I don’t think most rank-and-file forced-birthers are like that.)

However, in an America that outlaws elective abortion but allows therapeutic abortion, the women needing the latter kind will still have a lot of trouble obtaining that care.

That’s one of the two nastiest secrets of the forced-birther movement, for my money.

The other is the constant scandals we keep uncovering about adoption agencies, especially in countries that have criminalized abortion. These scandals seem inescapable, for some weird reason.

(Wait. What does Herbie Newell do for a living again? Oh yeah, he runs an adoption agency that caters to evangelicals. Whoops. Well, I’m sure he’d NEVER.)

‘It’s Not Supposed to Happen!’

When Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland, it was because doctors dithered and dithered over her need for a therapeutic abortion. That kind of abortion was 100% A-OK in Ireland, but elective abortion was outlawed. The doctors feared running afoul of those laws. So they talked and talked among themselves while Savita died — along with the fetus she’d very much wanted to bear.

And the same thing happens in the United States in states that make it hard for women to access elective-abortion care. Anti-abortion laws force women to carry fetuses that are dying — or even that are dead — so that forced-birthers can feel more Jesus-y at these agonized women’s expense.

The sheer indignity these laws put women and fetuses through outrages me, and it outrages all good and decent human beings. There is nothing dignified about their situations. But forced-birthers like to pretend it never happens, or that it’s some kind of aberration rather than the new normal in all anti-abortion jurisdictions.

The best I’ve ever gotten out of a forced-birther, when showing him links to these nonstop horror stories, was a flustered: Well, that’s not supposed to happen! 

Sorry, my bro. It already does. And it’d only get worse if forced-birthers had their way.

Abortion and Human Rights.

In so many ways, abortion represents an essential expression of a great many human rights. Forced-birthers, in seeking to criminalize abortion care, stomp on all of those human rights.

These forced-birthers think the result of this wholesale oppression of human rights will be a marvelous, sublime new world full of “dignity.” Because sure, that’s always what happens when a theocratic authoritarian regime starts mowing down human rights. Right?

I’m using “dignity” so often because Herbie Newell uses it constantly in his post, if you’re wondering. Indeed, Newell paints an idyllic picture in his post: churches coming together to hold hands with poor women and single mothers, offering them charity and “resources” — and surreptitiously encouraging people to patronize his (ahem) ministry to adopt or foster the exploding numbers of children he thinks would result.

But we’ve been here before. We know where this anti-abortion road ends. It ends in blood and death and horrific violations of human dignity and rights. It ends with sneering, gloating forced-birthers telling the mothers of all those babies: you had the unapproved sex, Missy, so now you can figure things out for yourself — or die for all we care.

And eventually, hopefully that future ride would end like the first one did in the 1970s: with the legal system pivoting to protect reproductive rights as a whole so we never revisit those awful days ever again.

Thankfully, it’s looking more and more like this Texas law is simply political theatre for the rank-and-file forced-birther rubes — like all such attempts. I really hope so. Herbie Newell’s fantasy is nothing but a nightmare in reality. 

NEXT UP: 1st-Century Friday! We’ll dive into Tacitus to see why he’s not a valid contemporary source for anything about Jesus’ life — and maybe we’ll have time to wonder why Christians keep clinging to this claim. See you tomorrow <3

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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