August 28, 2005

Abortion should be rare. Can we agree on that?

Commenter Jay sent me a link a few days ago about the staggering number of abortions in Russia. How staggering? They now have more abortions than births. Ivan quotes the article's explanation as partly financial: 'Careers traditionally favored by Russian women, such as in education and medicine, no longer pay a decent salary.' No longer? C'mon. My mother was teacher and my father was a doctor in Russia, I know that these professions never paid a decent salary.

Ambivablog has a corresponding post about how lightly some women in America take abortion. I think attitude goes a long way to explain what's going on in Russia. Sure, there are circumstances, such as financial or emotional considerations, that may lead so many Russian women to have abortions but I wonder what role plain acceptance plays in that culture.

True story: I was 17 and over my friend's place. Her mom was hanging out with us as we discussed another girl we knew having a child. Her mom said 'why didn't she have an abortion? What is it with girls these days that they think their child is the special child that should be born when they themselves are so young? There will be other pregnancies, why can't they just wait? I had 5 abortions before having _____, and she's had two already.' ('She' being her daughter, my 17-year old friend).

Whoa dude. TMI.

Since then, I've heard open, frank abortion discussion from Russian women I barely know: 'Yeah, I had one and then I got pregnant again right after that so I had another one.' 'No, she decided to get an abortion and wait until after he gets the promotion.' 'If we stay in NY I'll keep it, but I'm not moving to Miami and having a baby in the next year.' Russians are the only people I've heard actually be pro-abortion and unapologetically so.

So that's my take. A culture where abortion is totally ok and not at all stigmatized is a culture that will end up encouraging abortion. Maybe there are people who don't think that's so bad, but even at my most militantly pro-choice, I couldn't imagine that perspective.

Posted by Karol at August 28, 2005 03:31 PM | TrackBack
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If aliens were observing us from space they would think we were deplorable people.

War is one thing: killing other adults over a certain conflict can be justified if in the end innocent lives are saved.

But killing unborn babies? Killing the most vulnerable amoung us?


The story about your friend's mom is just horrible.

Posted by: the daily missive at August 28, 2005 06:17 PM

Abortion should be much more rare than it is in Russia, yes. But I think there should be few restrictions here before the late months.

If birth control were 100% effective and easily available to all then there wouldn't be any need for abortion anymore. Reaching for that is something we should agree on.

Posted by: J.Kende at August 28, 2005 06:36 PM

i take it a step further: children should be cherished as human beings, not negotiated like commodities.

i know, i know. i'm a radical.

Posted by: candy girl at August 28, 2005 10:23 PM

"If birth control were 100% effective and easily available to all then there wouldn't be any need for abortion anymore."

What kind of world do you think we live in that abortions are more "available" than a pack of Trojans?

I think it's ludicrous when people imply that unwanted pregnancies are just foisted on people the same way a commond cold is.

Nope, their environment forced those two to rut like animals and get pregnant. They certainly couldn't have gone to the drugstore or, God forbid, NOT have sex.

Nope, somehow your pregnancy is everybody's responsibility but yours.

Posted by: Sean at August 28, 2005 10:40 PM

you know, on the one hand, I am horrified by these stories -- two abortions at 17? shudder -- on the other hand, there's not a child in the world I'd want raised by any of these people.

Posted by: Not Dawn Summers at August 28, 2005 10:52 PM

Abortion was the common way to practice birth control in Russia. If Russians were aware of other birth control methods or if those methods were readily available there would be a completely different attitude towards abortions. I know plenty of women who had multiple abortions in Russia because they didn't have alternative methods of preventing pregnancy. Although abortion shouldn't be looked on as a light matter it's still important to keep it as (easily) accessible as it is now.

Posted by: Petitedov at August 29, 2005 01:27 AM

Hmm. I always heard russian women had an average of 6 abortions.

Posted by: ll at August 29, 2005 03:08 AM

Who needs personal responsibility which worked for thousands upon thousands of years when you have abortion.

Posted by: Mark Harris at August 29, 2005 10:39 AM

Petitedove is right about abortion being the most available birth control. I remember in the 80s, condoms were just not available for sale.

Karol is wrong about all Russians being unapologetically pro-choice. All Russian women I know who've had abortions felt very bad about it. Why did they do it in the first place? They didn't even have a separate room for themselves, let alone an apartment. So, all you self-righteous pro-lifers, I suggest you try living in those conditions, before bragging about how much you value children's lives, and judging those who choose abortion. When your own life stinks to heaven, other people's lives suddenly don't look so precious.

In the Soviet Union, it's not just the material conditions that destroyed the institution of family - though I must say, Karol doesn't know what she's talking about when she speaks of indecent salaries - in the 90s, a teachers salary became a fraction of what it used to be in the 80s, in terms of buying power. Not even remotely livable. It was deliberate destruction of all social institutions and tradition that destroyed the Russian family. When your whole country is a concentration camp, why reproduce? And Russians are still paying for that destructive wave from 1917.

Abortions should be rare, and families should be less rare. You can ban abortions, but if people - especially women - don't want to have families, they won't. And a lot of American women don't want to have families: they want to make fabulous careers and party with beautiful people. They want their lives to be like Sex and the City, or Cheating Housewives, at best.

Posted by: Ivan Lenin at August 29, 2005 11:57 AM

Mark, I agree with your basic point, but certainly you're not saying that abortion never occurred during those "thousands upon thousands of years"?

Posted by: Robert George at August 29, 2005 12:00 PM

Even I balked at these stories. I wonder, though, whether we should judge the procedure by the callous ways people talk about it.

I've never heard anyone speak that way about having an abortion -- though I've heard some pretty f*ed up tales about other people's abortion experiences. Sadly, being a live comedy buff, the way that I see men publicly talk about abortion has been in this venue, and some of the ways they've described the procedure have been so rude as to make me walk out and I have a pretty strong stomach for the rude and crude.

Posted by: Lauren at August 29, 2005 12:55 PM
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