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The surprising case for abortion contracts
J.J. Redick's alleged agreement may not be as crazy as it seems
 
It sometimes helps to have a plan.
It sometimes helps to have a plan. Think Stock

Few topics are as difficult and sensitive for a couple to handle as an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. Coping with the repercussions can be so emotional and complicated that perhaps it is not surprising that two people may resort to an "abortion contract" to guide them.

When MediaTakeOut reported this week that in 2007 NBA basketball star J.J. Redick and his then-girlfriend Vanessa Lopez had an abortion contract, it sounded like something out of a science-fiction movie in which all procreation is guided by legal documents. For his part, Redick has denied the report as "outrageous, false, and malicious." However, whether the contract exists or not, it has sparked a philosophical debate over the potential and positives of establishing an abortion contract.

The alleged contract between Redick and a then-pregnant Lopez (it is unclear whether Redick was the father) in and of itself is a little complicated. It states that "once Lopez has terminated said pregnancy" she must also:

Provide medical proof of said termination satisfactory to Redick, including, but not limited to, direct access to Lopez's medical files and records of the clinic... and submit to a post-pregnancy examination by a doctor of Redick's choice to confirm both the prior pregnancy and its termination....

Once that was established, Redick and Lopez were to "attempt to establish and maintain a social and/or dating relationship period between themselves for a period of one year from the date of this agreement." The contract also stipulated a $25,000 settlement payment to Lopez if Redick ended the relationship before that time.

Legalizing a relationship termination date, financial compensation, and, most of all, the abortion of an unexpected pregnancy will understandably not sit well with many people. Others may be downright offended. As Tom Ley at Deadspin writes, "We can add this into the annals of sad and scummy things that happen when basketball players hook up with models." You don't have to be anti-abortion for stipulated, contractual abortions to make you a little uneasy.

But prenuptials were also initially irksome to many, and we've largely come to accept them as legal documents to guide the messiness of divorces and help prevent future fighting and emotional strife.

For men who worry that an unexpected pregnancy would shackle them romantically or financially to sexual partners, this may be a straightforward way to put concerns at bay. The abortion contract "may not be the most romantic concept in the world," writes Kat Stoeffel at New York, "but it has practical potential." In fact, Stoeffel argues that the contracts may actually be useful documents from a feminist perspective. "At the very least, abortion contracts might quiet the men's rights types who believe women are conspiring to get pregnant and deny them their right to choose."

Perhaps the biggest problem with the abortion contract is not that it exists, but that the alleged Redick-Lopez contract was created after an unexpected pregnancy had already occurred.

Indeed, the media backlash over the concept of an abortion contract may say more about people's inability to discuss sex and its potential outcomes with their partners than anything else.

"Whether the document is authentic or not," the abortion contract indicates the "ongoing public discomfort with the consequences of sex," writes Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. People have reacted negatively to the abortion contract because as a society we're still too shy about discussing STDs, pregnancy, and abortion, even with our sexual partners. "Few of us have attorneys to broker our intimate transactions, but plenty of us have trouble articulating them too," she writes.

Open discourse about an unwanted pregnancy, and its potential termination, may temporarily kill the mood, but the awkwardness could be a small price to pay for the long-run benefits. As Williams writes, "Most of us would be a lot healthier and better off with more honest conversation and less 'romantic' silence."

 
Emily Shire is chief researcher for The Week magazine. She has written about pop culture, religion, and women and gender issues at publications including Slate, The Forward, and Jewcy.

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