Sexuality is all part of growing up.  It’s a major facet of human existence.  Our highest priority in
sex education must be to ensure that everyone uses proper contraceptive methods every time
they have sex.  Accidental pregnancy is by far the most serious problem associated with sex, all
but eclipsing all the others.  For all the bitter controversy swirling about this issue, few disagree
that out-of-wedlock or mistimed births are a very serious problem--both for the individuals
involved and society at large.  Children born to single mothers, as we’ve been told many times,
are much more likely to grow up in poverty.  Huge amounts of taxpayer’s money are being spent,
both directly through welfare programs and indirectly in many other ways.  And as we’ve also
been learning, children raised without fathers are much more likely to get involved in crime and
other kinds of trouble.  And it’s not just the children but the mothers, too, who are part of the
problem.  A woman or girl who becomes pregnant either interrupts her education or abandons it
altogether, permanently damaging her ability to compete in the workplace and, typically, depriving
society of a needed skilled worker and becoming an economic liability instead.  And yet, in one of
the great twists of irony, some liberals are in denial as to the need to prevent births to unmarried
and/or poor women even thought they support the use of contraceptives, while many
conservatives understand the former but are in denial about the need for birth control.
The dispute never ends.  The concern is that by making contraceptives available we are
encouraging teenagers to become sexually active.  It’s understandable that some would think that,
but number one, the problem is pregnancy, not sex, and number two, it isn’t true.  Study after
study shows that teenagers inclined to have sex will do so with or without birth control, as high
rates of teen pregnancy will attest.  The suggestion that family planning programs contribute to an
atmosphere of sexual permissiveness and thus are responsible for the epidemic of teen
pregnancy just doesn’t wash.  Obviously, high rates of pregnancy are cause by high rates of
sexual activity, but the most significant factor compelling this behavior is the individuals’ own
feelings and urges with regards to members of the opposite sex.  The second most significant
factor is the influence of their peers, not just direct pressure but the desire not to be left out since
seemingly everyone is doing it.  And although none of us doubt the power of its influence, the
media comes in third.  Not only are family planning programs not a significant factor in provoking
sexual activity among teenagers, some studies have shown that girls tend to delay sexual activity
when exposed to the responsibilities inherent in the use of birth control (about six months, take it
or leave it).  The “clinical” atmosphere surrounding contraceptive education counters the raciness
of most other sex-related information and tends to cool things down a bit.
Now certainly, unlimited promiscuity from the moment of puberty is grossly unacceptable.  Sex is
for adults; children should be abstinent.  Any sex education program must prepare students for
the long periods during which they will not be sexually active, teach them refusal skills, and
impress upon them the whole range of complications--social as well as physical--that come with
sexual activity.  But abstinence must not be taught in a way that compromises efforts to teach
contraceptive use.  More sex and less pregnancy are always preferable to vice-versa, but those
need not be our choices.  The idea of telling teenagers, “don’t do it, but if you do, use one of
these”, is met with disdain from a lot of conservatives, but then, “don’t do it for the next decade or
two”, is met with disdain from a lot of teenagers.  Critics argue that we’ve tried liberal sex
education for the past 30 years and teen pregnancy rates have risen sharply during that time, so
that must be a direct result of these policies.  How do you know that the rates wouldn’t be even
higher without?  It you’re unhappy that the glass is half-full, the one thing you don’t do is knock it
over.  The rates have started to come down, not as a result of abstinence-only policies, but
because young people are doing a better job in their use of contraceptives.  
The primary talking point of abstinence-only education is that “contraceptives are not 100% risk-
free”.  But neither is driving, and like driving, sex is a major life activity, and like driving, the risks
can be managed.  We don’t insist on teaching “drivers abstinence” in response to the risks of
driving, we do the best we can to keep the risks to a minimum.  Condoms are highly effective at
preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but the success rate in preventing pregnancy is
only a bout 90%.  This doesn’t mean that you face a 1 in 10 chance of unwanted pregnancy every
time you have sex while using a condom; it means that for every 100 fertile couples who have sex
nightly while relying on condoms for their sole protection, 10 will become pregnant.  The success
rate for birth control pills is over 99%.  Imagine how infinitesimal the risk is when you combine the
two together.
And anyway, most episodes of accidental pregnancy aren’t the result of the failure of a
contraceptive method; they are the result of people neglecting to use them in the first place.  
Despite all this talk of condoms being handed out school hallways, there in fact remains a great
deal of stigma in being seen obtaining contraceptives devices.  Some say that we have tried an
approach of encouraging contraceptive use as a method of preventing unwanted pregnancy and
it has not been completely successful, so we should adopt abstinence-only policies instead.  But
what we have not tried is promoting contraceptive use in a cultural atmosphere where premarital
sex is condoned and normalized rather than condemned and controversial.  It’s like Victorian
sexual morality is dead, but not buried.  Nearly everyone--98% for males, 96% for females--
becomes sexually active before they marry; people are voting with their bodies and sex wins by a
landslide And yet formal or official circles are still loath to condone and normalize that aspect of

There is still an atmosphere of fear, guilt, and embarrassment that young people are confronted
with as they begin to express their sexuality.  Girls in particular are particularly self-conscious and
terrified lest anyone discover they are or intend to be sexually active, and the prospect of being
given the Evil Eye by the Church Lady behind the counter at the pharmacy is enough to intimidate
a great many young people from getting birth control.  Not having contraceptives is certainly no
deterrent to teens having sex, as study after study--or a quick glance at the pregnancy statistics--
have shown.  Furthermore, even during sexual encounters the subject of avoiding pregnancy is
often not discussed by the partners.  Females are reluctant to admit that they plan and prepare
for sex (and the best way to avoid being accused of that is not to), and males are reluctant to
raise a subject that could rock the boat.  The key to solving society’s sexual problems is comfort in
talking about sexual issues--partners with each other, children with their parents as well as
teachers, doctors, clergy, and politicians where appropriate.  But so long as adults remain bitterly
divided amongst themselves--and even more bitterly divided between them and their offspring--
sex will remain “underground” where it has been driven.  Young people will continue to make up
their own rules about sex.  Do you want your kids making up their own rules?  Then don’t tell them
to wait until they’re married.  Unreasonable demands always invite rebellion, and sex shouldn’t be
about rebellion.  Sex is about fulfillment.  Everyone has the right to be sexually fulfilled during the
prime of his or her life, or at least to pursue that fulfillment (which is another word for happiness,
isn’t it?).  Of course, society cannot guarantee you that kind of fulfillment, since it must be given
freely by another individual whose own feelings must be respected.  There seems to be precious
little of this kind of respect in today’s sexual climate, but how can society teach young people to
respect their sexual partners’ feelings—and all the other values of responsible sexuality—when
society had declared war on all of these feelings?
Getting back to sexually transmitted diseases, they are a very serious problem, especially AIDS,
which is life-threatening.  Preventing STDs goes hand in hand with preventing accidental
pregnancy, and family planning clinics are fully equipped to provide the necessary information
and devices to minimize the risks of infection.  The odds of catching HIV from an infected partner
without using a condom are between one in two hundred and one in a thousand for a single
(hetero) sexual encounter.  The odds of becoming infected from a randomly selected partner
using a condom are as little as one in two hundred million!  Now we’re not saying that random sex
should be condoned; keeping sex confined to monogamous adult relationships also helps curb
the spread of STDs.  But some people are less welcoming of ways to avoid diseases than they
are of the diseases themselves, and are using this as an excuse to keep the dispute alive.  A
consistent message of monogamous sexual relationships combined with vigorous contraceptive
use is clearly the best formula for keeping these problems at a minimum.  But still there’s a risk
that sex can kill you, and this fact continues to be exploited by those pursuing the War on Sex.
The bottom line is that in order to make progress in solving the social problems associated with
sex, young people must be given a message that is both consistent and reasonable.  And this is
Be abstinent until you are a mature adult, at least 18 years old.
Wait until you have established a committed relationship and place that person’s feelings at least
as high as your own.
Understand the risks of pregnancy and disease and use methods to prevent them diligently.
If teens get this advice from all sides, they just may follow it (actually, most young people already
do, for crying out loud).  But the bitter controversy, the conflicting messages, the denunciations
and embarrassed silence, these things are driving away those kids who are already the most
difficult to reach.
Now the importance of the family cannot be overemphasized (on the other hand, that’s exactly
what the problem seems to be).  That is, the relationship between parent and child is the most
important relationship there is.  Parental involvement is the surest way to guarantee a child’s
success.  Open communication, the ability of both parties to express their feelings and have them
considered, is vital, although of course, sometimes authority is a one-way street.  But kids are  
human beings in their own right, not just creations of their parents, and when they’re teenagers,
their on their way toward becoming adults.  When it come to the issue of sex, the tensions that
can exist between parents and their adolescent children is legendary (especially between fathers
and daughters) and can effectively shut down all communication.  If a teenager has an important
question about sex or contraceptives, but can’t ask because the very idea will send her parents
into a totalitarian outrage (or even if she just thinks it will) then she’ll inevitably be at greater risk.  
At times like this it’s definitely helpful to “triangulate” the relationship, to bring in an “other trusted
adult”.  Remember, kids are rebels, so if you want to control them, you’ve got to infiltrate.  Family
planning counselors, such as to be found in “Title 10” clinics, are trusted by teenagers to give
good advice on how to avoid pregnancy and STDs without being judgmental.  Family planning
counselors are not gurus of hedonism with liberal degrees, nor are they incompetent government
bureaucrats, let alone agents in a plot to undermine the American family.  Family planning
counselors have lots of experience in dealing with teenagers, in getting them to talk to adults
about their sexuality and in impressing upon them the need to behave responsibly.  It’s not a
choice, as some politicians have put it, of either the parents or “the government” teaching kids
about sex.  Family planning counselors should and do encourage teens to talk to their parents
about sex; they provide “practice” in helping ease teens into that situation and out of their state of
rebellion.  This policy, and not that of being harshly restrictive and judgmental, holds the best
chance of reducing the rate of teen pregnancy.
Of course, parents should teach their children about the facts of life long before they reach the
age when they are capable of becoming sexually active.  And yet they want to do it in such a way
as not to encourage that sort of behavior when it does become a possibility.  Making threats is
never a good idea, particularly when you’re talking to a 7 or 8 year old kid.  The clinical approach
to the reproductive process is a good way to strip away any excitement, but to wrap up your little
talk on the birds and bees with something she’ll relate to, to join her in the opinion she’s liable to
form anyway, would be better yet.
       “Sounds yucky, doesn’t it, honey?”
       “Yeah, Mom.  Yuck!”
       “Well you’re right, it is kinda yucky when you get right down to it.”
       “Then why do grown-ups do it?”
       “Well, like I said, that’s what you have to do when you want to have a baby, but having a
baby is really, really yucky.”
       “It is?”
       “Oh yes.  And being pregnant is really yucky.  You have to want to have a baby real bad to
put up with all that yuckiness.”
       “Now don’t worry, ‘cause you won’t have to do anything yucky for a long, long time, but when
you do, there’s even more yucky things, like the things you have to do so you won’t get pregnant.  
And if you do get pregnant, you might hafta to get an abortion, which is the yuckiest thing of all,
Yucky indeed.  Nobody likes abortion.  Nobody thinks it’s fun.  But like Mommy said, you just might
hafta do it someday.  If you determine that’s what you have to do, that is, but others will want to
stop you nonetheless.  The dispute over whether a woman should have the right to get an
abortion, to terminate a pregnancy, to, yes, kill or have killed a fetus growing in her uterus, is the
most divisive, bitter controversy the nation has had to face since Vietnam.  Yet unlike that issue,
or for that matter the Civil War, this argument threatens to carry on ending friendships, dividing
families, and spreading ill will forever.  The issue is a social problem in and of itself.  The need
many of us feel to harass those on the other side of the issue is dragging this country down in
many ways.  It isn’t realistic to expect the issue to be settled anytime soon, so both sides must
agree to disagree.  Those with opinions on abortion must respect the strongly-held feelings of
those on the other side and not attempt to impose their agendas on them as individuals.  Things
are wound so tightly that any major attempt to change the status-quo on abortion would set off
such a round of bitter, angry, sometimes violent confrontations as to threaten domestic
tranquillity.  The American people a tired of this kind of chaos and would surely like to see a truce
declared, one which would clarify what is to be permitted and put an end to the protests so we can
get on with other problems.
What is to be permitted must be base on what is needed in the light of all the relevant facts.  
Women abort their pregnancies because doing so prevents major lifetime burdens from being
imposed, but it does involve killing a small living thing, one whose true nature and relative value
incites profound philosophical difference, yet which the civil law must regulate.  It looks like the
abortion issue can be divided into three main areas:  An examination of the fetus at a given stage
in its development and how it compares to adult human beings as well as the whole range of other
living things in determining its value.  Second, a review of the claim the women have a legal right
to an abortion and that of the government to restrict such a right.  Third, an accounting of the
costs and consequences, both to individual families and to society, of out-of-wedlock or mistimed
births, as they are occurring already at such a high rate.
Is the fetus not a symbol?  Surely the fetus is, substantively enough, a living organism.  Most
abortions occur between eight ant twelve weeks after conception, which is a substantive enough
distinction.  The skeleton has begun to form as has the musculature system and other internal
organs.  These structures may be described substantively, but is there any significant substantive
difference between them and the organs of various other animals?  The organic compounds of
which they are made is basically the same, as are the principles of what makes them function.  
Differences in size, shape, and arrangement can hardly be considered to have profound moral
significance.  “Abortions stops a beating heart” is a popular anti-abortion slogan, but good grief,
just look at how many different animal species have beating hearts!  Fishing stops a beating
heart.  Obviously the significance of a beating heart in this context is purely symbolic.
And so is the word “life”.  The pro-life movement is dedicated to protecting life, but they’re not
exactly an animal rights or vegetarian or environmentalist movement, are they?  As if we need to
be reminded that there are other forms of life.  Oh no, we mean human life.  Another symbol.  The
key question on is what the fetus is at the time of an abortion, not what it’s called. “Baby”, “Child”,
“the Unborn”, “Innocent” (aren’t animals innocent?), these are all symbolic term designed to
manipulate the audience by eliciting an emotional response.  “Human Being” is a very weighty-
sounding term, but then again, a cow is a “bovine being”, a dog is a “canine being”, a cat is a
“feline being” etc.  You can’t act as though the whole abortion issue turns on whether the fetus is
a “human being” without even defining the term!  “Human” comes from the Latin homo, meaning
“man” and which is the name of the zoological genus, and “being” simply means an entity that
exists.  Though not all humans were Homo Sapiens, ours is the only species that still exists.  So
“human being” is simply a label that indicates which one of millions of different species a particular
organism belongs to.  Objectively, the meaning of the term contains no special significance
whatsoever.  When the Elephant Man said “I am not an animal, I am a human being”, he didn’t
really mean what he said, because a human being is an animal.  He didn’t mean “I belong to a
species in the family of primates”, he meant “I am a person with feelings just like you”.  A person is
not an animal.  It’s funny, but you never hear pro-lifers use that word.  That’s because a fetus is
not a person and they know it.  It’s a less formal sounding word than “human being” but there’s
less ambiguity as to its meaning.  A person has feelings, awareness, intelligence, a sense of
identity as an individual.  A fetus has none of these things.  Don’t feelings count for a great deal in
our values?  You never hear pro-lifers use that word either.  Anyone who has had a pet dog or
cat knows that animals can have feelings and unique personalities to a degree, so this raises the
bar a bit higher.  The true essence of what makes human life--as it were--so priceless is very
deep and somewhat mysterious, but there can be no question that whatever that is it resides in
our minds.  Objectively, it is out intelligence that sets us apart.  Pro-lifers have a lot of contempt
for the whole idea of intelligence, and that word is not very politically correct these days (never let
it be said that pro-lifers are not politically correct).  I do not mean “intelligent” in the sense that is
often applied to very smart people as opposed to those who may be less talented or mentally
handicapped.  On the other hand, we often speak of various animal species, such as
chimpanzees or dolphins, as being “intelligent” to some degree, but we’re talking about two
completely different yardsticks.  The term “intelligent life” is more narrowly understood as applying
to all human persons old enough to think--who are then clear and away superior to our nearest
rivals in the animal kingdom--plus as-yet imaginary extra-terrestrials and supernatural beings.  
You might say that some animals are “almost intelligent” whereas any adult human qualifies as
“fully intelligent”.
Intelligence can be regarded simply as the ability to think, and although not fully understood by
science, it’s pretty much a scientific issue.  But to bring a more religious idea to the table, what
about the soul?  We hear that word used all the time but no one ever tries to explain what it is.  
Undoubtedly the soul includes one’s memories and one’s overall sense of awareness, sense of
self.  Feelings and emotions can be considered manifestations of the soul, as are our instincts
(see chapter 2).  The soul is rather unfathomable from within, although if there is any connection
to the spiritual realm, deep down in there is where is to be found.  Nevertheless, what the soul
actually is isn’t all that mysterious after all:  It’s simply all the information in your brain.  Pro-lifers
seldom even attempt to argue that the fetus has a soul as yet.  After all, most religious traditions
make a distinction between the soul or spirit and “mere flesh”.  The body has to come into
existence before the brain can begin to develop, and only then can the soul begin to come into
It is the development of the brain over the course of pregnancy that is the real crux of the whole
abortion issue.  What with all the symbolic, emotional buzzwords used by anti-abortion
propaganda, the stages of growth of the human brain is where the substance lies.  Pro-life
literature occasionally mentions “brain waves” being detected in the fetus by the middle of the first
trimester, but what kind of brain waves?  Even earthworms have brain waves.  The parts of the
brain that develop early in the pregnancy deal with the body’s motor functions and are exactly the
same as in the lower animals.  The part of the brain that is the seat of human consciousness is
the neo-cortex, the largest, most visible part (the two hemispheres with all the squiggly stuff).  It is
what’s inside here that makes us intelligent, emotional beings.  But the neo-cortex does not even
begin to develop until the third trimester of pregnancy.  Tests have shown that more advanced
fetuses react reflexively to sharp stimuli as though they were feeling pain, but the question is, has
the brain developed to the point where the familiar sensation of pain is felt.  It’s possible the fetus
begins to develop something like a “subconscious” as the brain becomes more developed, but
this is not clear.  What is clear is that there is a huge difference between a fetus early in a
pregnancy and one in the later stages.  The more advanced the fetus becomes as it approaches
the ninth month, the more it substantively equates to a newborn baby and the more serious the
question of abortion becomes.  The debate rages over what sort of restrictions should be placed
on abortions at various points during pregnancy, if not at the moment of conception.  The moment
of birth is a major hurdle, as the infant experiences consciousness for the first time, takes its first
breath, and opens its eyes.  Furthermore, it is at this point that society determines that one
becomes a person.  Our age is calculated from that point, for example; linguistically, “fetus”
becomes “baby” or “infant”; culturally, we don’t have funerals for miscarriages.  Nevertheless,
these latter distinctions are largely symbolic, as we’ve already discussed.  Physically, there is little
difference to speak of between a “baby” the day he or she has been born and a “fetus” the day
before, and little more than the day before that.  But you can only keep up this trick for so long.  
The difference between a newly fertilized embryo--a micro-organism--and a fetus in the ninth
month is tremendous, and between that and a twelve week old fetus also very great.  Draw the
line somewhere in between.  But how, many ask, can the law declare a fetus to be a human
person subject to the laws against homicide as of one day, but regard it as an inconsequential life
form the very day before?  Well, it can’t, yet there are many situations involving gradients of
condition where the law must establish a legal threshold.  A small amount on either side of, say,
legal adulthood, or legal intoxication, or the speed limit, makes little difference, but greater
amounts do.  The law accounts for a prudent margin of safety, then draws the line and makes it
clear to the public. With infants, the law affords the full protections of citizenship at the time of
birth, then in recognition of the advanced state of development in the late term, seeks to establish
a wide margin of safety in order to minimize the incidence of abortion during this phase.  
Exceptions to restrictions on late-term abortions in cases where the woman’s life or health are at
risk are granted out of sheer pragmatism.  Obviously, the fetus is no less a person than at the
same point in a normal pregnancy, but here a balance is struck between the near-person that is
the fetus and the life of the full-fledged person that is the woman.  Exceptions are also considered
in cased of fetal abnormalities.  Here, the decision turns on how severe the abnormality is.  This is
controversial among advocates for the mentally and physically disabled, but some fetal
abnormalities are so severe that many women and their doctors decide that bringing the child into
the world would be the greater act of cruelty.  
The bottom line is that abortion is overwhelmingly pragmatic.  If the absolutes of human life
beginning at conception cannot be accommodated, neither can the absolutes of “rights”, of
allowing people to do anything and everything, be accommodated.  Abortion opponents accuse
abortion-rights supporters of having a complete “lack of respect” for life and insist that abortion
leads to more and worse killing, all in the name of “rights”.  Every year over a million abortions
take place, but only because that many women have become pregnant accidentally and want to
end their pregnancies.  Women insist they have right to an abortion because they need to be able
to get one if it come down to that.  Abortion-rights supporters and abortion providers do not have
an agenda aimed at more and more abortions, more late-term abortions, infanticide, euthanasia,
and genocide.  Most abortions occur toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy; after the
12th week, the rate drops off sharply.  All the abortion-rights movement really wants is for this
window of opportunity to remain open.  The value of the fetus at that point is weighed against the
costs of single motherhood and the act is condoned.  The pregnancies which continue after that
tend to be wanted pregnancies and there must be severe physical risks to out weigh what the
fetus has become. Most Abortion-rights supporters do not condone “abortion on demand” late in
the second or in the third trimester.  Unless the physical risks are high enough to outweigh what
the fetus has become, it is unwarranted.  Yet despite this, abortion opponents often claim that
what they are doing is trying to prevent “further erosion of the right to life”.  Is there anyone whose
goals this accurately represents?  Why would anyone want to pursue such an agenda?  And
how?  What would that entail?  Most abortion rights supporters are more or less satisfied with the
status quo, and might even accept a slight increase in restrictions if that would put an end to the
bitter controversy.  But of course, it is a total erosion of abortion rights that is the goal of the anti-
abortion movement.  Stymied in their attempts to ban the procedure outright, their current
strategy is one of “chipping away”--seeking limited restrictions on abortion in order to achieve
small victories, score political points, and keep the pressure on their opponents.  The tactic is to
target salient outrages--abortion related practices which can be portrayed more negatively than
the basic scenario and which abortion-rights supporters would find more difficult to defend.
One example is Parental notification laws:  In some states, girls under 18 must notify one or both
parents--or seek an exemption from a judge--before getting an abortion.  The stated purpose of
these laws is to ensure parental “involvement” in such “difficult decisions”.  Sounds wonderful.  
The implicit selling point is:  Would you want your daughter to get an abortion behind your back?  
But the real goal--aside from the chipping away effect--is simply to prevent as many abortions as
possible by giving parents veto power in hopes that they’ll use it.  This a far cry from the
legislation’s stated intent and is just another example of the deceitfulness of the anti-abortion
movement.  It’s obvious that the best interests of the young woman in question are that last thing
being considered.  It doesn’t make sense to argue for the fetus in this case since most abortions
are to adult women and that’s beyond the scope.  The basic question is:  If you’re saying that a
girl is too young to decide for herself to get an abortion, isn’t she too young to have a baby?  It
would make more sense to require parental permission to do that.  Some have made the
ridiculous point that parental consent is required for a minor to get her ears pierced, but that sort
of thing can be put off while things stay normal.  Abortion is about getting back to normal.  If a girl
made a mistake and found herself strapped into an automatic ear-piercing machine, she shouldn’t
need her parents’ permission to get out of it.  There is the issue of women feeling traumatized in
the aftermath, but these are in the minority; most feel great relief, and being free of guilty feelings
is no substitute for being free of physical responsibilities you can’t handle.  I don’t believe for one
minute that parents who would convince or coerce their pregnant daughter to carry to term are
just trying to spare her the emotional trauma because they know best.  Would the same parents
be supportive with a different daughter if their assessment her emotional state were different?  I
doubt it.  It’s how they feel that affects their reaction.  Wouldn’t want word to get out that our
daughter got an abortion, now would we.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of parental
involvement in such life-altering decisions, but who is better able to judge whether parents will be
supportive, a young woman or the government?  Even though this is about children having
children, being a few years or months short of her 18th birthday is hardly justification for denying
a gir-, uh, young woman a choice that will affect her for decades after that.  A thirty year-old
woman has the right not to have been forced to have a baby when she was a teenager.
Yes, most states’ notification/consent laws allow for judicial bypass, but not all judges are equally
predisposed to grant one.  Plus, forcing a frightened, embarrassed young woman to go before a
judge is a horrendous deterrent and could cause a crucial time delay.  Indeed delay, harassment,
intimidation, expense,  abortion opponents don’t hesitate to use these as obstacles as they seek
to keep as many pregnant woman as possible away from abortion clinics.  What I find most
reprehensible about the tactics of the anti-abortion movement is how, often stymied in their
attempts to prevent adult women of means from getting abortions, they target the more vulnerable
ones.  Minor girls, poor women, women who live in rural areas, etc.  Many states require a 24-
hour waiting period after the first visit to a clinic before a woman can get an abortion.  This is
supposedly to make sure she’s really made up her mind, but some women live hundreds of miles
from the nearest abortion provider.  A woman in this situation will probably need to take an
additional day off from work as well as arrange overnight accommodations--greatly increasing the
cost and inconvenience, that being the real point of the restriction.
Another restriction recently passed on the federal level prohibits abortions from being performed
at military hospitals overseas.  Even though abortion is legal in the United States, U.S. service
members or their dependents in foreign countries cannot obtain one for reasons that have
nothing to do with local laws.  They can, however, fly home for an abortion at a private clinic with
the government picking up the tab for the travel as well as the disruption caused by the
emergency leave.  Talk about inefficient, bureaucratic government regulations.   Once again,
abortion opponents have managed to interfere with women’s right to choose by targeting a group
of women in a vulnerable position, finding a legal avenue circumventing Roe vs. Wade, and
playing up an angle to make the restrictions palatable to a political majority.  In the latter sense I
am referring to the association between abortions at government-run hospitals and U.S. tax
dollars.  The idea is that if abortion is none of your business when it’s a purely private setup, it is
your business if your tax money is going to pay for it.  But, as pointed out above, it makes no
sense to spend much more tax money just to get around a largely symbolic association between
abortion and a given taxpayer’s contribution.  You’re spending a dime to avoid the ignominy of
spending a penny on abortion.
Still, since the goal here is to reach a compromise and put an end to the controversy, the issue of
public financing for abortion is best left alone.  Federal law and the laws of a majority of states
prohibit tax-funded programs such as Medicaid from funding abortions for poor women.  A
legislative initiative to change that and  provide for such funding would ignite a firestorm and
would almost certainly fail, so the abortion-rights movement would best chalk it up as a necessary
concession in the interest of peace.  Nevertheless, I can’t resist laying out my own plan to get
around the dilemma:  First, solicit a donation to pay for a single abortion for an eligible poor
woman.  Then, set up an account and pay into it all the money that would have been sent to her
in the form of welfare and use that to pay for additional abortions under the program.  The fund  
would grow by leaps and bounds with no additional money being taken from taxpayers.  Since this
is money that people were already willing to spend on illegitimacy and fostering welfare
dependency, no one should have any objection to spending it on abortion instead, right?  Right?
Okay, we drifted a bit, but we’re still talking about the chipping away tactics of the anti-abortion
movement.  The ultimate example of this is the campaign against “partial-birth” abortions.  Once
again we have a salient outrage that is being targeted by those whose goal is to do much more
than to eliminate the practice in question.  A partial-birth abortion (called “intact dilation and
extraction by the medical community, although I’ll go ahead and use the familiar euphemism) is a
late-term procedure which has the body of the fetus partially extracted from the uterus, after which
the skull is punctured and sucked out with a vacuum, killing it and allowing the complete removal
of the head.  It is a gruesome spectacle to contemplate, let alone to behold.  The visibly bloody
nature of the procedure goes a long way toward explaining the movement to ban it, but then
again, things get pretty bloody in a slaughterhouse.  More to the point of the procedure’s
opponents is that since part of the fetus’ body is pulled (“ripped”) out through the opening of the
vagina, it is “being born”.
Sorry, but one again these are symbolic considerations.  The proposed ban on partial-birth
abortions would continue to allow late-term abortions to be done using in-utero dismemberment,
wherein the fetus is chopped up and sucked out piece by piece.  Is there any substantive
difference between the two methods?  None whatsoever.  What does it matter what the operation
looks like from the outside, or what position the fetus is in when the fatal cut is administered?  
There’s no suggestion that the fetus feels pain with one method but not the other.  They say it is
only “inches” away from “birth”, but it’s still weeks or months away from the time of birth.  In cases
on infanticide, the investigation often focuses on the question of whether the infant has taken its
first breath.  This consideration borders on the symbolic, but it’s good enough for policy.  Yet
even though there’s no question of the fetus taking a breath during partial-birth abortion, the
opponents blithely go ahead and call it infanticide anyway.  Most absurdly, a ban on partial-birth
abortions would extend to procedures taking place in the second trimester while still permitting in-
utero dismemberment abortions on into the third!  It just plain makes no sense.
Naturally, once a ban on partial-birth abortions is in place then the other forms of late-term
abortions will become the salient outrage, and their gruesome aspects will be played up in
Congress and elsewhere.  During the debate on partial-birth, some members of Congress put
forward a bill to ban all third trimester abortions, but it went nowhere because it amounted to
overreaching at that time.  Once this victory is won, then a serious attempt can be made to
legislate a cutoff date of 24 weeks.  Now, as I indicated earlier, many abortion-rights supporters
are not opposed to tighter restrictions on late-term abortions, since the level of fetal development
makes all the difference.  But this position bears no resemblance to the agenda of those who are
currently pushing the ban on partial-birth.  The question is, once this step and the next step are
passed, will Congress revisit the issue every year to shave another week off the cutoff date?  
That would be the height of chuzpah in the light of what we’ve been through in the past couple of
years.  Is this it now?  Is this a basis for compromise?  Having gone to the mat on partial-birth, the
pro-life movement has distanced itself from first-trimester abortions.  Those Congressional
leaders who voted against the ban and President Clinton who vetoed it were undoubtedly
motivated by an unwillingness to engage in appeasement.  A public statement by those members
of Congress who support the partial-birth ban, and other prominent abortion foes, that there will
be no further threats to the right to choose, that a compromise can be reached to put an end to
this bitter dispute, could turn the current impasse around.  Actually, the snag cited publicly by
Clinton and others is with regard to allowing exceptions.  The ban’s supporters want the only
exception to in cases where the woman’s life is at stake, while those standing in their way want
exceptions to protect the “health” of the woman.  Unacceptable, says the other side, since women
and their doctors could cite mental health or other bogus health threats.  But surely, a bill could
be written with language that would close such loopholes by distinguishing between serious
physical health threats and less significant ones.  Perhaps a schedule could be drawn up
matching degrees of severity of potential health threats with cutoff points, so that beyond a
certain point, only a threat to the woman’s life would be considered sufficient grounds, regardless
of the method.
A similar schedule might be considered in cases where fetal abnormalities of varying severity are
detected, but I prefer not to elaborate as this is a highly emotional issue involving deeply personal
decisionmaking.  Indeed, no one in the abortion rights movement wants to give the impression
that they would encourage or urge a woman to abort in this kind of situation or any other.  It’s not
about establishing a regime designed to get rid of undesirables, as some alarmists would have
you believe.  There is no “pro-abortion” movement, meaning no organized effort to “promote”
abortion as a solution to problems.  Unlike pro-lifers, pro-choicers do not take a position on
whether or not a woman should get an abortion in a given situation, they simply fight to protect
her freedom to make that choice against the threat to take it away.  The last thing anyone wants
to see is a government effort to coerce women into getting abortions, like in China.  It’s the
Chinese government who are the only real pro-abortion extremists.  There are international family-
planning organizations with supposed ties to China’s program.  If so, they would be wise to sever
them, for however tenuous such ties may be, they are being used as justification for retaliation
against these organizations by the U.S. government.  Of course, the links to China are not the
point but a pretext for a policy of harassment against any family-planning organization that can be
targeted.  It is bitterly ironic that American conservatives can do more to interfere with family-
planning efforts abroad--where so often there is grinding poverty fed by spiraling population
growth--than they can here at home.
Not as bad as China’s policy of forced abortion, but a grievous abuse nonetheless, is the practice
in some parts of the world of using abortion for sex selection.  In countries such as India, there are
clinics where pregnant women can get an ultrasound image of the fetus she can then use to
decide on an abortion if it’s a girl.  I can’t imagine anyone in the U.S. condoning this practice and
a law against it would be just fine, but it would be unenforceable.  But enforce we should laws
against infanticide, which is murder no ifs, ands, or buts.  As I suggested earlier, drawing the line
some months before birth is a good, pragmatic compromise, but a live birth leaves all blurry
distinctions far behind.  Infanticide is not abortion; it is and will always be a crime.  There may be
one or two crackpots on the radical fringe of academia who have suggested that it may not be
murder to kill infants shortly after birth, but this will certainly never catch on.  The opponents of
abortion would have you believe that it will, and that indeed the “abortion culture” is the cause of
several high-profile cases of infanticide, such as the infamous “Prom Mom” case.  It’s inevitable
that they would seize on such incidents, but it doesn’t wash.  Quite simply, she didn’t get an
abortion, did she?  She could have gotten an abortion early on, and wouldn’t have hesitated had
the “abortion culture” had so much influence on her, but instead a certain culture pressured her
out of it and kept her in denial as to the true burdens of childbearing until at long last it hits home.
While the anti-abortion culture is very real and goes to great lengths to manipulate young
women, there is no pro-abortion culture to speak of.  There are no high-pressure TV
commercials, billboards or MTV videos extolling the pleasures of abortion.  It’s not a fad or rite of
passage among teenage girls.  (By contrast, having a baby out of wedlock is often just that.)  
Those who have the procedure are desperate to keep it a secret.  When abortion providers
advertise at all, the ads are highly restrained and low-key.  And those tempted to advise a
pregnant female acquaintance to get one usually hold their tongue, knowing that they’re walking
into an emotional minefield.  Anti-abortion culture, yes, pro-abortion culture, no.  Yet abortion is
not just being blamed for infanticide--the rate of which has not gone up, by the way--but on
violence in society in general.  This too is easy to refute:  Supporters of abortion rights tend to be
better-educated women--among the least violent members of society, while the most violent tend
to be less well-educated young men and boys.  These fellows usually don’t give a rip about
abortion, and women who have had one usually don’t go on to join gangs or commit drive-by
shootings.  Indeed, those women most closely associated with violent young men are among
those most likely to have children out of wedlock.
As difficult as it is to argue that legalized abortion is having a broader impact on society, dire
warnings of the “slippery slope” persist.  This is funny, because I’ve always felt that “slippery
slope” is a phrase used to ridicule people with that mentality, i.e. the belief that a policy change
will inevitably lead to more and more extreme changes in the same direction.  In fact, policy
changes tend to provoke backlashes, and in the end moderating forces usually prevail.  Unlike
policy issues, the slippery slope model might better apply to behavioral issues such as violence,
drug abuse, or illicit sex.  These are behaviors which people have natural urges to indulge in,
have addictive aspects, considerable potential for escalation, and are often reinforced by peer
culture.  Abortion is resorted to under a very narrow set of circumstances, not something more
and more people do more and more often in a way that gets worse and worse.
But the complaints that abortion is leading to ever increasing “threats to the right to life” continue.  
Another example they point to is the emerging practice of assisted suicide a la Jack Kevorkian.  
Dr. Kevorkian is on record as supporting abortion rights, and this is unhelpful, but support for
assisted suicide is not inspired by abortion.  The two issues may include less superstitious, more
pragmatic views about life’s beginning and end, but they are arrived at from different directions,
two completely different sets of conditions.  They are not being advanced simultaneously by
persons or groups with a bloodthirsty agenda in search of new victims.  The decision to have an
abortion is made by an individual woman who is directly faced with the great burdens of childbirth,
and the thing that is killed is not a person.  That which is killed in assisted suicide is indeed a
person in his or her own right, but the decision for death to occur is made by that same person
and is based on the prospect of eventual death preceded by prolonged agony and debilitation.  
Dr. Kevorkian arrived as his position, not by being inspired by abortion, but after dealing with
people in this situation on a regular basis, watching them die slowly and painfully as they begged
for relief.  
Assisted suicide is not euthanasia.  Euthanasia is a policy or program implemented by a
government or other institution to kill off the sick or elderly in certain conditions. They call it
“mercy killing”, but the real goal is to eliminate a group of people, to get them out of the way, with
just a presumption that it’s in their best interests.  The slippery slope can come into play here as
patients are killed under more and more questionable circumstances.  But so long as it’s the
patient’s expressed wishes which drive the situation, and their condition meets the necessary
criteria, there can be no “threat” to the handicapped or anyone else.  Yet even before assisted
suicide had become legal in any state, pro-life activists were complaining that “society expects” or
“society tells you” to kill yourself when you get sick or old, just as “society” allegedly “tell you” to
kill your unborn child when you get pregnant.  But nothing could be further from the case.  
Kevorkian and his patients have been challenging society’s overwhelming insistence that no effort
be spared to prolong the life of the dying, just as single pregnant women face very strong
pressure from society to keep their babies.  The decisions to go ahead with the controversial
alternatives in either case are not being made in society, they are being made in private.  So the
one other thing that abortion and assisted suicide have in common is that they are both
dependent on the individual’s right to choose.

Okay, we drifted a bit from the topic of family planning, so let’s bring in the final piece of the puzzle
which is adoption.  Adoption is a win-win-win situation.  The child wins by getting two loving
parents who can adequately care for him or her, the adoptive parents win by getting the child they’
ve waited so long for, and the birth mother wins by getting her life back.  But compared to the
number of children raised by single mothers plus the number of abortions, the number of children
put up for adoption is relatively small.  The pressures a new mother feels to keep her baby rather
than give it up are enormous.  A very powerful motivator internally is the maternal instinct, which
and goes a long way in explaining why women are so reluctant to take what appears to be such a
rational and workable route in choosing adoption.  Externally, there’s not so much an overt
societal discouragement or condemnation of adoption (as there often is with abortion) as there is
a vague sense of stigma felt by women facing that situation.  It is the great lack of support for
adoption as a desirable option, the lack of reassurance that it is a brave and sensible choice you
are making when you put up for adoption and not something to be so filled with regret.  This to go
along with the necessary sympathy with what is clearly a painful sense of loss, but the sense of
loss is being overplayed in the media and elsewhere, so that women’s natural reluctance in this
matter is being bolstered rather than softened.  Sob stories abound, especially those involving
adopted children coming back years later to search for their birth parents, or vice versa.  When
such quests are not disappointingly fruitless, they can often produce a reunion that is awkward for
the birth mother and/or her long lost offspring and/or the birth parents, throwing relationships into
confusion.  Sometimes the birth mother is accused by the adopted child of abandoning him or her,
but more often a woman will simply imagine she would be, and thus infuse adoption with an
overwhelming sense of guilt.  The idea of putting it all behind you and getting on with your life only
produces more guilt, but there’s absolutely no obligation to feel guilty.  It is in the best interests of
all parties to an adoption to put the initial facts behind them and emphasize the relationship
between adoptive parent and child as the “real” one.  We should encourage the birth mother to
be happy things worked out and to forget the experience, save for the lessons learned, but the
way adoption is often portrayed doesn’t make it out to be a very happy thing.
But happily there is broader support for the adoption option that we can develop.  “Adoption, not
abortion” is a favorite slogan of the pro-life movement.  If by this they mean to persuade women
facing crisis pregnancies that adoption is the better alternative, then that’s perfectly fine, a rare
piece of common ground between abortion opponents and family planning advocates.  Need I
remind you that the agenda here is to reduce the number of children being raised by poor or
single mothers and to give young women who have made the mistake of becoming pregnant
accidentally a second chance.  But if their intention is simply to ban abortion first and then
somehow expect adoption make up for them all, well forget it, that’s not going to fly.  There’s still
strong resistance among women under the influence of the maternal instinct to the idea of giving
birth and then giving up their baby.  Most women seeking an abortion will tell you that they cannot
face that prospect; they know that they wouldn’t be able to go through with it when the time came
even if they had planned on it all along.  Women are notorious for changing their minds, so even
as we try to promote adoption as a very desirable alternative, we must keep open as many
avenues for avoiding single motherhood as we can.
A woman facing a crisis pregnancy is at a crossroads.  How the rest of her life will turn out
depends on whether she chooses to keep the baby, put it up for adoption, or get an abortion.  
Oftentimes a woman will look back and wonder what things would be like if she had made a
different choice.  She might feel regret, but more often she’ll tell you she can’t imagine life any
other way than how it actually turned out.  I’m struggling though school and barely making ends
meet as it is, just think if I’ve had to do this while trying to raise a kid by myself for the past several
years.  If she did keep the baby she’ll naturally become quite attached to it and be shocked at the
idea that her son or daughter might not be there.  Why, it’s tantamount to killing her child right
then and there.  Many women--and men--who have had children develop strong anti-abortion
views after considering this philosophical question.  But the obvious comeback to this is always,
what if you hadn’t gotten pregnant in the first place?  What if you had been using birth control that
night?  Little Timmy wouldn’t be here.  (Some really insane people respond to this point by
opposing contraceptives as well.)  But it’s senseless to project backwards in time, then forward to
a parallel universe.  The issue is about taking control over what’s going to happen in the future.  
The scenario that never get identified is the one where a woman gets an abortion and thus frees
herself to finish her education, start a career, fall in love and get married, establish a good home,
and then have children.  It is these children, this fully functional family that will never be if she
chooses the path of unwed motherhood.  At 12 weeks it’s not too late, so which is better?