The satirical online newspaper, The Onion, parodies the adolescent awkwardness of learning about sex with its article "8th-Grade Health Class Squirms Throughout Entire Screening Of 'Miracle Of Abortion'." Some excerpts and thoughts:
"During the video’s first 20 minutes, as the patient and various surgical tools were prepped for the procedure, the only noise reportedly made by the students was the sound of anxious fidgeting as they repositioned themselves in their seats. While many grew red in the face and giggled audibly at the first sight of the woman’s genitals, the chuckles are said to have quickly turned into gasps and groans of revulsion as the film approached its climactic scene of embryo evacuation."
Abortion rights proponents decry the use of graphic abortion photos as disturbing and irrelevant. As they point out, photos of open heart surgery could likewise look disturbing or disgusting, but that doesn't necessarily mean open heart surgery is immoral.
But the revulsion we feel when seeing an abortion is fundamentally different from the squeamishness of watching an open heart surgery; it is the revulsion of watching a death. Our reaction is not based solely on "grossness" but also on an understanding of the meaning behind the disgust. It's like the difference between watching a surgeon break a kid's leg in order to set it so it will grow properly and watching an abusive parent break a kid's leg. Yeah, they're both "gross," but they are entirely different and appropriately elicit different responses. I expect parents would feel very differently about allowing their children to watch one situation versus the other. It's not about being gross, it's about being horribly violent.
On the other hand, we do provide people--including our children and teenagers--with specific descriptions, photos, and sometimes video of the reproductive/birthing process. That information can also be disturbing and disgusting to kids, but as they become old enough to be sexually active it's important they understand how their bodies work and what can happen as a result of their actions. Or, as The Onion puts it...
“Every year, there’s a lot of uneasiness when I show this video,” Flannery said. “I recognize it’s uncomfortable for kids their age to watch, but as they start to become aware of their own sexuality, it’s important they see what actually happens to the female body during abortion.”
Again, The Onion is a satirical newspaper. Still I couldn't help but think, as I read the above, what a sad thought it is--as if abortion is so inevitable that we need to educate children on exactly how it works. And yet, in reality, is that so far off? Abortion isn't exactly a rare event. Depending on which organization you look to for estimates, there are between 780,000 to 1,200,000 abortions in the US every year. According to Guttmacher, by age 45 about 1 in 3 American women have had an abortion. As Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post put it:
We have indeed come a long way from Roe v. Wade. In the early days of legal abortion, nearly everyone insisted the procedure wasn't intended as birth control. Millions of abortions later, original intent is laughable. Even Bill Clinton's call for abortion to be safe, legal and rare has a fairy tale quality by today's standards.(You should read her whole piece, by the way. It was excellent.)
Again, from The Onion:
In both the moments leading up to and immediately following the screening of the film, health teacher Diane Flannery, 53, is said to have reminded the unsettled students that the events depicted on screen were 100 percent real, and simply a natural part of life and sexual behavior.
I don't know about "natural." But "common"? Sadly, yes.