Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why this Pro-Lifer Votes 'Pro-Choice' (for now)

I hope you don't mind if I share a thought on an issue (which is a realization that led me to shift my political stances significantly a few years ago).

I am heartily pro-life. In the past I had sometimes let that issue be the single issue that determined who I voted for. After all, killing babies is evil, so anyone who doesn't fight abortion must also be evil. But in light of the facts I've changed my mind.

I appreciate that there are a GREAT many arguments about when a baby becomes a baby...certainly in the first few hours or days after the sperm meets the egg it doesn't seem like much of a baby. A significant number of these joinings don't manage to implant in the uterus and are miscarried...sometimes this is the result of a birth control pill or an IUD or something like a morning-after-pill, and probably just as often it just happens naturally. I, personally, do not consider this to be an abortion. I think that morning after pills should be readily available to victims of rape and incest, and you know what, frankly, probably to anyone who wants them. A morning after pill taken the day after sex works the same way as a birth control pill taken the day before.
Once we get past implantation though, things change. Human babies have a heartbeat by about 5 weeks gestation (this is 1 week after mom has missed her period, or within a few days of when she gets a positive pregnancy test). I know plenty of people who will argue about whether the spirit/soul of the child is in there yet at this stage--the baby certainly doesn't look very human yet. [see image]
But a heartbeat seems to me to be a fair designation of "life." In other words, I think a baby is a baby by the time that mommy knows it is there.

Without equivocation, I affirm that I want to protect the lives of babies before they are born. I also state, equally vehemently, that I want to protect the lives of people of all ages after they are born. I think that someone who values life needs to value comprehensive healthcare and welfare programs for the impoverished, because every year far more people die preventable deaths outside of wombs than in them.

I really hate abortion, personally. I cannot imagine a circumstance where I would ever have one, nor would I ever advise a friend to do so.  BUT, currently our society has SO LITTLE support for poor parents, single parents, working mothers, etc that I have sympathy for why some women feel that they simply cannot have a(nother) baby. They can't afford the child, the diapers, the food, the clothes, the childcare, etc etc. Giving up babies to adoption is stigmatized, keeping a baby and raising it alone is stigmatized... it's a lose-lose-lose situation. Some of these women are married and simply feel they cannot afford another baby, or are afraid to bring a child into an abusive situation. I know we sensationalize stories about abortions for gender-selection and things like that, but those are such a small minority. The one person I have personally known who got an abortion did so because she had been drinking and using drugs at the time she conceived and she feared that her actions would harm the child for a lifetime. She considered abortion the humane choice. Whether anyone else agrees with her is not the point. The point is that she took the matter seriously, and was trying to make a moral choice from her perspective.

If we make abortion illegal, then women are still going to do it, but instead of going to doctors in clean offices they will be doing it with coat hangers in basements...that's what they were doing before 1972 and I have no hesitation in thinking they will do it again. Women used to die from those abortions. Yes, babies are dying now, but the death toll was twice as high when both baby and mother died. Making something illegal doesn't make it stop. Consider marijuana! Or the speakeasies during prohibition!

I would love to see the abortion rates go down in this country, but I don't think that overturning Roe vs Wade is the solution. In order to reduce the abortion rate, the first step is to reduce those unwanted pregnancies. This requires easy and affordable access to contraceptives for any woman who wants them. It requires reducing the cultural stigma that surrounds rape, so that women who are raped will not be afraid to go to the hospital (and get the morning after pill). It should include reducing rape--a good first step there would be to prosecute and punish more than 3 of every 100 rapists, or to even report more than the half that get reported currently. It also requires more comprehensive sex education for every young person in the country. I love the idea of having parents do this teaching, but since most of them don't, then it should be available in schools. (Abstinence is a great part of sex ed, but should never be the only thing taught, because there will always be kids who simply are not going to do it.)
Once we've reduced the number of unplanned pregnancies, there remains the question of how to address the ones that do happen. Here again, society needs to step up. These women and girls need to be supported. They need to know that if they have this baby, they will be able to afford those diapers and clothes, that food, that childcare. They need people around them who will help them through the pregnancy, birth, and parenting processes. If they choose to give the child up for adoption, they need to have the option of choosing the adoptive parents, having an open or closed adoption, or whatever else feels most comfortable to them. AND they need to be supported before, during, and after the adoptive process (I hear that giving up a child for adoption can feel very much like losing a child, and that intense grieving is normal, even for a mother who felt sure in her choice. If she felt pressured into it at all, I'm sure it is much worse.)

I am pro-life, but I believe that abortion needs to remain legal in this country, at least for now. I certainly support there being some limitations and restrictions, but until the social structure and support is in place for these women and girls, I find it counter-productive to try to make abortion entirely illegal. There is a letter here which provides an excellent example of someone who is trying to work on that social support (I know it's long, but it is really really good). It is one tiny step and we have so much further to go, but it is heading in the right direction. My hope (and my vote) go toward supporting the social policies that will reduce the unplanned pregnancies, and support those who have them: it is the most pro-life option I can think of.

1 comment:

Sarah Familia said...

I love this, Jenni! You've captured essentially how I believe and vote also.

Linked Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...