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Perspective: There will be more babies in a post-Roe America. This isn’t a bad thing

Healthy twin girls and a run on birth control are not the stuff of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

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Abortion-rights protesters dressed in costumes from “The Handmaid’s Tale” walk to the U.S. Capitol building during a demonstration in Washington, Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Abortion-rights protesters dressed in costumes from “The Handmaid’s Tale” walk to the U.S. Capitol during a demonstration in Washington on Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, Associated Press

As the nation waits for the Supreme Court decision that could return abortion law to the states, a curious drumbeat has quickened in the camps of abortion-rights supporters who are warning about what America will look like post-Roe. There seems to be a general consensus among liberals that we will soon be living in Gilead, the patriarchal dystopia from the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

It’s unclear whose minds these stories are supposed to change, given that Americans have long been divided on the issue of abortion and a sizable majority of us haven’t changed our mind over time.

What’s most curious of all about these warnings, however, is how often they fall flat. And, ironically, they sometimes serve as an argument for Roe’s reversal.

Take, for example, the recent article in The Washington Post about a Texas teenager who gave birth to twins, ostensibly because of Texas’s burdensome abortion law.

The writer described the plight of 18-year-old Brooke Alexander, who found out she was pregnant two days before the state’s controversial “heartbeat” law took effect, making abortion illegal after about six weeks of a pregnancy.

Alexander, we are told, was deemed “abortion-minded” by the clinic she visited for an ultrasound. That means she’d pretty much decided to end the pregnancy before this desire was thwarted by the state of Texas.

Her ultrasound revealed that not only had Alexander been pregnant too long to have an abortion in Texas, but her pregnancy was right at the line where Americans’ support for abortion precipitously drops. Twenty-eight percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in the second trimester compared to 60% in the first semester, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Alexander was 12 weeks pregnant with twins.

What followed was not the unbridled happiness experienced by older couples who find themselves pregnant after years of trying (although Alexander’s mother seemed to be ecstatic). But neither was the saga a preventable tragedy, which is how it seemed to be framed.

In fact, there was much to celebrate. The babies, Olivia and Kendall, were born, apparently healthy. The parents soon wed. They are making a hard go of it under difficult circumstances, many of which are difficult in ways completely unrelated to the babies.

True, there is much ruing of lost adolescent pleasures: “Long nights at the skate park, trips to the mall, dropping $30 on a crab dinner just because she felt like it.” And there’s no doubt that taking care of twins is exhausting, even with plenty of money and a supportive family, neither of which Alexander has.

But it’s hard to see how, in any world view, idle hours at the skate park or shopping mall provide more value to a life than mothering twin daughters. Even Alexander, their mother, in all her weariness, has come to see that. “It’s really scary thinking that I wouldn’t have them” if she’d had the abortion, she says at one point.

Despite this, the Post dourly reports “Texas offers a glimpse of what much of the country would face if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer, as has been widely expected since a leaked draft opinion circulated last month.”

This takes a moment to digest, looking at the photos of a young mother tending to her 3-month-old infants, one with a pink pacifier in her mouth.

Babies? That’s the horrific future abortion-rights supporters are fearing?

The article also says, “For many Texans who have needed abortions since September, the law has been a major inconvenience, forcing them to drive hundreds of miles, and pay hundreds of dollars, for a legal procedure they once could have had at home.”

How many people “need” abortions? How many instead simply want them? Those are the questions inherent in the debate over whether abortion qualifies as health care. Less controversial is whether contraceptives qualify as health care, but the impending Supreme Court decision has people urgently considering whether oral contraceptives should be available over the counter in the U.S., as they are in Canada and much of Europe. Also, abortion opponents are pointing out that people are hurriedly obtaining birth control, much like they fearfully did after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.

“Protecting myself by getting an IUD and doing what I can to prevent myself from getting pregnant is at the forefront of my mind right now because of where I live,” one Alabama woman recently told The Washington Post.

This is hardly a negative. Because of the impending ruling, the Alabama woman and her contemporaries are far less likely to get pregnant under less-than-ideal circumstances and to contemplate a procedure that not only ends the life of her child but could also cause the woman short-term distress and lifelong regret.

Like the prospect of more births in a nation confronted with falling fertility, the news that someone is using birth control rather than depending on abortion services shouldn’t cause collective moaning and handwringing.

Yet abortion has become too much a sacred dogma in progressive circles, so much that former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang had to say, “I think we have to get back to the point where no one is suggesting that we be celebrating an abortion at any point in the pregnancy.”

This is one reason the fear-mongering headlines are piling up, warning of the impending suffering and servitude of women if Roe is overturned and women can’t easily get abortions, or if they turn to pills to end a pregnancy.

What America needs more than ever is an eye for common sense and nuance, which is important not only in conversations about abortion, but also in how we interpret what happens in the months and years after the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decides the fate of Roe.

Yes, there are challenges that a post-Roe America presents, and people who have long worked to abolish abortion must put equal, if not more, energy into supporting pregnant women and their unplanned families. But even abortion-rights supporters need to concede that an 18-year-old with healthy twin daughters is not a tragic outcome, nor is a generation of young adults freshly cognizant that they should take steps to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

Only in a true dystopia are more children and married parents seen as a bad thing.