The decision to abort is more difficult than the procedure

To the Editor:

While Peter Johnston’s column “Contraceptive culture fosters irresponsibility” (October 3, 2007) did an exemplary job of detailing the history of the Roe v. Wade decision, it also featured ill-argued assertions and stereotypes about abortion. Johnston says “the availability of contraceptives, and the knowledge of their availability, reflects something in our culture that encourages rather than discourages abortion,” which leads to a woman terminating an unplanned pregnancy because “she cannot bear the responsibility.” Johnston characterizes the process of getting an abortion as a knee-jerk reaction to impending parenthood, and deems those who decide not to carry the child as promiscuous, egocentric women who view abortions as an instant, convenient cure-all.

Often, those of us who are pro-choice are assumed to take the termination of a pregnancy lightly. In reality, having this medical operation is for most women a momentous decision that has emotional and physical repercussions. Johnston suggests that abstinence-only sex education diminishes the number of women who choose to terminate a pregnancy and is thus more effective sex education than that which includes contraceptives, but the real issue is not so much how many abortions occur as how many unplanned pregnancies happen in the first place.

Students educated not to have sex for conservative religious reasons would be less likely to choose abortions anyway; however, it has been shown that abstinence-only sex education is hardly effective at limiting unplanned pregnancies, which makes sense considering that the middle and early high-school students learning about abstinence have likely not yet encountered fulfilling, passionate relationships and so have no concept of what it is to hold off on sex until marriage. And lacking any real knowledge of how to employ contraceptives correctly, they are just as at risk for unplanned pregnancies as those who know about contraceptives yet do not use them.

So, as Johnston wrote, those who encounter unplanned pregnancies often turn to abortions; but what he does not account for is that, right or wrong, these women will have to grapple with the magnitude of making that decision for the rest of their lives.

Alyssa Murphy

October 3

Murphy is a freshman in Trumbull College.

In blaming contraception, Johnston ignored true cause of high abortion rates

To the Editor:

The next time Peter Johnston wants to write something incendiary about Supreme Court decisions, he should probably Google his thesis. I searched ‘rates abortion contraception,’ which took .16 seconds. The first hit was ‘The Role of Contraception in Increasing Abortion,’ by Ruben Obregon, which told me that sometimes unmarried women did in fact go on oral birth control (probably not the only thing they do orally that Ruben doesn’t like), and that the convenience of the Pill makes women think sex is for pleasure not babymaking.

Uh-oh, I’m wrong — it looks like Mr. Johnson did find that more contraception leads to more abortions. But the page he sourced is called ‘No Room for Contraception,’ and I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t trust any webpage whose header includes “…contraception, birth control, selfish…”. The very next hit is from the RAND Corporation, a think tank whose only bias is being overly supportive of the military-industrial complex — a conservative’s favorite wet dream! — which reports that “Improvements in Contraception are Reducing Historically High Abortion Rates in Russia.” That’s the opposite of Johnson’s assertion that it is “the availability of contraceptives in our culture that encourages rather than discourages abortion.”

Men and women have been having sex without intending to have a child for as long as history. If Mr. Johnson is interested in seeing abortion rates drop further, he should advocate for better healthcare for poor women — who receive the most abortions — instead of asserting that the gentler sex should lower her skirt.

Alyssa Bernstein

October 3

Bernstein is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College.