One of the most absurd arguments I often hear in support of abortion is that pregnancies are sometimes “accidental,” and it would therefore be unjust to deprive a woman of an escape hatch, bloody and brutal though that escape hatch may be.
According to the statistics, pregnancies happen “accidentally” all the time in this country. In fact, nearly half of all pregnancies are total accidents. It seems that millions of women are finding themselves spontaneously and arbitrarily pregnant for mysterious reasons. It’s some sort of epidemic, apparently. What is going on? How can this be explained?
Well, I have a theory, but you’ll have to bear with me as I flesh it out. Here it goes: women get pregnant because they have sex with men. Indeed, in the vast majority of cases, men and women choose to have sex of their own free will. And it is only after this purposeful decision is made and consummated — one might even say, because it is made and consummated — that these pregnancies occur. The people having sex may not want to conceive a baby, they may not have it scheduled on their calendars, they may shudder at the very idea of creating a child with the their sexual partner — perhaps because they aren’t committed to each other, and maybe don’t even know each other — but be that as it may, they are doing a thing that naturally results in pregnancy. They are doing a thing that has led to pregnancy literally billions of times throughout human history. We only have a human history because a lot of people have done the thing they’re doing. They are doing a thing of which procreation is a primary purpose. They are engaging, intentionally, in the process of getting pregnant. And then they are pregnant. Where is the accident here?
Pregnancy is a natural end of the sexual act. It is an outcome inherent to the act itself. In that way, it’s very different from crashing your car or falling into a ditch. We may call the latter circumstances “accidents,” because, while they are potential outcomes of driving a vehicle or walking down the street, they are not natural outcomes. Cars were designed for the possibility of crashing, but they were not designed for the purpose of crashing. They were designed to get you from point A to point B. So, calling a pregnancy accidental is more like stepping on the gas pedal and calling it an accident when the car moves forward. Pregnancy is not just a potential of sex, but one of its fundamental purposes. Just as moving forward is not just a potential of a car, but one of the fundamental reasons it was constructed to begin with. That’s why it exists, to move forward. And you made it move forward by doing the thing that causes it to move forward. There may be other uses for a car, but you have just experienced its primary purpose, and it’s a purpose you would not have experienced had you not chosen to get in the car and put your foot on the pedal. Accident? All I see is intentional behavior leading to a natural and predictable outcome. You may not have wanted the car to move forward, but then why did you step on the pedal?
To prevent future incidents of this type, you can either do something to your engine to make it so that it probably won’t go forward when you hit the pedal, or you can refrain from using the car until you’re actually open to the possibility of it doing the thing it’s supposed to do. The first solution may be possible, but it seems rather cumbersome, complicated, and pointless. The second solution may mean that you can no longer treat your car like a toy, but it also seems to make more sense. And besides, your car isn’t a toy. It may be fun to drive it, but there are many responsibilities that come with that fun.
Yes, there may be better analogies that this, because driving is a mechanical process rather than a chemical or biological one. Let’s say, instead, that calling a pregnancy accidental is like calling it an accident when a seed sprouts and grows in to a flower, or calling it an accident when you become morbidly obese after consuming a steady diet of chips and large sodas. Of course, many people actually do make that last claim. The selfish and immature desire to separate a consequence from the behavior that caused it is very common in our society.
Sure, birth control may fail, but this still does not make a pregnancy accidental. The “failure” of the birth control just means that the act you’re participating in will now be allowed to come to its natural fruition. A reproduction system is reproducing because you did the thing that makes it reproduce. This may be an “unintended” event, or an “unwanted” one, but those qualifiers are meaningless. I may stick my glass of beer in the freezer and complain, once it freezes, that I didn’t “intend” or “want” the freezer to do the one thing freezers are meant to do, which is freeze things, but that doesn’t mean my freezer malfunctioned. My complaint is precisely that my freezer functioned exactly as freezers ought to function. The question, then, is why did I put something in the freezer if I didn’t want to freeze it?
This all leads to the dreaded conclusion that we have tried so hard in our society to escape: you shouldn’t have sex with someone if you aren’t open to the possibility of making a baby with them. That isn’t to say that every time you have sex with someone it ought to create a baby, or that making babies is the one single point of having sex , but simply that sex is a naturally procreative act, and it’s foolish to engage in a procreative act with someone you cannot imagine procreating with. The whole “abstinence before marriage” concept is hinged on this extremely rational thought process. It’s not puritanism; it’s logic.
You hear people say all the time that they need birth control yet can’t afford it because they’re young, single, and they don’t make a lot of money. When they have sex and make a baby, they blame this entirely natural and foreseeable circumstance on their lack of “access to birth control.” They then demand restitution from society, as if it was our responsibility to facilitate their consequence-free sex life. This is the problem with the whole “accidental” or “unintended” pregnancy thing: it smuggles in the idea not only that sex can and should be free of serious consequence, but that we have a right to be free from those consequences. But we have no such right. Nobody has a natural right to be free from the natural consequences of their behavior.
And these “consequences” should tell us something about the act itself. Even if you successfully circumvent the life giving capacity of sex, the fact that it even has such a capacity ought to cause us to approach it with respect and care. The fact that sex can, inherently, make a baby, ought to be a pretty good indication that it’s something a little more sacred than a mere recreational activity. Nobody ever formed a brand new human life by playing table tennis. And if anyone ever did, the last thing I’d do is challenge some stranger at the bar to a game.
The solution, though it may not be the one we prefer, is to treat sex with the respect an act of such enormous consequence deserves. If we do that, then we don’t have to worry about “accidental pregnancies.” If pregnancy occurs, even at a time we didn’t intend or even want, we’ll be prepared to welcome it.