That said, a hypothetical situation in which women have total control over their pregnancies – start to finish – would by necessity still include access to safe abortions. This is because deciding to conceive is only part of a planned pregnancy. Over the next nine months, women may receive a medical diagnosis or have a change in circumstances that impacts their decision: test results can reveal that a foetus has a condition in which it could not survive outside of the womb, for example, or the woman may develop a medical condition that could put her own life at risk if she were to deliver. Or an expectant mother’s life circumstances – a job, a supporting partner – may abruptly change. “There are all sorts of things that turn a wanted pregnancy into something a woman feels she cannot cope with at this time,” Newman says.
Birth rates also would decline. But this wouldn’t mean that population growth – currently set to hit 10.9 billion by 2100 – would stabilise overnight. Women might still desire numerous children, and cultural pressures and gendered expectations to have multiple children may persist as well.
Taken together, though, all of these things – fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer children and fewer dangerous abortions – ultimately would benefit women, and society overall.