If you believe the ABC, the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Mobbs case, overturning the 1973 Roe v Wade abortion decision, is the end of civilisation as we know it.
Across the ABC’s broadcast platforms, presenters, commentators, academics, and legal experts have all weighed in, saying Mobbs is the beginning of the end of Australia’s pro-choice regulation, and framing the Court’s ruling as an unholy conspiracy between extreme conservative Justices, and the Republican party’s religious Right.
To those denouncing the Supreme Court decision, a white, conservative, middle-aged man like me has no right to comment on this issue. The way I see it, however, is that women should be free to have the right to choose and not have the opinions of others impeding their power to decide and act for themselves. But while others don’t have the right to direct or control an individual’s personal will, they are still able to express their opinion on the issue.
Tony Abbott was right when, as a socially conservative Catholic as well as a Prime Minister, he said that abortion should be ‘safe, legal and rare’. But even the majority in Roe did not provide for unrestricted and unregulated access to abortion, no matter what the reporting of Mobbs says.
Even so, it is jarring and disturbing to hear abortion, and the right to choose between carrying a conceived baby or not, treated as a sacrosanct human right, as if the foetus has miraculously implanted itself in a woman’s womb.
This reasoning is wrong, for it forgets that, in most unwanted pregnancies, another choice already has been exercised.
That is the choice to engage in consensual sexual intercourse. A choice that carries responsibilities as well as rights.
It doesn’t matter whether a coupling couple is getting together to deliberately attempt conception, or just having a roll in the hay. If the time is right, if the conditions are right, if the biology is right, there is going to be a good chance that because of what the Shirelles sang is ‘just a moment’s pleasure’, another potential life will be created as a result.
If you don’t want that outcome, rather than terminating an unwanted pregnancy weeks or months later, surely you – both the man and woman participating in the act – have a responsibility to yourself, as well as the community which shares the emotional and financial consequences of your choice, to ensure that it doesn’t happen?
That means, frankly, that you choose to use contraception and protection. If need be, that includes taking the morning-after pill to prevent conception, as the morally better alternative to an abortion. Better still, if you don’t want to risk the consequences, don’t get it on at all. Abstinence is the best contraceptive.
Some will say this is unrealistic rubbish. Heat of the moment, the wine was too good, he wouldn’t stop, I couldn’t stop, whatever. But if you consent to be a part of a sexual act, both of you have made a choice. If you haven’t taken precautions and you nevertheless proceed, that’s still your responsibility as well as your choice. You know the risks, and the consequences.
If you have done all you can to prevent conception, and it still happens, you must be able to deal with the consequences without fear or shame. On that, it’s a good thing that the situation in Australia is far more benign and understanding than in America. As far as that involves terminations of pregnancies, and despite the hysteria from America, the legal situation in Australian states is settled: there is no great public mood to change it, nor is there any desire of the major parties to electrocute themselves on this politically lethal third rail.
Nor has anyone the right to stop a woman exercising her lawful choice, if she so chooses, or to pressure or harass a woman when she presents for the termination.
But surely it is always better that a woman never has to be in the awful position of having to make that choice?
And it’s the entire community’s interest, not just women’s, to do all we can to make abortion rare.
While that may not be easy in this live for the moment culture of ours, it’s why we need to accept that women and their male sexual partners have a responsibility to themselves and to others to ensure that, if they don’t want a lasting treasure from just a moment’s pleasure, they either take every precaution against that outcome when they do a spot of horizontal jogging, or simply refrain from ‘doing it’ at all.
Sex is a fundamental human activity. It’s hard to comprehend, but some people apparently actually enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean that doing it is free of responsibility. Instead of focusing on abortion and ‘the right to choose,’ however, we as a civil society should do more to educate people – not just the young, but all ages – about their reproductive responsibilities as well as reproductive rights.
We won’t, of course. The very people we’ve seen and heard ventilating their anger at a foreign court on the ABC and elsewhere this week, will ensure that.
Terry Barnes edits the Morning Double Shot newsletter.
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