Songs about Abortion

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Remember cassettes, records, and CD’s?

I do. I still use them, primarily because I love liner notes. As a child, I used to read through these lyric sheets as I listened to the music. It provided astounding insights into how to tell stories, how to express views, and how to get the listener to think—sometimes without knowing what they were thinking about.

I especially loved songs of an ambiguous nature—songs with a meaning that was not apparent from a simple reading, songs with lyrics that dared you to plunge deeper.

For a while, I have been thinking of doing a series of hubs on lyrical themes but, until today, I have not had the time to sit and write it.

The first topic? Abortion.

Abortion is obviously a hot button issue.

Is it murder? Is it an issue of choice? Is it an issue that the government should be involved in at all? With so many perspectives, it should have come as no surprise that so many songs have been written that deal with the subject, one way or the other. A found two dominant perspectives when researching these songs: Personal stories, which explore the pros and cons of having (or not having) an abortion, and Political/Religious songs, which explore the issue of abortion from the perspective of religious or political convictions.

Here are a few examples:

Hear it here:

"Warm Sentiments" by Arrested Devlopment

According to songwriter Speech this song does not bear a pro-life nor a pro-choice message—the song is actually about a communication breakdown in a relationship: “The song is basically about relationships, about communication, as opposed to me trying to dictate what she does with that child.” (Kot, Greg. ([June 10, 1994] “Putting Hip-hop on the Rebound.” Chicago Tribune.)

A lyric sample:

"I feel cheated used, abused, misused.
Used, feeling the blues misconstrued.
The bond the trust we once had
Is not bad meaning good, but bad meaning bad.
What ever happened to manhood?
I try to be a man but you act like I’m a hood.
Getting an abortion like I ain't no damn good,
Like I can't raise a child the way a Nubian man should."

As Speech suggests, the song raises bigger issues, such as communications between couples and breaking down stereotypes. One of the more interesting songs written on the subject of abortion, even if the subject is a catalyst, rather than a focal point, of the song.

Hear it here:

"Brick" by Ben Folds Five

Ben Folds wrote this song about taking his high school girlfriend to have an abortion. The word abortion is never used and it would be easy to interpret the song a number of ways, were it not for Ben Folds himself: "People ask me what this song's about... I was asked about it a lot, and I didn't really wanna make a big hairy deal out of it, because I just wanted the song to speak for itself. But the song is about when I was in high school, me and my girlfriend had to get an abortion, and it was a very sad thing. And, I didn't really want to write this song from any kind of political standpoint, or make a statement. I just wanted to reflect what it feels like. So, anyone who's gone through that before, then you'll know what the song's about (Songfacts. ‘Brick” by Ben Folds Five).

A lyric sample:

“They call her name at 7:30
I pace around the parking lot
Then I walk down to buy her flowers
And sell some gifts that I got
Can't you see
It's not me you're dying for
Now she's feeling more alone
Than she ever has before.”

Personal songs, songs that tell a story and make no moral statement one way or the other tend to be the ones that stick with me and carry more weight than songs that make an overt statement, but, they all have their place.

Hear it here:

"Altering the Future" by Death

Death metal has never been a genre of music to stray from controversy. From their brutal artwork, to their often grotesque and violent lyrical content, it’s no surprise the late Chuck Schuldiner, the man often referred to as the father of the genre, chose to explore both capital punishment and abortion—two issues that are often inextricably linked—in this song.

A lyric sample:

“To exist in this world might be a mistake
The one who is with child, it's their choice to make

Death and life taken so easily
Right or wrong, whose choice will it be?

Abortion, when it is needed
Execution, for those who deserve it
The giving and taking of life will always be

Altering the future.”

While the lyrics are more political and the arguments are rather surfacy, I still applaud Death for using their music platform to share something with real meaning, or at least more meaning than overly violent imagery. The concept that each life and death has the opportunity to alter the future is intriguing.

Hear it here:

“Sara” by Fleetwood Mac

More than just sweet love songs and catchy AOR hits, Fleetwood Mac often touched upon controversial issues, including abortion. Don Henley stated years ago that this song was “[D]edicated to the spirit of the baby” that he and then girlfriend Stevie Nicks conceived together. Stevie Nicks than confirmed this, saying in September of 2014, that Henley’s account was accurate and adding “Had I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl I would have named her Sara.”

A lyric sample:

“Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, and don't you ever stop
Now it's gone
No it doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
I'll come by”

Another story, and another song that never mentions the word abortion yet is, at the very least, inspired by an abortion.

Hear it here:

“Slide” by Goo Goo Dolls

This song tells the all too common tale of a young girl faced with an unwanted pregnancy and faced with the dilemma of keeping the child or marrying the father. Her plight is compounded by her religious upbringing. Whether Slide is autobiographical or not, songwriter Johnny Rzeznik never says, but the emotion and tension in the song are palpable

A lyric sample:

“Don't you love the life you killed?
The priest is on the phone
Your father hit the wall
Your ma disowned you

Don't supposed I'll ever know
What it means to be a man
It's somethin' I can't change
I'll live around it.”

This is a song that most people (including yours truly) had any idea was dealing with the heavy topic of abortion. I always thought it was a good pop song about a young couple in love. That is the beauty of music.

“Papa Don’t Preach” Madonna

When Madonna isn’t skanking around in a wedding dress and pretending to be British (I’m clearly not a fan!), she can have moments of depth, including on this popular track from the 80’s. “[The song] just fit right in with my own personal zeitgeist of standing up to male authorities, whether it's the pope, or the Catholic Church or my father and his conservative, patriarchal ways. [...] For 'Papa Don't Preach' there were so many opinions – that's why I thought it was so great.” (Scaggs, Austin (October 29, 2009). "Madonna Looks Back: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone (Jann Wenner).)

A lyric sample:

"He says that he's going to marry me
We can raise a little family
Maybe we'll be all right
It's a sacrifice

But my friends keep telling me to give it up
Saying I'm too young, I ought to live it up
What I need right now is some good advice, please."

The way the narrator is both strong and needy is certainly intriguing. I grew up in a religious household, and I can only imagine how my parents would have reacted if I had knocked up one of my girlfriends.

Hear it here:

“Abortion is Murder” by P.O.D.

Like the title, this song is blatant in its meaning. There is nothing poetic or ambiguous about where Sonny Sandoval and P.O.D. stand on the subject of abortion. The lyrics below make this clear:

“Abortion is murder
There's nothing you can say or do
to justify the fact
That there's a living breathing baby inside of you “

To P.O.D., it’s a black and white issue with no room for debate. Whether or not one agrees with them, convictions are important, and are becoming rare in this increasingly gray world.

Hear it here:

“Bodies” by Sex Pistols

Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols were never ones to shy away from controversy, and “Bodies” is no exception. The song graphically depicts a young woman, apparently one residing in an insane asylum, contemplating an abortion. In 2007 on the VH1 program “Classic Albums”, Rotten further explained the meaning of the controversial song: "That song was hated and loathed. It's not anti-abortion, it's not pro-abortion. It's: ‘Think about it. Don't be callous about a human being, but don't be limited about a thing as "morals" either. Because it's immoral to bring a kid in this world and not give a toss about it.’"

A lyric sample:

“Dragged on a table in factory
Illegitimate place to be
In a packet in a lavatory
Die little baby screaming
Body screaming f*cking bloody mess
Not an animal
It's an abortion

Body! I'm not animal
Mummy! I'm not an abortion”

The track alternates between the perspective of “mummy” and the “body”, providing an intriguing interplay that is as shocking as it is thought provoking.

Hear it here:

“I blew up the Clinic Real Good” by Steve Taylor

The King of Christian Themed Satire, Steve Taylor, tops himself, and hackled some Christian feathers with this tune, which tells the story of an Ice cream vendor who bows up a nearby abortion clinic because it is robbing him of future customers.

A lyric sample:

“I'm the neighborhood ice cream man
So don't you mess this boy around
The other day when the clinic had it's local debut
Some chicks were trying to picket
The doctor threatened to sue
I don't care if it's a baby or a tissue blob
but if we run out of youngsters
I'll be out of a job”

Of course, Christians overreacted and assumed Taylor was being literal and advocating violence against abortion clinics. Abortion supporters, likewise, overacted prompting a support tour of Australia to be cancelled. Taylor’s thought provoking blend of tongue in cheek and irreverence is what makes him such an important figure in American music today, secular or otherwise.

Hear it here:

“Kitchenware and Candy bars” by Stone Temple Pilots

According to Scott Weiland (as reported on VH1 Storytellers), the song tells the story of an abortion dilemma that he and a former partner were faced with: “[A] painful and heartbreaking experience, when a former partner and I went through an abortion. It was a difficult choice for both of us. But thank God we were able to have that choice.”

A lyric sample:

“What I wanted is what I wanted
What I wanted is what she wanted

Unfriendly feelings, down on wounded knees
Unfriendly reasons, some blind mothers need

Sell me down the river, sell me down the river
Sell me down the river, sell me down the river”

Whereas Warm Sentiments depicts a communication breakdown, Kitchenware and Candy bars shows the opposite end of the spectrum, with a couple perfectly in concert with one another when facing a difficult choice.

Hear it here:

“Silent Scream” by Stutterfly

Hailing from Kelowna, BC, this scream quintet never shied away from controversy, covering topics from suicide, to domestic violence and, with “Silent Scream”, abortion.

A lyric sample:

“Can't take my life without a fight,
Don't kill my soul,
You have no right,
I feel, (I feel) the pain inside,
I see, tears in your eyes
I want, (I want) to see the light,
Mother, I say goodnight.

This heartbreaking song, spoken from the perspective of the unborn baby, clearly advocates a position that abortion is murder. Later lyrics in the song reference providing the child with the “choice to live.” Like the message or not, it’s hard not to applaud a band for covering a controversial issue.

Hear it hear:

“The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe

This is the song that launched the Verve Pipe to stardom. The song shares the heartbreaking story of a young woman whom commits suicide after having an abortion and being overcome by guilt. While the song is inspired by the real life suicide of singer Brian Vander Ark’s girlfriend, he says the abortion is aspect is largely fictional: “At the time I was dating a girl in college. We broke up and my friend dated her and then I went out with her again. We went back and forth. From there I came up with the story of her getting pregnant and having an abortion," Vander Ark said. "It started though with, by the way the girl is fine and not a bad thing happened; it was just coming up with that story, and the inspiration is alive.” (Brian Vander visits Gull Lake)

A lyric sample:

“When I was young I knew everything
And she, a punk who rarely ever took advice
Now I'm guilt-stricken, sobbin' with my head on the floor
Stopped a baby's breath and a shoe full of rice, no”

Regardless of the literal veracity of the song, the emotional truth is impossible to ignore. Regardless of whether one believes abortion is murder or not, the guilt and pain many feel after going through one is real. This song expresses that sentiment beautifully.

Hear it here:

“Candy Apple” by XDiscipleX AD

This Erie, Pennsylvania hardcore group was famous for their album covers drawn by renowned tattoo artist (and group vocalist) Dan Quiggle. Unabashedly straightedge and unabashaedly Christian, XDiscipleX was never subtle, and never afraid to share their beliefs with anyone who would listen.

A lyric sample:

“You refuse to listen

todays society bends and tears the truth

misinformed public abides with closed eyes

ignorance bleeds through my short sold life

This is one of the few songs that blends the political issues with the morality aspect. It’s certain an interesting blending, and a memorable song.

My Poetry Collection

In Conclusion

The abortion issue will always be polarizing. It’s not as simple choosing life, and it’s not as simple as whether or not abortion is murder. There are very few black and whites in this world, and very few universal truths. This montage of songs was selected in part to show that.

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Where do you stand on the abortion issue?

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1 comment

Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 14 months ago from Arkansas, USA

Hey, Justin, fascinating topic. I wouldn't have thought there were so many songs about abortion. I hadn't heard that "Brick" song in many, many years. I always liked it, but now knowing its history, listening to it was heart-wrenching. Full of so much angst. And "Slide"? And "Sara"? I had no idea. Marvelous hub, Justin. I hope you'll do more along this line.

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