In recent weeks, issues concerning reproductive rights and family planning have once again been thrust to the forefront of the so-called “culture wars” here in the United States. One aspect of this has been a renewed effort in several states to curb, if not eliminate altogether, a woman’s access to an abortion. All of this has caused me to engage in my own personal reflections, re-examining how I feel about the volatile issues surrounding abortions.
I think perhaps many of those fighting in the Pro-Life Movement make a serious mistake, in that they often assume that women casually choose to undergo abortions, giving it as much consideration as, say, choosing to dye their hair a different color or buying a new dress. Without making any sort of sweeping generalization, from what I have heard & read, and from women I have talked to, the majority of those who terminated a pregnancy did not do so casually. There was a certain amount of emotional uncertainty and pain involved in choosing that course of action. (Of course, there are exceptions, and I have also met a few women who apparently just shrugged it off.)
My point is that many of those who are Pro-Choice, who support a woman’s right to end an unwanted pregnancy, do recognize that it is a serious choice with a potentially great deal of physical and mental fallout involved.
How do I personally feel about abortion? That’s a tricky question. To be completely honest, the idea makes me uncomfortable. At times very uncomfortable. Cutting right to the chase, a fetus is an organic, living object. Does it qualify as a human being? I honestly do not know. But the thought of killing something that is definitively alive, that has the potential to grow into a human being, very much unsettles me. And at times I do wonder if abortion really is a morally palatable decision.
I especially feel that way regarding late-term or partial-birth abortions. My main reason for opposing a ban on them is that I fear it would lead to a legislative slippery slope that could see the outlawing of other forms of abortion.
So why am I Pro-Choice at all? Because, simply put, I feel abortion can be the lesser of two evils.
I see it as terribly unjust to force a woman to endure an unwanted pregnancy, especially one caused by rape or incest, or one where prenatal tests reveal that the unborn child is afflicted with some sort of physical or mental disorder. I also feel it is wrong to force a woman to have a child when she is financially and/or emotionally unable to provide for that child. Our world already has millions of unwanted children living in poverty, barely surviving from one day to the next, leading terrible lives we cannot conceive of. Should even more future children be forced into such dire circumstances?
Additionally, many foes of abortion are also simultaneously opposed to any other family planning services, such as teaching sex education in schools and enabling women easy access to contraception. There is a solidly puritanical streak to this segment of the Pro-Life movement, believing that sex should only take place in a marriage, and solely for the purposes of procreation. I respect these people’s rights to their religious beliefs; what I am offended by is their efforts to impose them upon the rest of American society. Besides, their objections to sex education and birth control are simply unrealistic in the 21st Century. They are actually more likely to lead to further unwanted pregnancies and, in turn, increased numbers of abortions.
But my primary reason for supporting access to abortion is that I am revolted by the fact that many self-proclaimed Pro-Life figures and groups simply do not give a damn about a child once it is actually born. I’m reminded of that old joke, namely “Republicans believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.” So many of the politicians who decry abortion the loudest are the ones cutting social services, blocking access to health care, and eliminating funding to education. The message appears to be, “Once you’re out of the womb, kiddo, you’re on your own for the rest of your life. Good luck, you’ll need it!”
As much as abortion unsettles me, I am even more uncomfortable with the idea of the government telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her body, with forcing her to give birth to an unwanted child, something that will literally change her entire life.
And I am also Pro-Choice because, at the end of the day, I am a man, not a woman. I will never be able to conceive a child or give birth. I will never be able to truly understand how a pregnant woman feels. And for that reason, despite my very strong misgivings concerning abortion, I feel I cannot tell a woman what to do in that situation.