The Question of “Force” in the Abortion Debate

You leave Twitter alone for a few hours and all hell breaks loose. There was gnashing of teeth and twiddling of thumbs, people “very curious” for the answers to their questions, and in the absence of an immediate answer, presumptions of the worst kind.  It was “moral repugnance” as well as “moral cowardice”, if you don’t mind.  It even led one user to tweet a link to a certain little lady who had a particular means of getting what she wanted exactly when she wanted it:-



The thing is, there’s nothing dramatic about giving an answer to the question posed.  140 characters just doesn’t leave space, and things like work and life sometimes get in the way too.  But this issue is important in the context of the overall debate on abortion so let’s think about it.

The question from Twitterville today relates to the question of “force” – does the pro-life position advocate that a woman should be forced to give birth when she doesn’t want to?

It’s a strange word, “force”.  Pro-choice advocates use it so often that I wonder if they even realise the significance of its double effect. After all, if we’re forcing women to continue with a pregnancy, what does abortion do?  It forces women into a situation where abortion is presented as a choice – yet for many women, abortion is the last resort, literally the point when they have “no choice”.  It forces an end to the life of an unborn baby – a human being whose existence is roundly ignored by prochoice campaigners who will even enforce the denial of the most basic biological facts in their attempt to justify abortion.

And abortion forces something else on us all.  It forces us, as a society, to accept that we are prepared to countenance the deliberate and intentional ending of innocent human life. In Ireland, this is particularly troubling because we have had such a strong record of protecting life.  Yes, we have had serious scandals that have denigrated the human dignity of Irish citizens and these must never happen again.  But we have no death penalty, and a policy of neutrality for the living.  Why should things be different for the unborn?

A Balancing Act

So much for the word.  But let’s look at the context.  Does the notion of “forcing” a woman to remain pregnant act as a reason to repeal abortion laws?  Well, we are still dealing in law here, and the law “forces” people to do things all the time.  You’re forced outside a pub if you want to smoke.  You’re forced to wear a seatbelt if you want to drive a car.  And those two things in particular aren’t just for your health and safety, but for the safety of other humans around you – humans in whom the State has an interest in protecting. Laws like that are a balancing act, it’s true.  They require us to accept that sometimes we simply can’t do what we want because someone else will suffer. The greater the potential harm to another, the more delicate the balance.  Undoubtedly, when it comes to abortion, we’re dealing with one of the most difficult situations because of the intense and very unique relationship between mother and unborn.  But given the huge harm that will be done to the unborn through abortion – the loss of life itself – a ban on abortion is, I believe, justified.

But what about the woman?  How does the State approach her needs in this most delicate of balancing acts?  Well, maybe this is where we’re all falling down because the debate we should be having about abortion and what is does to/for women simply isn’t happening. Pro-choice campaigners are fond of saying that “no-one ever said abortion was a good thing”, but actually, that’s not enough.  Calling it a “necessary evil” or “something we’re always going to have” is not how we deal with other things that might be harmful.  We put them under the common microscope, we examine the before and after effects on women. In short, we stop acting like campaigners and start working together to actually figure out whether abortion is a good thing for women.  And if we find out it’s not, then we work on a better way for women.

Is it presumption to demand better?

Oh hang on, I can hear the bawls from Twitter already!  The presumption of it!  Telling women there might be a better way!  Heaven forbid that we might actually decide that’s something’s not good for women and they could have a better, happier life.  One in which they don’t fall into the dubious care of Dr. Phanuel Dartey, or worse, have their lives ended in the back of a London taxi after an abortion in a Marie Stopes clinic.  The trauma done to these women, and others like them (Tonya Reaves, Emma Beck, the woman at the centre of the “C Case”) is readily forgotten in the prochoice debate, simply because it doesn’t suit the narrative that says abortion is a reasonable choice for women facing unplanned pregnancies.

What about these women, and the countless others harmed or deeply regretful of their abortions?  It’s very easy to abdicate responsibility for their wellbeing – the notion of “choice” helps with that after all.  If it’s your choice to have an abortion, then it’s also your responsibility to deal with the fallout, good or bad.

A Conspiracy of Silence

But aren’t we, in some way, “forcing” women to face up to the most troubling dilemmas in the aftermath of abortion, simply because we refuse to have the debate that would at least give them some prior knowledge of the facts? Abortion takes on a very different hue to a woman attending a Marie Stopes clinic run by a Dr. Dartey.  Before taking her own life, Emma Beck wrote a suicide note in which she specifically referred to the twins she had aborted, realising that she would have been a good mother and saying that she wanted to be with her babies.  Shouldn’t women know about these stories?  Why does the pro-choice lobby enforce such silence, particularly in Ireland where groups like WomenHurt receive little or no hearing from the media?  What are prochoice activists afraid of – that more and more women might turn away from such an intrusive and abusive procedure if the truth was known?

At the end of the day, the notion of “force” is inappropriate in the abortion debate.  When there are two human beings so firmly linked together, balance is required, together with a moderation of language so that we can do the best for both.

Do we force a woman to give birth?

Do we force a baby to stop living?

No, neither.  We acknowledge and respect the relationship between the two and we act in the light of all existing evidence and experience so that both emerge from this unique coupling to live as happy individual human beings.

  • Peter Ferguson

    You didn’t answer the question. Perhaps you should have read what the question was first.

  • Liam Foley

    Did you get that Cora, you didn’t answer the question. They are entitled to an answer that satisfied them at once!
    Away to the dungeon wench! The red-hot poker and the rack await thee until thou dost answer the questions of thine masters!

  • Arekushieru

    Oh, please, your ilk are the ones who demand answers to your questions, then when the question IS answered, ignore the answer completely or pretend it says something completely different than what you asked for OR change the goalposts.

    No, the ones who keep a red hot poker and the rack waiting for women are the misogynists like you and Cora.

  • Arekushieru

    Seriously? You think that by removing an option no matter how freely or, rather, the lack thereof by which an option is chosen, makes something less forced? Let’s take a look at the difference between force and choice, shall we, sweetie? Choice equals having more than one option. Such as, in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, having the option to terminate OR the option to CONTINUE. That’s Pro-CHOICE. The opposite of choice is having only one option. The opposite of choice is called… FORCE. That which Pro-‘Life’ advocates, since the only option for an unwanted pregnancy is gestation.

    For some women, abortion is not a last resort. Like myself. If I were to ever get pregnant my FIRST choice would be to have it terminated. Also, for those who want children sometimes pregnancy is the last resort.

    Finally, for those women whom abortion IS a last resort, you have only yourselves to thank for that. See: Oh, almost every Pro-‘Life’ politician ever. THEY are the ones whom you vote in. And THEY are the ones who oppose contraception and comprehensive sex ed (which reduce rates of abortion) AND the ones who cut funding to social programs such as TANF, WIC and SNAP, that enable a woman who is making a choice to abort for financial reasons to have some security of her future that would make it a more ideal world in which to bring up her child. Oops.

  • Liam Foley

    My “ilk?” From what I can see Cora is responding to those who demanded she answer their questions. I never asked any questions and as far as I know neither did Cora. She answered the questions are people are still not satisfied. They’re not satisfied because like some pagan deity they can never be satisfied no matter what is sacrificed. You’re not actually interested in dialogue just immature name calling as if you were still in primary school.
    You should really grow up and then you might realize that the world does NOT revolve around you.

  • Arekushieru

    Nope, anti-choicers such as you think the world revolves around you. Not Pro-Choice. Y’see, you demand that every woman bring to term a fetus despite not having to be the one to give up your goals, dreams, desires, etc against your wishes. How much more can this be about ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, than THAT!

    Also, their ‘demands’ that she answer their questions, either came after she demanded several questions of her own be answered OR they came after she made a statement which blatantly harms women on the SURFACE, even, that she couldn’t back up but she believes she did, because, as an anti-choicer, like you, she believes fairy tales and lies are evidence. Y’see, I am on Twitter. And on RH Reality Check and I’ve run into people like you, before. And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen tweets by this ‘Cora’ before, too. And they pretty much match up to everything I just stated.

  • choiceone

    I do not understand this sort of mendacity: “[Abortion] forces women into a situation where abortion is presented as a choice –
    yet for many women, abortion is the last resort, literally the point
    when they have “no choice”. It forces an end to the life of an unborn
    baby – a human being . . . .”

    1) The legality of abortion doesn’t force on anyone a situation in which she has to entertain the notion of abortion as a choice for herself for any reason. It DOES present a situation in which you are forced to accept that other people can entertain that choice. But that’s the same for any legal activity – drinking, gambling, or refusal of medical care for oneself as an adult on the basis of one’s own belief system.

    2) Yes, many women see abortion as a last resort – they were refused tubal ligations because the doctor thought they would change their minds, they used contraception that didn’t work (no type is 100%), or they abstained but were raped, etc. But the notion that people have no choice is silly. Some women continue unplanned or rape pregnancies and others do not. The last resort quality does not mean they have no choice.

    I was raped before Roe v Wade, and as I waited to find out if I was pregnant (no quick tests back then), I planned a fail-proof suicide for a worst-case scenario in which I could not get a legal abortion of a rape pregnancy here, or afford to get one where it was legal, or find an illegal source. Even in the worst-case scenario, I had a choice of abortion or suicide, though unlike some women, I could not possibly choose to continue a rape pregnancy. Fortunately, I wasn’t pregnant. But I am still grateful that I learned that even life under unacceptable conditions is never the only possibility.

    3) The legality of abortion only presents the notion of forcing an end to the life of a human baby or human being if one believes that a human embryo is a human baby or human being with life in itself. I for one don’t believe that.

    For me, membership in a biological species is not determined solely by genetic criteria – if a specimen doesn’t even meet the criterion of being equivalent to a free-living larval form, it isn’t a member. While the human zygote~blastocyst is a free-living form, it can’t continue to develop that way and soon dies. Human embryos have to be implanted in women’s bodies which develop them into the human beings they become at birth. Indeed, even experimental artificial wombs prove the point: they don’t work at all without the use of endometrial or other tissue from a mature organism, and even with it, they don’t yet develop without severe deformity or to viability.

    You don’t have to agree, but it is one valid scientific position to claim that it’s not yet a member of the species if it lacks the characteristic of being a free-living form with the capacity for free-living development without using the tissue, etc., of a more mature organism of the species. To me, the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of a person start with that as a sufficient requisite.

    4) Furthermore, legally, no person has the legal right to put or keep even part of his/her body inside another person’s sex organs or the right to use another person’s blood or organs even if necessary to extend his or her life span without that other person’s explicit consent. Not even your own child has such a legal right. And without this condition, the law could not possibly be considered to respect the human dignity of persons.

  • choiceone

    Thanks for this. The writer is seriously misguided.

    I look back to time when, not knowing if I was pregnant via rape (in the dark old days before Roe v Wade, home pregnancy tests, and Plan B), I planned a suicide in the event of the worst-case scenario that didn’t come to pass. Because to me, continuing a rape pregnancy was unacceptable.

    But even then, there was another choice, if an icky one, and that’s the meaning of liberty. Let’s just say I learned the meaning of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.”

    As an already pro-choice person, I came to understand that options are liberty, and that women deserved the right to many better options than suicide and forced continuation of pregnancy.