I recently heard Don Sloan talk about his book on his perspectives on women’s reproductive choices after several decades’ worth of experiences as a doctor who performs abortions. It prompted me to make the following suggestion. To meaningfully address the reproductive choice/ abortion issue, I propose asking thousands of women presenting to abortion clinics this question: “If you could change the world in any way, what changes would it take for you to be able to carry your pregnancy to term?”

I predict 90-plus percent of women would say they’d continue the pregnancy if only some need were met. The top roster of needs would likely include things like:

a) if my parents wouldn’t throw me out of the house,

b) if my medical needs would be addressed,

c) if my husband and I could afford it,

d) if I had just a little more support in taking care of the family I already have,

e) if I wouldn’t lose my job and my family’s only means of support,

f) if it wouldn’t upset anyone to find out it wasn’t my husband/ boyfriend/significant other’s,

g) if I could continue my schooling/career,

h) if my boyfriend/significant other would commit to the relationship and help raise the child,

i) if my significant other would stop abusing me,

j) if I could get away and raise the child without contact with the incestuous abusive relative who’s the father …

You get the picture.

In other countries and societies, the answers could include: a) if my father and brothers wouldn’t set me and my unborn child on fire to burn alive to save the family’s honor, or b) if I wouldn’t become an “untouchable” and never be allowed to marry.

I doubt there would be many women or girls who’d even consider giving their babies up for adoption if their survival and child-raising needs could be met. The vast majority, in a “perfect world,” would want to bear, keep and raise their child rather than giving their own flesh and blood to strangers. Addressing these “ifs” is the starting place in a meaningful solution to the abortion/choice issue. It is impossible to separate child-bearing from child-raising.

If we want more women to have babies rather than end pregnancies, we have to do a much better job supporting pregnant women and their families in raising children. I am really tired of the right-wing “pro-lifers’” refusal to address the problems underlying the need for so many legal abortions, because if these people wanted to, they could instead be working to vastly reduce the number of abortions done. They’d rather harass women and doctors in the parking lots and streets, shout obscenities, set fires, and throw bombs, though. That’s because, for them, it’s not really about the children.

I think the right-to-lifers don’t care much about babies and mothers. It’s about control, and the sooner we expose this by forcing discussions about meeting the needs of the children and mothers in order to reduce the incidence of abortion, the sooner we can remove the abortion “debate” as a divisive factor in national politics.

We just need to find sound-bite-friendly ways to frame the issues, and stick to the message.

Anne Roberts is a native Southerner, married with children, drives a pick-up truck, hunts and fishes, and usually ends up voting Democrat but wishes for better.