Most people can recall a time in their life when they experienced a crisis. Maybe it was a time of grieving for a lost loved one, experiencing a loss in a relationship, or receiving a poor health diagnosis. The reality is life can be difficult and all people will experience some sort of crisis throughout their lifetime. At times of crises, people tend to experience similar symptoms. In his book Helping People in Crisis, Douglas A. Puryear discusses some of those common characteristics: symptoms of stress, an attitude of panic or defeat, a focus on relief, a time of lowered efficiency, and a state of feeling like one cannot bear the state of being for an extended period of time. Most can relate to these emotions.
Like any crisis, women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy often share many of the same characteristics. When in crisis, it is not uncommon to come to conclusions and make decisions that may not represent the individual’s core values. Decisions made in crisis may even be inconsistent with moderately or strongly held beliefs. Genuine consideration of alternatives and options during crisis is extremely difficult under high levels of stress.
In a study of 252 post-abortive women, 1 a majority of women indicated there was a high level of emotional trauma experienced during the time of discovering they were pregnant and having an abortion. Respondents’ statements indicated an inability to thoughtfully and cautiously consider alternatives in the midst of their crisis. In short, making decisions in crisis situations is challenging. Individuals who advocate for women and their families, naturally ask, ‘What can we do to help women make sound decisions in the midst of their crisis pregnancy situations?’
Help from laws?
One logical place to start answering this is question is by taking a look at current laws. The Judicial Learning Center states that “laws protect our general safety, and ensure our rights as citizens against abuses by other people, by organizations, and by the government itself. We have laws to help provide for our general safety.” This statement strongly suggests one role of the laws within a civilized society is to put up safeguards and boundaries to benefit the overall safety for individuals within that society. Therefore, laws surrounding abortion should be designed for the protection of women’s safety and to ensure the rights of citizens, both mothers and their unborn children. Such is the case with The Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
Different states have different laws regarding abortion. Roe v. Wade assured women in all 50 states the legal right to terminate a pregnancy through various gestational ages, generally determined by individual states. When a woman voluntarily terminates a pregnancy at the legal gestational age, the fetus is not considered an unborn child. Thus, legal abortion is lawful. If it were considered a child, it would conclude that a murder takes place every time an abortion happens. Regardless of beliefs about when life begins, most can agree that this law is logical. One logically cannot consider abortion legal, if indeed that woman is considered to be carrying an unborn child.
In contrast, The Unborn Victims of Violence Act states: if a criminal attacks a pregnant woman, and injures or kills both her and the unborn child, the criminal would be charged with both first and second degree murder. Under this act, two human victims are recognized: the mother and unborn child being carried by the mother. In other words, two lives are considered lost when someone else, other than the pregnant mother, terminates a pregnancy through a form of coerced abortion, assault, or murder of the pregnant mother. Placing an arbitrary value on a human life based on the life’s degree of value to another human is callus at best. Whether a pregnancy is voluntarily terminated by the mother or involuntarily terminated by someone else, the consideration of it as a life should not change. In both situations, either it is a child or it isn’t a child, regardless of how the pregnancy is terminated.
You may be reading this with a cup of coffee in your hand, in a warm cozy home and in a relaxed atmosphere. You, too, may be pondering how such contradictory laws exist. You may have time and a clear mind to form a logical and sound opinion regarding these laws. On the contrary, someone may be reading this blog while in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy – in the midst of crisis, turmoil and trauma. Someone in a state of crisis, experiencing symptoms of stress, riddled with panic, experiencing anxiety, or simply unable to bear the weight of a stressful situation, may have limited capacity to comprehend the meaning and implications of these laws. These are often the circumstances surrounding women in an unplanned pregnancy. Is it truly a life inside of me or just a fetus? Is it murder or isn’t it? Am I being coerced to make this decision or is it voluntary? These are hard questions.
A call to be better.
If we as a progressive and enlightened people are FOR WOMEN and their families, addressing concerns of inconsistent and contradicting abortion laws is in our best interest. After all, we are talking about human lives, aren’t we? Anyone in crisis or experiencing an unplanned pregnancy deserves the best we have to offer; the best care, the most compassion, the best choices, and the most support.
₁David C. Reardon, Aborted Women, Silent No More (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1997), 10.