Abortion myths cloud debate, ignore pertinent pregnancy issues

Mary Kathryn Wiley

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I called fifteen pharmacies in Macon and asked for Plan B. Only three had Plan B in stock. Four had Next Choice in stock. Only one of the seven carried both and had both in stock.

Clarissa Price wrote a recent opinions article about resources for pregnant Mercer students. She particularly targets the issue of abortion from a pro-life point of view; she suggests that what the Mercer community needs is more pro-life material.

She concludes her article with the phrase “with child”—an outdated and potentially offensive term once used interchangeably with “pregnant.” It is also a scientifically inaccurate phrase, as there is no clear evidence showing exactly when a human life begins.

Ms. Price starts off her article with the admittedly disturbing information that asignificant percentage of abortions in the United States are had by young women between the ages of 18 and 30.

These statistics, gleaned from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, are credible. However, she goes on to discuss severalscary potential complications of abortion; her information now, she states, is coming from The Elliot Institute, run by one Dr. David C. Reardon. If she had continued to look at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reliable source, Ms. Price would have been able to note that less than 0.3 percent of abortion patients experience a resulting complication that requires hospitalization.

Abortions during the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy pose virtually no long-term risks at all—and, perhaps even more importantly, based on repeated studies since the early 1980s leading experts have reached the consensus that abortion does not pose a hazard to women’s mental health.

All these statistics from a well-reputed, often-cited source go directly against the findings of The Elliot Institute. Upon closer inspection, Ms. Price’s source seems rather suspect. The Elliot Institute is located on afterabortion.org.

Most of the article headings under the “Research” tab are links to lifenews.com and theunchoice.com. Life News, as one might suspect, is a pro-life news source, and theunchoice.com implies abortion is unsafe.

That is simply not the case. Ms. Price seems more in touch with myths about abortion than with the facts. The truth is that no one wants to be in a situation where she must consider abortion. But for those who have found themselves in that place, abortion is a practical option—sometimes the only option that makes sense.

While I disagree with Ms. Price’s conclusions—that abortion is an unrealistic option for women who are students at Mercer and that the answer to the problem of unwanted pregnancy is the distribution of pro-life materials—there is, in fact, a problem at Mercer, and in Macon in general. It has to do with the very important issue of women’s health.

The key to avoiding future unwanted pregnancies is preventative education. While there are some materials distributed through CAPS and the Mercer Health Center on safe sex and contraceptives, there may not be enough.

Understanding one’s sexuality, practicing safe sex and being aware of all forms of available contraceptives are all key to preventing unwanted pregnancy. Planned Parenthood, plannedparenthood.org, is an excellent source of basic information about sexuality and health.

Unlike most pro-life sources, Planned Parenthood does not push a specific agenda. Instead, it simply offers information—and lots of it. It would not seem that the goal of Planned Parenthood is to force anyone to have an abortion, but rather to educate women and men about their sexuality and how to protect it and exercise it safely, if they so choose.

Of course, accidents do happen. While contraception can be used effectively every time a person chooses to have intercourse, people often, unfortunately, make mistakes. There is also the issue of when a woman doesn’t choose to have sex, but has it forced on her. In either of these cases, however, it is vital for every woman to know that she does have a safe and easy option other than simply waiting to see if she’s pregnant.

Emergency contraceptives play an important role in situations such as these. Commonly known as the morning-after pill, emergency contraception comes in two forms: Plan B, a single pill; and Next Choice, the generic for Plan B, which is two pills.

It is essential to point out that taking emergency contraception is in no way related to having an abortion. Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy; it does not end it. It can only be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex or it will likely be ineffective, as it cannot stop a pregnancy that has already begun.

As with any medication, there are possible negative side effects of both Plan B and Next Choice, but uncomfortable side effects are not common. Both have informative, detailed websites that offer more information about how the pills work and what to expect when taking them (planbonestep.com and mynextchoice.com).

In the event that one is already pregnant, one can, of course, opt to visit Macon’s pro-life organization, Sav-a-Life, at Caring Solutions Pregnancy Center. However, their website (salmacon.com) makes quite clear that every visitor will hear a specifically Christian message and be urged not to have an abortion, in addition to, most likely, being urged not to remain sexually active.

Most importantly, Caring Solutions Pregnancy Center—like most “crisis pregnancy centers”—is NOT a medical facility. While they can offer pregnancy testing and sometimes ultrasounds, that is usually all they can offer in terms of health care. Pregnancy is a medical issue, and should be addressed in a medical facility. For pregnant women at Mercer, a good option would be Empower Women Health Center (empower-women.net). Wherever she chooses to go, seeing an OBGYN is an important first step for a woman who finds herself pregnant.

Ultimately, abortion can be a helpful option for a pregnant student. Although Ms. Price dismisses the idea that it could be difficult to be pregnant while in school, stating “there is no reason a young lady could not carry her baby to full term while still enrolled as a student,” she may simply be choosing to overlook several important issues. For one thing, most women in college are not completely financially independent; having a child would certainly impede their movement toward independence.

Even if one such student chose to carry a pregnancy to term and give up the baby for adoption, she still has to go through nine months of pregnancy. She will have to incur doctor’s bills, face physical changes and potentially other health issues, in addition to facing the possibility of stigma and disapproval from family or peers.

Choosing abortion, on the other hand, allows her to retain her privacy and pursue her future. Ultimately only the woman involved can make the choice that is best for her life and health.

My hope is that the Mercer community will began to recognize the importance of offering more resources for women and men that will educate them about sexuality and health.

While Mercer students do have access to condoms and emergency contraceptives, for instance, off campus, it would be smart to have both available on campus as well.

Free condoms are offered in the Student Health Center, but they are of low quality. A variety of condoms could easily be offered at Bear Necessities. Emergency contraceptives are not easily accessible off campus, unfortunately.

As an experiment, I called fifteen pharmacies in Macon and asked for Plan B. Only three had Plan B in stock. Four had Next Choice in stock. Only one of the seven carried both and had both in stock.

Three pharmacies were out of stock entirely; and five pharmacies did not carry any kind of emergency contraception. While some people who answered the phone in the pharmacies I called were polite and helpful, some seemed confused about what I was asking for. At Chichester’s, I was even asked to spell the words “Plan B.” I was also asked, “What is that used for?”

One pharmacist assured me I would have no trouble finding Plan B at another pharmacy, though hers was out. In reality, over half the stores I called either did not carry Plan B or Next Choice or did not have either in stock.

As one might expect, prominent pharmacies were most likely to carry the drug: I had the best luck with Kroger, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. A simple solution to Macon’s emergency contraception stocking problem would be for Mercer to offer emergency contraception through the Health Center.

Comments on this opinion can be sent to wileymk@gmail.com

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