The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 4, 2013

Events surrounding abortion reveal that ‘it’s complicated’

The Back Porch

By Nerissa Young

— It’s complicated. That’s the answer adults give to children when they think the answer is something the children won’t understand or the answer is something the adults don’t understand well enough to explain to anyone else — sometimes even to themselves.

This week’s events in the ongoing debate over abortion reveal that it is, well, complicated.

President Obama supports the decision to make the over-the-counter Plan B birth control pill available to 15-year-old girls after a federal judge ordered that the so-called morning-after pill be made available to anyone without any restrictions, NPR reported.

In other words, the judge wants the pill to be as available as aspirin or candy. Obama and his administration are holding the line on age 15 as appropriate for general distribution. A prescription would be needed for girls under age 15.

Deliberations continued Friday in the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion provider charged in the deaths of a woman who was a patient at the clinic and four babies who prosecutors say were born alive.

Prosecutors have accused Gosnell and his staff of administering labor-inducing drugs and cutting babies’ spinal cords. One former staff member testified she saw at least 10 babies breathing before they were killed.

Doctors who perform abortions after the 24th week violate Pennsylvania law.

Gosnell’s defense is that he was helping poor and minority women who had no other access to the medical procedure. The stories that have emerged from the trial are enough to make even pro-abortion advocates uncomfortable.

And that is precisely why this debate is complicated.

Some people who think it is a heinous crime to abandon puppies by the side of the road have no qualms supporting abortion.

Some people who are opposed to abortion have no qualms about supporting the death penalty for those convicted of heinous crimes. Roe v. Wade has been on the books for 40 years, but this nation is no closer to resolving the issue in its collective conscience.

In another development this week, NPR reported the only abortion clinic in Mississippi got a federal judge’s reprieve to stay open after state lawmakers passed a law a year ago that requires physicians who perform abortions to be board-certified obstetricians-gynecologists and to have hospital admitting privileges. Mississippi hospitals will not grant those privileges, which could force the clinic to close under the law. Gov. Phil Bryant told NPR that he wants to end abortion in Mississippi. Even if the clinic closes, Bryant will not end abortion in Mississippi. He will end legal abortion in Mississippi.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 784,507 legally induced U.S. abortions in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available at its website. That amounts to 15.1 abortions per 1,000 women between ages 15 to 44. That rate is 5 percent lower than 2008. The greatest number of abortions occurred in women in their 20s.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network estimates that 3,204 rapes in 2004-2005 resulted in pregnancy. That estimate could be high, the nonprofit organization said, because U.S. Justice Department statistics on which the estimate is based include forced sexual intercourse with something other than a penis. Other factors are victims using birth control methods, perpetrators using a condom to avoid leaving DNA evidence and victims’ inability to conceive for medical or age-related reasons.

Therefore, the rallying cry that abortion is needed to provide an alternative to rape victims isn’t entirely accurate because the number of abortions is considerably larger than the number of women who get pregnant by rape.

The notion that abortion provides some kind of joyful liberation isn’t entirely accurate, either.

A friend took her niece to an abortion clinic. The friend is a registered nurse who worked in emergency rooms. She was noticeably shaken as she described the cold, clinical procedure. The fundamental issue in the abortion debate is whether the fetus is its own organism or an extension of the woman’s body that the woman should be free to excise.

So boil that down to this: That view makes the fetus a tick or flea that can easily be plucked off the host. If that’s the easy view, then why isn’t abortion an easier sell?

Another fundamental issue is whether a woman should forfeit her life because she doesn’t want a child.

As they say, it’s complicated.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© 2013 by Nerissa Young