Monday, October 20, 2008

"No One is Pro-Abortion"

“No one is pro-abortion.” I think I did a happy dance when I heard Barack Obama say these words during the last presidential debate. “Finally!” I said out-loud to the empty room. I’m so tired of hearing so-called pro-lifers calling me and mine “pro-abortion” when I am “pro-choice.” Those who are anti-choice and anti-abortion call their position “pro-life,” as if being against a woman’s right to have an abortion makes up for being pro-death in every other area, which is often the case (pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-gun, anti-environment, etc.), and call those of us who believe in that right “pro-abortion” because we must be actively and enthusiastically encouraging women to have abortions. If I heard John McCain say “pro-abortion” one more time I was going to reach through that TV and bitch-slap his privileged little straight-white-Christian-male face.

Branding us “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice” is a significant semantic difference that effectively paints us as a bunch of amoral, soulless, heartless feminazis jumping for joy every time a woman decides to rip her poor defenseless little baby from her uterus and kill it. That’s what “pro-abortion” says on a subconscious level. “Pro-choice” is very different. It says we believe a woman needs to have the right to choose whatever option is best for her, to privately consult with her health care provider, friends, family, faith community (if she has one), and her own conscience. It says that women’s bodies are more than mere vessels to be regulated by the government. It says that your religious beliefs should not govern my body. If you are Catholic and believe that life begins at conception, you should have the right to choose adoption or parenthood. If you believe that at 6 or 7 weeks into development, an embryo is not much more than a clump of tissue and has no feelings or soul, and you feel comfortable having an abortion, that should be your choice to make.

As a 13-14 year old girl, I was indoctrinated with some of the most heinous anti-choice literature out there. My step-mother would bring me pamphlets that described how little aborted babies were being thrown alive into buckets, and at the end of the day they sealed the lid on all the little babies and suffocated them. It would keep me awake at night. At just 14 years old, I spent all day on a bus travelling with a bunch of strangers to D.C. to march in a pro-life rally. I remember being 18 years old in my first year at a Christian university and hearing a few senior girls (of course from the Theatre department—they were always the most liberal) talk about being pro-choice, and not being able to fathom a person calling herself a Christian and saying she’s okay with abortion. I couldn’t reconcile that.

Somewhere along the way I began to grow up, to learn more, to develop a feminist consciousness. I began to think critically about a number of issues, and recognize complexity and ambiguity where it exists. I realized that belief in souls and whether a fertilized egg has one is based on a religious belief that not all in this country share. I realized that being anti-abortion means means saving embryos and fetuses at the expense of women's lives. Several years later, while attending one of the most liberal colleges in the country—an extreme contrast from my first college experience, to say the least—I heard a young woman speaking with such hatred toward people who are pro-life and I was taken aback. I realized at that point that both extremes are hurtful and lack depth of understanding. I have been fortunate enough not to have ever been personally faced with such a decision, not for lack of irresponsible dumb-ass twenty-something behavior once upon a time, I assure you. I have, however, heard first-hand from a number of friends about their experiences. I can say that all of my friends who have made the decision to have an abortion maintain years later that it was the right decision for them to make.

I believe it is possible to be personally pro-life while being politically pro-choice. I believe that beautiful, intelligent, spiritual women can choose abortion and feel good and right about that decision. I believe many women are conflicted about the decision to abort and suffer emotionally and spiritually after having an abortion. I believe it’s never a good thing for a woman (or a girl) to be faced with such a decision, regardless of the outcome. I believe most people who take a pro-life position are well-meaning people with good hearts. I also believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental to our freedom and personhood. And I believe that anyone who doesn’t feel just a little bit of ambivalence, regardless of their position, is being overly simplistic, uncritical, and ideologically zealous.


Lisa said...

Amazingly wonderful, eloquent post, dear Persephone! THANK YOU for putting this out there and reiterating what so many of us feel needs to be expressed much more openly and frequently these days.

SG said...

Here here! I second what Lisa stated. It's been a long, rough day in this regard.

Caroline said...

I for sure did a happy dance. Not a single (halfway normal) person is pro-abortion. Instead, what we are is pro-choice.

I always tell people that I am about 95% pro-life. But that 5 percent, that small part of me comes from this: Explain to me how you tell your thirteen-year-old daughter that she has to have her daddy's baby because while he is a sick fuck, you're pro-life and that's the way things are .... ??

Yes, we need to be responsible for our sexual choices. But to abolish a law that gives women a choice to conduct the inner workings of their bodies -- that's absurd.

What's more, I am not speaking for the 30-year-old, educated woman who can handle raising a child, but chooses not to because it is "inconvenient." I'm speaking for the woman who got raped on the street and is being told she's a scumbag for wanting to abort the baby of the piece of shit who impregnated her.

Until you've walked in HER shoes -- you have no say in this matter.