Abortion as Birth Control

11 Mar

Every day, there is more information available related to reproductive justice and women’s issues. As each day goes by, it seems to me that the topic of abortion becomes more and more complex. There are bills, studies, rallies and personal stories- all pulling the edges of black and white closer together, creating more and more gray all the time. Abortion is a diverse issue with many different sides.

But then, sometimes I get pulled back to the basics. I realize not everyone has been a part of the discussion as long as I have, and others have been a part of the discussion even longer than I have. Every now and then, we all need a reminder of the basics. So I thought I would go ahead and clarify something for everyone- the issue of abortion as birth control.

A lot of anti-choicers, and far too many pro-choicers, say they are against women “using abortion as birth control.” This statement confuses me, though.  See, there are two ways to define “birth control.” First, the literal meaning: something that controls birth. The second meaning, which seems much more popular: a method of contraception.

In terms of the literal meaning, of course abortion is a way to control birth by preventing it from happening. Most people who talk about abortion as birth control, however, are not referring to the literal meaning. Most people are actually trying to say that women use abortion as a method of contraception. The only problem is that this is impossible. Contraceptives are defined as “an agent or device intended to prevent conception; capable of preventing conception or impregnation.”  An abortion is only performed after pregnancy has already started. You literally could not prevent conception by having an abortion.
When people say they’re against women using “abortion as birth control,” what they really mean is women who have abortions for reasons they don’t personally find acceptable. People use this phrase to shame women who they feel do not show the appropriate amount of sadness or guilt about having an abortion. And that needs to stop.

Pro-choicers who say “I’m okay with abortion as long as it’s not used as birth control” need to reclaim their language. Stop using anti-choice language that punishes women who choose to have their own feelings instead of feeling what other people tell them to feel. Realize that there is not a single woman who has an abortion “as birth control.” Listen to the stories of women, and trust them to use abortion as they need to.

9 Responses to “Abortion as Birth Control”

  1. Serena March 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Thanks for reminding us about the importance of language.

  2. Anna M. Crawford March 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Thank you for this post. I agree that the “abortion as birth control” idea is fraught with both inaccuracies and, ultimately, anti-choice sentiment.

    Along the same lines, I also hear: “Would it be okay for a woman to have 3/6/10 abortions instead of just getting on the pill/using a condom/abstaining?” In short: yes. If she can make the decision to abort once, she can make that decision 3/6/10 times. The apologetic language of “pro-choicers” who use that rhetoric is frustrating and dangerous.

    In discussions like this, I think it’s important to note that having the access, support, or knowledge to obtain safe and reliable birth control is not a given. The fact that I was raised in a home that encouraged sex education and that I had the economic means to purchase contraceptives is a privilege. My upbringing is not everyone’s upbringing, however, and other women may not have had the options regarding birth control that I did. Also, there was a time in my life when I could not afford the pill. I’m forever grateful to Planned Parenthood for providing me the necessary assistance during that time. Long live PP.

  3. Aunt Bec March 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Excellent post considering I’m one of “those” women who have had more than one abortion.
    My first was when I was 14, scared to death, feeling hopeless, and then grateful that my mother was willing to help me find a safe abortion clinic in 1975. She was sad and disappointed but never judged me or my decision. In fact, I believe she was grateful herself that I made that choice.
    My second abortion was when I was nineteen and I had a three month old son. I believed the old wives tale that you couldn’t get pregnant if you were breast feeding.
    My third abortion was when my son was three, I was a single mom going to college and was raped on a first date with someone I had been set up with. He also gave me HSV aka herpes. I had my tubes tied after that because you can never be certain about a healthy live delivery after you have contracted HSV.
    So, call it birth control, or call it taking care of myself and my son. I am so glad to be who I am. And I am so grateful to the men and women who have fought and put their lives on the line so that women have safe legal access to abortion in the U.S. Thank you providers.

  4. KushielsMoon March 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Thank you all for your comments, and thank you especially Aunt Bec for sharing your story.

  5. Tiffany March 11, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    Thank you for this post! We need to stop stigmatizing women who have more than one abortion or who are not as sad as outsiders think she should be. Most of the pro-choicers I know are guilty of this language and it needs to stop.

  6. Anna May 30, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    “When people say they’re against women using “abortion as birth control,” what they really mean is women who have abortions for reasons they don’t personally find acceptable.”

    I disagree – what I mean when I am against women using abortion as birth control is that I don’t think women should use birth control as an alternative to contraception.

    When I was in college a woman I knew had three abortions in one year. Yes, one year. The pill made her gain weight and her boyfriend didn’t like condoms, so she just decided to just wing it. After all, she could just get an abortion.

    Abortion has its place, but women who have abortion after abortion without using a reliable form of contraception are being irresponsible. Condoms are pretty cheap, particularly if you buy them in bulk. Or you can save up a few hundred dollars and have an IUD that lasts ten years.

  7. Alicia May 31, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    @Anna- Her body and her money. If she were asking to borrow the money required to pay for the abortion from you, that could be considered irresponsible. It’s no one else’s business why she gets an abortion, no matter how many she gets one, even if it’s because she didn’t like other forms of birth control. At its core, that’s what abortion is, after all and it only makes sense that it be treated that way. What makes her any worse than a woman who uses just the pill or just condoms and still aborts? She could’ve used both. Or a woman who does use both and still gets pregnant? Well, she just shouldn’t’ve had sex? No. It’s no one’s place to judge someone else’s actions when they aren’t involved. Three abortions, in my mind, is a lot more responsible than three children she wasn’t ready to care for.

  8. Lindsey June 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been so livid at all of these bills trying to defund planned parenthood. And I cannot stand everyone’s holier than thou attitudes toward abortion, as if they have any place to condemn what a woman does with her own body. And I would love to see some statistics about how many women use abortion as their “birth control”. I’m so sick of hearing women say that.


  1. Supporting abortion as birth control  | Abortion Gang - March 29, 2013

    […] by the contraceptives and/or reproductive health system available in the US. As KushielsMoon clearly explains here, contraceptives are scientifically different from birth control. Abortion, biologically is birth […]

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