It's Not Just Victims of Rape and Incest : Abortion: With the battle over legality joined in earnest, we must face all of the reasons for terminating pregnancy.

Sex is used to sell cars and soap in everybody's living rooms; it is part of the grease that makes capitalism run today. We may not like that, but it's so. The sexual revolution had its pluses and minuses, but we can't pretend it didn't happen. Women's magazines put the word orgasm on the cover, nice girls have them, and this is not going to change, no matter how often somebody chants, "Just say no." Modern women are not going to take the veil, young people will have sex before marriage--and they will make mistakes.

And some women will use abortion to remedy those mistakes.

These are the abortions that cause the most discomfort. Let's face it, only those who believe that abortions are murder want to see a 12-year-old incest victim give birth. Or insist that a rape victim be barred from abortion. But many of us feel squeamish about the college student who gets pregnant because she had a one-night stand. The "convenience" abortion, it is called. Society used to stone women for that, and the atavistic instinct to punish women for sexual pleasure is still very strong.

But even for this college student, abortion could be a moral choice. If she has neither the emotional nor financial capabilities to nurture a child, should we demand that she bear a child she does not want and can't support? Many women who have abortions when they are young go on to marry and raise happy, cared-for children--which might not have happened if they were catapulted into miserable single parenthood.

But some women are going to make choices I think are immoral. They are going to have repeat abortions because they can't seem to manage birth control. Maybe have an abortion to get back at a lover. Maybe they won't like the baby's sex. They will make bad choices--as men often do. That is the nature of freedom. When you have free speech, some people are going to write words that make the spirit soar, and others are going to scrawl garbage on the page.

If we believe that women must control their own bodies to be truly free, then we can't pretend that all women are wonderful and wise--that they will never have a one-night stand; never go to bed impulsively with a guy who turns out to be a rat; that contraceptives will never fail. Or that all abortions have to do with rape or incest. But if we believe that women must be equal, independent and able to shape their own lives, if they are to be more than mere breeders, then abortion, today, is a part of that process--no matter how uncomfortable that is for many of us.

Someday, we may develop perfect birth control, and abortion will simply fade away. Until that time, it will be a part of the landscape of reproductive freedom. The alternative is unthinkable: a return to desperate, illegal abortions and the failed policy of making women "sex cops," responsible for fending off men who can't be held responsible for themselves. Controlling sexuality by punishing women is an ancient tradition, but it's also an idea whose time has gone.

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