Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pro-Choice NOT Pro-Abortion

(Before I get to today's post, just want to say to those of you who have been frustrated by trying to comment on my blog unsuccessfully -- and that would include me -- I have switched to a pop-up format, which seems to be working. If it doesn't work, please let me know via email: emilymb95 at gmail dot com. Thanks!)

So, today, on U.S. election day, I want to make something perfectly clear to those sorts of politicians who seem to think that all they have to do is say something to make it true. I am pro-choice. I am not, nor have I ever been pro-abortion. Just because you want to call me pro-abortion does not mean that I am. The fact that this country, with all its money and resources, does not have a lower abortion rate is very sad. I'm ashamed of us (which, by the way, does not mean I don't love my country any more than it meant I didn't love my parents when they used to shame me by wearing outfits in public that I thought were hopelessly "uncool").

I know that there will always be some unwanted pregnancies (no form of birth control is 100% accurate), and there will always be some pregnancies that end in abortion because the mother's life is in danger or because the baby will not live if brought to term, but for 22% of all known pregnancies to end in legal abortions is tragic. We should be doing everything we possibly can to lower that statistic. And let me give you a little hint here: teaching teenagers abstinence as a preventative measure isn't going to work. It's like sticking a box of candy in front of a young child (or even in front of many adults, for that matter), telling him or her not to eat any, and then walking away.

So, if I'm not pro-abortion, what am I? I don't know. Some might call me pro-long-lasting marriage. You see, I don't happen to believe that marriage is easy. I don't happen to believe it should be taken lightly. I don't happen to believe that just because a sixteen-year-old girl has found herself pregnant that she and her sixteen-year-old boyfriend are ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage and child-rearing (as a matter of fact, if they've found themselves in this situation, that's pretty much proof that they're not real good at thinking through the consequences of their actions). Let's face it, those of us who were in love with boyfriends and girlfriends at age sixteen thought we were in be-all, end-all relationships, didn't we? These were the loves of our lives. We'd get married and live happily ever after. How many of you today think that you could have married that person and had it last past the age of 20? I know, it does work for some, but those are few and far between. And who suffers most in those unhappy marriages? The children.

Or maybe you could call me pro-life of the baby. I don't believe that all babies have the same opportunities. Some babies are born into extreme poverty and never grow up. Some babies are born to drug-addicted parents, are neglected, and never grow up. Some babies are physically abused and die at the hands of their own parents. Some babies become victims of incest and venereal disease. Just because a baby makes it from conception to birth does not guarantee life. My guess is that unwanted babies run a higher risk of falling into these categories than loved and wanted babies do. And what do we do to take care of them, to make sure they get the chance to grow up, to help keep them from becoming violent members of society themselves? If abortion is going to be illegal, I want to see some sort of system in place in which our society takes complete responsibility for all unwed mothers, all victims of incest, all victims of rape, all unwanted children, all children who go to bed hungry at night, all children who are more familiar with a fist than a hug, etc. Until then, please don't keep dragging out your examples of people who are "so glad their moms, rape/incest victims, didn't choose to abort them." Because you know what? I've met others in my life who have lived through untold horrors, and who have told me they wish their mothers had aborted them.

Then again, possibly I'm pro-life-of-the-mother. In case you are unaware of what it's like to live in a country in which safe, legal abortions are not available, may I suggest you go do a little research? Maybe read a little? Take a look at what was going on in back alleys before Roe v. Wade. Find out how many women, when abortion is illegal, die trying "do-it-yourself" methods, how many die visiting less-than-sanitary "facilities," oh yes, and how many die at the hands of men who didn't think about the fact they didn't want another baby until the woman showed up pregnant.

Oh, and speaking of men, abortions need to be safe and legal until we live in a society in which men take equal responsibility for unwanted pregnancies, rather than disappearing, leaving the woman to care for the child. It needs to be a society in which men are labeled "tramps" and "whores" and are looked down on when they father a child out of wedlock. And it needs to be a society in which laws against rape are strictly enforced, a society in which thirteen-year-old girls do not become pregnant by their fathers and stepfathers. This society also needs to be one in which all women have equal access to affordable health care and birth control. While we're at it, all babies and children need equal access to affordable health care, too. It needs to be a society in which women don't have to make choices between work and childcare. It needs to be one in which we don't merely give lip service to caring about children but actually care about them.

Unfortunately, I don't see anyway that our society can possibly support making abortion illegal. Thus, I am pro-choice. But don't tell me I am not pro-life. I just happen to believe that life continues after birth and that, rather than arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal, our energies ought to be focused on doing everything we can to make sure that every single child who is born is wanted and loved and cared for by somebody.


Anonymous said...

And I second everything you just said. Great post, Emily.

ZoesMom said...

Really well put. If you were giving a speech I would be cheering you on and clapping wildly.

Anonymous said...

Like always, I'd love a combined survey to show how many people can say in the same sentence that they are pro-life and pro-capital-punishment; or pro-life and pro-war; or pro-life and pro no health care for the unemployed.

I am overly cynical, but I am sure that if pro-life activists knew the proportion of non-white children that would result from a total ban on abortion, they'd think twice.

Emily Barton said...

MFS, glad to be "seconded." (You'd make a good Presbyterian.)

ZM, oh, if it were a speech, I'd be completely tongue-tied, and you'd be wondering what on earth I was going on about. Thank goodness for a virtual world in which I get virtual cheers and wild clapping!

Mandarine, hear, hear! I'm often saying, "Pro-life, until the abused and neglected child becomes a serial killer, and then we want death row." And I don't think you're being the least bit cynical when you point out the proportion of non-white children. I remember when I went to my first pro-choice rally and was met with women carrying "Don't want them? Let me adopt them!" signs. My thoughts? "Yeah, right. As long as they are healthy, little white babies, and not six-year-old, former crack-addicted (through their mothers), ADHD black babies with all kinds of other behavorial problems."

Anonymous said...

Bravo! I can't help but feel that if it were men who had to have children born from rape, or children with severe defects, or simply children conceived whilst abusing drugs and born into families without the income to support them, I simply don't think the question would arise. For me, it's all bound up with a sanctified image of women as carers. No matter what. But that simply won't fit reality.

raych said...

*deep breath*

I am a whole-hearted, Bible-thumpy Christian, but I am also quite aggressively pro-choice and pro-legalize-gay-marriage, which are our two hot buttons. I feel like they're both tied together because WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH? (not you, Emily, but you, other Christians)

Do you think that by taking away the right to safe, legal abortions that you are saving lives? Just as many unborn babies will die, and more mothers! Making something illegal doesn't make it stop happening (this is where I segue into the gay-marriage thing because do you think that by preventing them from getting married, you are making them less gay? Which do you have a problem with, their sexual preferences or them having the same rights as you?)

But back to the abortion thing. Every woman should have the right to make an INFORMED choice about whether or not she wants to have an abortion. This means she has to hear the baby's heartbeat, understand the physical and emotional ramifications TO HERSELF, and still decide to do this. None of this 'terminating a tissue mass' shit, you need to KNOW what you're doing, and how it will fuck you up later. It is the government's job to make sure that every woman has the right to legally and safely get an abortion.

ON THE OTHER HAND!!! Every woman should have the right to choose to KEEP IT, and this is the choice we neglect. 13-year-old baby-mamas with no family support don't have, in any accurate sense of the word, a CHOICE to keep their babies. A friend of mine who's baby-daddy left when he found out she was pregnant (and who was totally willing to keep the baby and start a family if he'd stuck around) didn't have the choice to bring the baby to term and raise it by her poor, uneducated self. She also didn't know that even now, years later, pregnant women still make her cry. Every woman who finds herself in an 'accidentally pregnant' situation should have the choice to bring the baby to term and adopt it out into a loving family, or to raise it herself with the support of the community.

This is where Christians have failed. How can we point our holier-than-thou fingers at teenage parents and victims of rape and, yes, even girls who just didn't take precautions and partied too hard, and tell them that this one mistake is going to cost them the rest of their lives unless we are willing to shoulder some of that burden? Everyone who is rabidly anti-abortion should have two or three adopted children. If I am going to say Please don't kill that baby, I also need to be willing to say, I will take it for you, no matter what your reasons are or its problem is. I am white and middle-class and have great parents and a loving husband. I can have a baby now, so I'll take yours and you go back to high school and get a real job and when you're ready, you have your own babies. You have your own babies and do it with an easy conscience and a healthy mind, because I will take care of this one that you couldn't.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Emily.
I saw a banner on a church five or six years ago that read "Life: Nature's Choice." The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. The subtext, of course, is that abortion (or "anti-life" if you will) is against nature. Where shall we begin with this? Are all things that are "natural" automatically to be desired? Are then to push away all things that do not appear to be the "choice" of "nature"? Let's leave for the moment the ridiculous proposition that "nature" is some sort of cognitive entity (and not a complex of interconnected entities) that makes something like a "choice."
What really bothers me about the sign and the underlying attitude is the way "life" becomes fetishized. In making life a fetish, something that is cherished as an argumentative strategy, the signmakers paradoxically diminish life, and it loses its real existence to hover in a sort of rhetorical purgatory. In making life the only thing valued by nature, the signmakers forget that death is also an important part of nature--absolutely as important as life, for without death there can be no life. Both life and death are part of nature.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, oh yes, I'm sure it does have lots to do with the sanctified notion of women as carers.

Sara, thank you!

Raych, oh yes, wouldn't it be nice if there were centers all over the country where unwed mothers and their babies would get extended care and support until they were ready to be out on their own (no matter how long that might be)? And if people were really, truly willing to raise children who weren't their own? We fall down in so many, many ways when it comes to caring for children in this society.

Sara, thanks!

Hobs, amen. It's like the bumper sticker I once saw: "God is Pro-Life." All I could think was "pro-whose-life, if God is responsible for all life?" After all, cancer cells are alive. They also happen to be natural. And if God is pro-life, having the powers God is supposed to have, wouldn't death be nonexistent? As you say, both life and death are natural. And then, of course, there are those "natural abortions," otherwise known as miscarriages. It would seem nature is responsible for those.

Anonymous said...

Amen Emily, amen.