It's impossible to open a magazine or turn on a TV show without hearing someone yammer on about when it's best for women to have babies. Do it too soon, and you'll basically be poor forever and your kid will end up becoming a Florida carnie when he grows up. Wait too long and your husband has to inject hormone shots into your ass every night and you cry every time you get your period (that is, if you've got good enough insurance to be able to afford fancy ass-shots). Ideally, somewhere along the sparkly pink timeline of a woman's life, there's a point where she's financially and emotionally mature enough to support a child and her body is still capable of making babies — but what about the alternative? When's the best time to have an abortion?
One of the perks (well, side effects) of writing publicly and frequently about how women should be able to control what happens inside their own skin is that every time a friend gets knocked up and wants to end her pregnancy, she ends up confiding in me, a person she knows will not tell her she's going to hell for choosing abortion. "You're going to hell for other things," I'll say, to make her feel better. "Like the time you peed in that litterbox at a party because the line for the bathroom was too long. Also your engagement ring is made of a conflict diamond."
The other week, after talking to yet another friend who had seen the plus sign on a pregnancy test, I started thinking about how many women I've known over the years who have chosen to end pregnancies. They've ranged in age from 17 to their early 40's. There have been so many, in fact, that a clever anti-abortion rights/baseball fanatic might nickname my phone's address book "Murderers' Row." (and I'd be fine with that, because while I take issue with abortion being equivocated with actual murder, I respect the reappropriation of baseball slang). So when is abortion the best? If I remembered how to use a graphing calculator, I'd make a chart on an X-Y axis. But since I don't, here's a weighing of the pros and cons of abortion at almost any age, in listicle form.
Pro: Well, duh. This one's a no-brainer — teenagers aren't, as an almost universal rule, equipped to be mothers. And pop culture abounds with living, breathing DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN WHEN YOU ARE A TEENAGER warnings — Teen Mom, Bristol Palin, Justin Bieber's weird mom who went out on a date with Chris Harrison, host of The Bachelor (not to be confused with Chris Hansen, host of To Catch a Predator). When it comes to giving birth as a teen, it's not a question of IF you'll experience massive hardship as a result of bringing a child into the world before you're old enough to legally buy lottery tickets; it's a matter of how much of a lasting lifefuck will result.
Con: Expense, awkwardness, access. Teenagers don't tend to have several hundred dollars lying around for an abortion, and having the "Mom, can you drive me to the abortion clinic?" conversation is probably the most awkward talk a teen could have. And (pushes up glasses on nose) 88% of counties in the US don't have abortion clinics, so a teen with limited resources might have difficulty accessing abortion services until too late. Further, kids still living under their religious parents' roof may have some Bachmannian hang ups about when life begins and how totally damned they'd be if they ended their pregnancies, making the decision logically sound, but morally difficult. Hell, when I was a teenager, I chose "Madeleine" as my confirmation name and had a button that read VOTE PRO LIFE on my bulletin board in my bedroom.
Pro: Early twentysomethings still have their whole lives ahead of them, including many years of fecundity. But having a child at this age is less life trajectory-altering than teen motherhood, but young mothers still end up in poverty with greater frequency than the rest of the population.
Con: Cost, access, you can't use your parents' insurance because they'll know.
Pro: Young enough that you can still get pregnant from making extended eye contact with a guy with a beard, old enough that you've probably got a job that pays enough that you no longer must shop at Forever 21.
Con: Women in their mid-twenties might still be dating around, but this is the point at which some women start thinking about getting serious with that One Special Guy who they someday hope might fill them with a baby (and the average age for a college-educated woman to marry for the first time is about 27). As a rule, it's more emotional to abort when you know the guy's last name.
Pro: If you haven't acquired an expensive coke habit by now, congratulations! This is the richest you've ever been on your own! If you saved up a little, you could probably afford a designer abortion. A Marc Jacobs abortion, in teal.
Con: Hey, this is my demographic! And this is the age where I've first started to notice mild finger wagging against taking one's fertility for granted. Thirty, after all, has a three in front of it, whereas twenty-nine only has a two in front of it. Three is greater than two, therefore you're already starting to wither. Better take advantage of whatever pregnancies you can get, at this age. Who knows when you'll find another guy willing to repeatedly fuck your aging-out-of-online-dating carcass.
Pro: Women in their early thirties can probably afford setbacks of a few hundred dollars — or, at least, they're more likely to be able to afford it than their lower salaried, younger peers. They might already have kids, too, and maybe even an IUD.
Con: Tick tock, says your aunt at Thanksgiving, pointing to your maybe-barren womb. Tick tock, says that show where sexy doctors tell you about how to best regulate your fertility and really smooth out your poop. And maybe you're not sure you really want kids, but who knows when it will happen for you again?
Pro: Well, women in their late 30's can probably afford it. But at this age, certain birth defects are more common, and thus the reason to have one might not be an issue of maturity or financial ability, but of viability. Which is a total heartbreaking bum-out, to put it glibly.
Con: Having a normal pregnancy after this age is hard. It could be your last shot, Liz Lemon.
Pro: Birth defects, likelihood that one's family might already be complete, access/affordability.
Con: The media's been warning women about this for the last decade of their lives, but this is the point at which the last egg heads down the chute.
So what's the best age to have an abortion?
Taking into account access, ability to keep life plans intact, affordability, and likely relationship status, it's 25. Disagree? Hash it out below.