To post in its entirety on my blog a debate I got involved in over Facebook regarding a woman’s right to choose?
Maybe! But here it is. Comments are certainly welcome. I think this is an interesting issue and I got a lot out of engaging in this debate.
I’d like to address the abortion issue.
I find the idea that a woman’s right to choose is a ‘silly euphemism’, very disturbing. No human right should ever be taken so lightly.
I personally don’t know if I could ever have an abortion, because I realize that it must be extremely psychologically painful and upsetting, and it is not a choice I would like to have to live with for the rest of my life. BUT I would like it to be a choice that is there for me to make. I would like to be trusted as an individual to make that kind of choice for myself.
There are enough unwanted children in this world– is a woman who would have aborted her baby if given the chance going to morph into a good parent because she is forced to keep it? Enough wanted children are abused and neglected as it is.
I strongly believe that abortion should be an option– but that does not make me ‘pro-abortion’. It makes me pro-choice. I don’t like abortion– I like options. And I disagree with the idea that if abortion is illegal, woman will just work harder not to get pregnant. Trust me, we work DAMN hard at it. If abortions are made illegal, desperate pregnant women– whose unwanted pregnancies trap them in abusive marriages, or keep them in poverty– will be forced to resort to more dangerous alternatives.
Why should you, as a male, have full jurisdiction over your own body under any circumstances, but if I become pregnant (by accident, or rape) my body becomes a gestation chamber– and my own life, as an adult, must suddenly capitulate and be ruled by some fertilized cells that have existed for a matter of weeks? How can you rank those cells above me, and what I want? They are in MY body, and being nourished by my body. This is not your decision to make.
I think that I should have the right to judge what is best for me under any circumstances.
This is a certainly a difficult topic, but a couple quick, hopefully non-vitriolic points:
1) “Why should you, as a male, have full jurisdiction over your own body under any circumstances, but if I become pregnant (by accident, or rape) my body becomes a gestation chamber– and my own life, as an adult, must suddenly capitulate and be ruled by some fertilized cells that have existed for a matter of weeks.”
It may sound crass to you, but the life of human beings are characterized by physical necessity. A man no less than a woman must endure the hardships of having a body and all that entails. That women have the particular potency of childbirth is both a blessing and a hardship. That’s the way it is. Nothing we do can change that, and I think it is dangerous, metaphysically speaking, to think of this as injustice.
For you are yourself, “cells.” But you are of course, much more than that, and that is the whole point. You ask how these subordinate cells could be “ranked” above your own. But the whole argument hinges on whether we are willing to “rank” human life itself. And I say emphatically that I am not.
2) As far as choice, it is a choice. It is a choice between something natural and beautiful (that, yes, due to human proclivities can become horrible and miserable, as your examples of desperate women elucidate) and something heinous that should be unacceptable to a civilized society that respects human rights. Never is the latter more desirable than the former.
For me, the very categories of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are detestable. For us to congratulate Sarah Palin, for example, for her “choice” to have her child, is unfortunate. For that means that we (“pro-lifers”) have adopted the language of choice that presumes that either option is equally good and valid. And that is, quite simply, a euphamization of reality.
I agree with you that the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are reductionist misnomers. However, in my view, this is because people who cast themselves as my opponants because they are “pro-life” implies that I am not in favor of life, and that I am in fact “pro-death”—which is not true. I consider myself to be pro-life as well, except the life in question that I want to protect is the life that must consider whether or not to bring another life into the world—that is, the life of the woman.
It’s true that I am also cells. You may be outraged at the idea of ranking human life—and I understand this. But when it comes to the rights of a woman versus the rights of one of her fertilized eggs, as someone who recognizes the consequences of giving birth to an unwanted child, I will sooner uphold the rights of the woman.
I agree with you that having a child is ‘natural and beautiful’—but that ‘due to human proclivities it can become horrible’. Ideally, every child that is conceived is going to be wanted and cared for by those who have conceived it. However, you and I both know that we do not live in an ideal world. Further, I don’t believe that by deciding our laws based on those elevated standards, we will make people live up to them. If that is your view I understand that it is well-intentioned, even though I think it is unrealistic.
I also feel that there are too many children in the world who have been born into households of violence and misery—and that it is THEY who will benefit most from the passionate defense and aid of dedicated people like us. Working with children whose mothers fled to escape domestic violence, which I have done for years, is to me a better way to protect and promote the sanctity of life. These children did not choose to grow up in dangerous and scary environments, but they did, and they will benefit FAR more from my protection and care than an early, unwanted pregnancy will.
All very fair.
I do find the notion of “life” in this context strange. When pressed, the early feminists (the biggest proponents of abortion) put up the life of a fetus–theoretical– up against the “life” of the woman. They basically suggest that when a woman has a child, she “dies”; she “loses her life” and now must care for another, constantly encumbered.
I find this telling. Rather than see the raising of children as fulfilling, these women saw it as a biological tyranny.
Anyway, I was the seventh of nine children, and it would certainly be accurate to describe the life I was born into as one of “violence and misery.” But I am certainly better for it. (First, for existing in the first place; and second, for learning early about life’s difficulties.)
I think that the early feminists had a point, considering the times they lived in. Before the beginning of the feminist movement, women were not expected to make anything of themselves, besides mothers. Once they had children, their chances of doing anything else with their lives, except parenting, were probably small. And even today, I agree with the spirit of their argument — it’s not that your life ends, if you have a child. But your life as you have always lived it changes irrevocably. Men still have the option (although it is deplorable) of disappearing and shirking fatherhood. It is not as easy for a woman to abandon her baby (although statistically, it is certainly not unheard of). Really, though, every person has the right to their view of abortion. Each individual’s circumstances and perspectives are different.
I would be curious to know whether your parents, having had nine children, were also against abortion? My parents were always pro-choice. It is interesting to see how whether a person tends to hold the same opinions on these kinds of topics as their parents do. They don’t always, of course. But I think it is a factor.
Certainly, having been born, you are the better for it! I don’t think there’s a person on the planet that truly believes it would have been better if they’d been aborted. But frankly, there’s no way to know, either way. That is the problem with an irreversible decision— there is never absolute confirmation that you made the right choice. There’s no “It’s a Wonderful Life” montage to show you both scenarios. This reality, and the ‘what-ifs’ it conjures, could haunt you forever.
Thus, the choice to abort must be an extremely difficult one, and any woman considering it likely asks herself a number of agonizing questions. (If she doesn’t, what kind of parent does she promise to be?) What if I am aborting the next Mozart? She might worry. What if the fertilized egg I’m harboring could become a scientist who cures cancer? Worst, what if my parents had decided to abort ME? This last is a question that I think is particularly troubling to those who are strongly opposed to abortion. The idea that you could have been aborted is a terrifying one for anyone. It can scare you to the core. If abortion is illegal, then you don’t have to bother hypothesizing about it anymore. It is an easy way to stamp out a frightening concept.
When I was around 25, I found myself in a stable, loving relationship with a boy I trusted. I had an apartment and a job that paid the bills. It slowly dawned on me that were I to become pregnant, I could conceivably (ha ha) have the baby and—just barely—afford to raise it. After all, other women my age were having families. My boyfriend would have to drop out of school, and I would probably have a very hard time focusing on the writing career I wanted, but it would be doable. I could no longer justify the idea of abortion as an option for myself by for reasons like, “I’m too young, I am broke, I don’t want to be tied to the guy”. Granted, I still thought those things to a certain extent, but they were less convincing arguments to me at that point. It was almost enough to make me stop having sex, because although I still didn’t want the responsibility of a child, I knew I could probably handle it. Would that mean that, given an unexpected pregnancy, I HAD to?
Ultimately I realized that whatever happened to me, it would be my responsibility to rely on my own judgment, weigh my options and circumstances, and make an informed decision—just like I did in every other area of my life. The idea that my government would not trust me with this decision-making ability, in this crucial area, is absolutely terrifying. Having a baby is an enormously important, personal, and life-changing event. No sort of prohibitive legislation, no matter how comprehensive, could ever do justice to the complexities of the issue. Banning the option of abortion implies that women are unable to govern their own bodies and lives in one of the most important ways they have. If we aren’t granted that right, then it reduces the other rights we have to meaningless euphemisms.
September 20, 2008 at 12:20 am
Don’t even get me started…
I suggest you go here: http://myabortion.tumblr.com/.
The pro-choice debate does not need to include so-called admissions that life is beautiful, pregnancy is a blessing, abortion is a tough and emotionally detrimental decision. It doesn’t have to be like that. We (pro-choicers) do not have to let the religious right rhetoric about abortion make it something that it’s not. There are now studies that show that just because you had an abortion you carry with you a life time of guilt and remorse for your dead baby.
Perhaps I’m being crass now.
But here’s the thing that gets me. These “people,” the ones who do not believe that you or I deserve to make our own choices, fail to recognize that it’s not you or I who will suffer. Yes, we’ll suffer the repercussions of a law that favors progression turned over, but the real losers in this debate will be the women who cannot afford to go to Canada to get their abortions, the woman who do not have affordable birth control options, the women who, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, would be forced to seek out unsafe and illegal abortions. You and I, for the most part, will be just fine and dandy. If you can call access to choices that reach outside these borders “fine and dandy.”
The thing is, the anti-choicers don’t seem to understand that they don’t actually have to have an abortion. They don’t have to entertain the idea. They can sit around and think all they want about the rest of us “sinners” or whatever. Choice doesn’t mean “ABORTIONS ALL AROUND;” it’s not freaking happy hour. But what they should not be able to do is force their beliefs and “morals” and bullshit on to the rest of us. You know what anti-choice equals? Dead women, dead babies, unsafe medical procedures, black market procedures, and more unwanted babies on welfare. And if the right hates anything more than abortion, it’s people on welfare.
This IS NOT and SHOULD NOT be a middle class debate.
Whoever this is on facebook, I would delete them from your friend list. Fucking facebook.
September 20, 2008 at 1:53 am
Hi Lou! I’m so glad you commented!
They’re definitely not my friend– I don’t even know them. I was spurred into the abortion debate by their assertion, in the course of a debate with an actual friend of mine, that ‘a woman’s right to choose is a silly euphemism’. That’s what really made me jump into the fray.
I agree with you that abortion doesn’t have to be this emotionally fraught decision or a painful, life-altering choice. It could be- or it could just be a relatively benign choice not to have a child. My soul-searching arguments were partly my attempt to meet the ideas of an anti-abortionist in the middle. It blows my mind (now, during this election, more than ever) that my views can be so absolutely opposed to another educated, intelligent person’s views. I think that engaging in this debate was in some sense a way for me to think long and hard about the arguments posed to me by an anti-abortionist, and the reasons, deep down, that I disagreed with those arguments. I wish that there were more issues on which people can meet in the middle.
(I also agree with you, by the way, that this is not something that will mainly affect the middle class).
I did feel, in the course of our debate, that we were both acknowledging the other’s view points, which is why it was a satisfying debate for me. However, it ended with my last argument, and the person on the opposing side never responded to that last argument.
Of course, this made me go “I got the last word! I win!” Because I’m so mature.
September 20, 2008 at 7:39 pm
I’m glad I didn’t offend you. After I pressed “send” I was like “uh… maybe I got a little too out of control.”
I totally agree with you… and Facebook seems to be fueling this for me… but I am shocked at the number of people (many from high school who live in the backasswards heartland, but still some of us so-called enlightened city folk) who are “supporters” of McCain/Palin. It’s frightening because I ASSUME everyone else, at least everyone else my age, knows that McCain is a women-hating warmonger and Palin is nothing but a tool, a faux-feminist brought in to rally the evangelicals, the young, and middle-aged white women who still feel burned about Hillary. Talk about killing birds with only one stone.
I realize that this election, more than any other, keeps pushing me to become more and more judgmental about those who do not see my point of view. Here’s the thing… I respect a person who wants to be a republican because they don’t like taxes, they want smaller government, blah blah blah. I don’t agree with those view either, but I can respect them. But this new religious right that has emerged and forced the issues to be about morals and family values I cannot, I will not respect. And more and more, these “Republicans” are voting to overturn Roe v. Wade; to keep “under God” in the pledge of allegiance; to teach creationism in public classrooms, etc. ad naseaum.
Also, I realized I wrote this:
There are now studies that show that just because you had an abortion you carry with you a life time of guilt and remorse for your dead baby.
When I meant this:
There are now studies that show that just because you had an abortion you DO NOT NECESSARILY carry with you a life time of guilt and remorse for your dead baby.
Just wanted to be clear.
Haha! I think you won too 🙂
September 22, 2008 at 10:11 pm
You know what’s always terrified me the most about “the day I would need an abortion”? Wondering who I could possibly trust with that information afterward. For the rest of your life, you get to have a secret — and if that secret gets into the wrong hands, friendships can be bitterly lost, your life can be threatened. Also, the thought that, once you have one, the door to using that option ever again closes. “What if I would *then* need a second one, even like ten years later?” I’ve thought. “Even ‘pro-choicers’ would use me as a terrible example of irresponsibility, ‘choice gone wrong’.”
I’m completely with Lou. We need to stop using the “pro-life” rhetoric, embracing their Hallmark baby announcement terms describing the sanctity of potential human life. And we need to recognize that, legal or not, abortions will happen. The decision is not “do we allow abortions or not?” because that concern is laughably irrelevant, ungovernable. The question is “do we want the women to die too, in some unsanitary questionable procedure?”
September 24, 2008 at 11:23 pm
I had a roommate in college who, as a child, would picket Plan Parenthood with her parents and then when we were in college would go to the same place for free birth control.
I always found this deeply hypocritical, but I feel that she was not the only “conservative” minded friend who did something like this. Many people who will vote for the republican party time and time again will condemn “pro choice” friendly places until they need them. Not to mention, the conservative party would most likely cut spending for public health care programs so that contraceptives are much less accessible.