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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

It's Blog for Choice Day!

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

It's Blog for Choice Day!

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can of worms
Today is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that protected women's legal right to reproductive choice. I am pro-choice, and this is an important issue to me. I'm one of those voters for whom it is a dealbreaker: I will not vote for a politician who is anti-choice.

The reason is pretty straightforward: I think I am worth the right to choose what to do with my own body. I find the anti-choice mentality quite insulting, honestly, on several levels.

First is that my life is of equal or lesser value than that of a fetus. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. I have spent decades making my life and relationships what they are. I do work that I believe is important, both as a teacher and an artist. I am not the equal of an unborn clump of cells; I find the very idea insulting.

I am more than a vessel for a fetus. I am more than a source of "food and climate control" (the infamous Todd Akin's view of what pregnancy entails) for a potential future life. My impact on the world is and will continue to be greater than my ability to reproduce.

Second is that I am capable of making my own moral and ethical decisions. I do not need someone else's religion, god, morals, or beliefs to make my decisions for me. Anti-choicers like to project the aura that they've a monopoly on thoughtful consideration of the ethics surrounding abortion. They don't. I remember debating abortion with my best friend in middle school. I was "pro-life" then. I soon came to realize that being pro-life--for I am truly pro-life, unlike people who would outlaw abortion while defending the death penalty, unregulated access to firearms, and the next war--meant supporting safe, legal access to abortion for all women. One cannot be pro-life and support policies that promote back-alley abortions, deadly home abortions, higher maternal mortality rates, increased birthrates in countries where food and water shortages are already pressing issues, and decreased access to contraception (which results in a higher abortion rate). One cannot be pro-life and simultaneously against universal health care and food assistance for children and families.

That those who label themselves "pro-life" so rarely consider the disconnect between their relentless defense of the rights of fetuses and their disdain for the lives of people who have actually been born suggests that, far from having the most enlightened perspective, theirs is actually quite shallow. Most of them will cite religion as the reason for their beliefs yet probably cannot cite a single passage from the Bible in support of that belief. (Whereas I--not even a Christian--can point to several reminding them of their obligation to the poor and defenseless born human beings among us.)

I want the best possible world for all the living beings on the planet. I am willing to work and do my part to make that world a possibility. I believe that that is a world where life is truly treasured: It is wanted and it is protected and nurtured and allowed to reach its fullest potential. It is not simply the outcome of a biological trajectory.

That is why I am pro-choice.



This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/309712.html
  • *applauds*

    I have nothing to add to this, except that I also define myself as "pro-life" and resent the appropriation of that label by people who define it solely in terms of controlling women's reproductive choices.
    • When I debated my friend about abortion in middle school, it was based less on my actual knowledge of the issue but more of my wanting to embrace the term "pro-life." Because I did truly think of myself that way! I was an animal rights activist and environmentalist, and I truly believed that all lives had value.

      It didn't take long to realize that preserving the lives of fetuses quite often came at the expense of the lives of those who have already been born, and I couldn't roll with that. So that's when I started calling myself "pro-choice," although I personally feel that I have more pro-life cred than the vast majority of those who would outlaw abortion do.

      Thanks for the link--that article says it perfectly and is definitely a welcome addition to my collection. :) If you didn't see it today, the NYT Opinion piece I linked in my post, Leeches, Lye and Spanish Fly, was a really good and eye-opening read.
    • (no subject) - aliana1 - Expand
    • (no subject) - huinare - Expand
  • Brava! That is an excellent way of expressing something that I also hold dear. The right to make one's own informed decisions and to hold living beings as valuable beyond their mere ability to breed are very important. I truly wish that the "anti-reproductive freedom" folks would quit using "pro-life" as their identifier for the same reasons. I sure wish my church would grasp this difference.
    • Thank you--this is not my usual area of writing (although I read quite a bit about feminist and choice issues in the course of my daily procrastinations ;), so I'm never sure my thoughts will make 100% sense.

      I also wish "pro-life" was seen more appropriately, as placing all human life at the top of one's priorities (and other life as well, imo), but I doubt the anti-choice movement will be abandoning that label anytime soon. I've seen writing about how people tend to identify as pro-life even if they support access to abortion. It's just not a meaningful term, but it has emotional resonance and is an identifier that's easy to rally behind, making the anti-choice movement appear more popular than it actually is.
  • I've felt much like you do for most of my life. When I was younger, I couldn't wrap my mind around the use of the "pro-life" label, because it seemed to me the very same people using it also supported war and encouraged violence (hello, clinic bombings!).

    So now, years later, I see I was correct: these people oppose health care. Of all things-- health care. I wouldn't want to bring a child into the world without the knowledge that she or he could get health care in the event they are born with a condition, like I was. I don't want kids at all, but it's the principle of the thing.
    • Indeed, it's pretty effed up to say things like, "Oh, I'm pro-life. But I think the government is overstepping its bounds because it's making insurance companies stop dropping kids with cancer from their parents' policies."

      Seriously? How does one's brain not explode even just thinking that in any serious way??
  • My family has examples from both sides of the divide, one of whom had a baby at age fifteen, back when abortion was still illegal here, and one who had a first trimester abortion at the age of twenty-four (party, too much alcohol, failure of the 'morning after' pill).

    The one who had the abortion has got on with her life, worked abroad, come back and is currently engaged to be married. She will tell you it was a hard choice and yes, she was sad, but she was nowhere near ready for a baby then. The girl who had the baby at fifteen? She never finished high school, her life has been an ongoing (and rather unsavoury) mess, and her son has just served his first term in juvenile detention.

    People who say have the baby regardless, God will provide, haven't a clue and aren't interested in finding out. They make me angry beyond words. I am with you: it is utterly offensive to place a cluster of cells on a par with an established life.
    • People who say have the baby regardless, God will provide, haven't a clue and aren't interested in finding out.

      You're right--they're not. That's such an idiotic, pie-in-the-sky statement that betrays those who utter it as incapable of seeing beyond the tips of their own privileged noses. I see every day the impact on the lives of children who come into the world unwanted and born to parents who can't care for them in a country increasingly interested in dismantling any social safety net that might give them a chance equal to that of their privileged, wanted peers. God will provide. Bullshit. God sends them to school hungry each morning, throws them from home to home every six months, lets them cope with the lifelong effects of in utero drug abuse or physical abuse or sexual abuse, and eventually either lets them rot in jail or die on a street corner in Baltimore. It's very hard for me to be charitable toward people who will defend fetuses while at best ignoring or more likely actively working against the underprivileged, as though the latter aren't actually alive or anything.
  • Well said!

    I used to be very "pro-life" in my teens as well, and though that stance started out during the most religious phase of my life, it lasted for a while after I became more liberal and atheist. And then I grew up and listened to some women who had made the decision(s) to terminate (and I became more aware of various "pro-lifers" saying rather horrid things about single mothers and/or poor people who have kids...), and suddenly the sneering about abortion being "for convenience" started seeming ridiculous. Deciding whether or not to go through a 9-month pregnancy and childbirth and then raising a child (or dealing with the adoption process or whatever) oneself isn't like deciding whether to go into town for a loaf of bread or just get it at the cheap mini-mart down the street.
    • Exactly. It particularly galls me when men treat forced pregnancy and childbearing like no big deal. Do they not understand that there is a risk to the mother's life? Or serious health complications can arise? Or not-so-serious but still life-impacting? That's not a decision I want made for me by anyone but me. (Especially when they're doing their best to ensure the mother won't have access to proper healthcare unless she's privileged enough to afford it.)
  • Reading this, it struck me that the pro-life and pro-choice labels seem to be about different issues. Pro-life is often framed as a position on whether abortion is moral or not (which it's not, but that's how pro-life people often talk about it), whereas pro-choice seems like it's about who gets to make the choice. I consider myself anti-abortion (in general) but definitely pro-choice as well, and have never seen that as a contradiction.

    I think that the pro-life side of the debate in general hasn't thought things through. IN many ways it's sad, but not nearly as sad as the real women who suffer for their naivete. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    • I respect highly women who say, "I am against abortion personally but pro-choice." They get it. They are willing to stand by their personal values without imposing those on others.

      Of course, then there is the inconvenient statistic that 1 in 3 women will seek an abortion during her life. With the country split about 50-50 in identifying as "pro-choice" or "pro-life," that suggests that quite a few abortions are sought by "pro-life" women. So they support their right to such a procedure but no one else's. How magnanimous.

      I agree with you that the two sides are talking about different things. As agnostic with no religious background, it is hard for me to wrap my brain around treating a fertilized egg as "life," much less granting it rights superior to those granted to the born human being who carries it. As a pro-choice person, I support the right of each person to decide for herself when life begins.
  • Great post - I totally agree with you.
  • The term "pro-life" in itself is ridiculous. It's not like anyone who is pro-choice is automatically "anti-life"!

    One cannot be pro-life and simultaneously against universal health care and food assistance for children and families.

    Hear, hear.

    Most of them will cite religion as the reason for their beliefs yet probably cannot cite a single passage from the Bible in support of that belief.

    In fact, the Old Testament states that life begins at birth, not before.
    While I find that a bit problematic in the light of what we know these days about how much is going on in the womb at a pretty early stage, it certainly makes clear that religion has, in fact, nothing to do with it.

    We've recently had a bit of a scandal in Cologne when a young woman who had (allegedly) been raped was refused gynaecological care in two Catholic hospitals on the grounds that "if we do check-ups and find she's pregnant and she wants postcoital birth control, we break the rules of our church". Cue public outrage. By now, the cardinal in charge has explained that in fact, the rules go "do everything that's medically necessary except administer postcoital birth control (but including information about the same)", and the confusion apparently arose from an earlier case when somebody came to one of these hospitals with a similar story, demanded the "pill after", got it, and then denunciated the doctor who'd given it to her with the Church for violating the faith-based constraints.

    ... anyway, that wasn't really relevant, except to show that even within the Catholic church, they aren't entirely sure just what their anti-abortion stance entails.

    Personally, I have to admit that at this point every story about babies and young children killed (before or after birth) makes my heart bleed and gives me nightmares, because apparently being a mother has given new parts of the brain new priority. It also pisses me off when people have an abortion at a very late time without pressing reasons. I think people should think about not wanting a baby before having sex and use some reliable method of contraception, rather than having an abortion when oops, fertility, who woulda thunk?
    (Of course, accidents happen. And ugly things when the woman doesn't actually have a chance to use contraception. And life-or-death decisions when I think the life of the (already living) mother is definitely more valuable than that of the unborn child. But I'm always a bit uncertain about being whole-heartedly "pro-choice" because I know one extreme side (from Japanese studies: in Japan, abortions are socially accepted, which is fine, and very common because many women rather plan to have an abortion when "necessary" instead of using condoms or other forms of contraception, which I find... not so fine).)

    Anyway. I know that under most circumstances, abortion is not a choice I could make.
    But I definitely think that every other woman should have the right to make that choice if it's for a good reason. If that also means embracing the right to make that choice for the wrong reasons... so be it, I guess.
    • It's not like anyone who is pro-choice is automatically "anti-life"!

      Exactly! And the ironic thing, in the U.S., is that people who support legal access to abortion by and large support causes that actually do promote life. It is the "pro-lifers" who support the death penalty, saber-rattle at perceived enemy nations, resist sensible firearms regulation, oppose universal healthcare, and work to dismantle social safety nets that provide families and children with things like ... oh, food, shelter, medical care. Little things like that, which of course have nothing to do with life. :^|

      In fact, the Old Testament states that life begins at birth, not before.
      While I find that a bit problematic in the light of what we know these days about how much is going on in the womb at a pretty early stage


      Which maybe suggests that issues of medicine and science should be handled by medicine and science, not by stories passed down by an ancient desert people who talk to burning bushes. ;)

      even within the Catholic church, they aren't entirely sure just what their anti-abortion stance entails.

      In the U.S., the Catholic Church is one of the major driving forces behind restrictions on abortion and family planning access. A bill came before our Congress last year that would have given Catholic hospitals the right to turn away women in need of life-saving emergency abortions. So ... the woman is allowed to die, and the fetus? Presumably dies too?

      They also promoted the "rights" of pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. They also fought for employers to not have to cover contraception with benefits the employees themselves pay for if the employer has a religious objection.

      So they have their position much straighter here. :(

      It also pisses me off when people have an abortion at a very late time without pressing reasons. I think people should think about not wanting a baby before having sex and use some reliable method of contraception, rather than having an abortion when oops, fertility, who woulda thunk?

      I can't speak to the customs in Japan, but late-term abortions here are so difficult to obtain and in the vast majority of cases are due to serious medical complications. Even then, women sometimes have to travel across the country to receive the care they need because doctors who will do late-term abortions are so endangered by the so-called "pro-lifers" who threaten their lives and families that they have been driven out of practice. The "abortion as birth control" argument is the same. Again, I am speaking of here; I cannot speak to Japan. But that is an oft-made argument against abortion here that just doesn't hold water; abortion is so difficult to obtain in many places here and the financial burden more often than not falls entirely on the woman.

      If that also means embracing the right to make that choice for the wrong reasons... so be it, I guess.

      Exactly.
  • I think that many pro-lifers, especially those of the female kind, somehow forgot that up until the roaring twenties, when you were born as a woman you simply had no rights at all. Your father and later your husband made all the decisions for you. So when women finally got their voting rights and from there (I am talking about post WWII) more and more rights... I just find it so upsetting that such folks want to strip away such a fundamental right to make a decision when you want to start a family or not. As I commented at Aliana's lj:

    A choice to be sexual active, the choice to have a child or not, the choice that if something is very wrong with your baby to end that life pre-maturely...
    I often have my face palm moments when folks drag the 3rd term abortions out of the closet to win their arguments. Those 1%, and mostly medical cases: child has passed away before birth, child will not survive birth due to a severe malformation (some of the trisomanies) and in other cases the screening will show a birth defect like Spina Bifida or Downs. Many of those pro-lifers do not know that these procedures are part of the abortion figures as well. So yes, let's kick a grieving family down while we're at it folks. Such style.

    I think it is very important to give a woman a choice in this. Not everyone can raise a child (with or without a handicap), not everyone can carry a child full term if they know it won't survive birth... but no matter how far along you are: it should be always the woman's decision to have it or not.

    We sometimes get that question, that if we'd know beforehand that our son would be autistic that we wanted to keep it. Of course we would! But throughout my pregnancies I was always asked if I wanted to keep the baby *if* there is a handicap or a malformation. The answer has always been yes, simply that is only our choice to make. I strongly feel that this is a right of every woman and one should not be judged for those tough decisions made. Respect the other, support another, but don't kick someone down or bash them around simply because they do not fit in your perfect image on how you want to see your religion define the world around you.
  • Excellent post, Dawn.

    "The fact is that women have been trapped. Reproduction is used, consciously or not, as a means to control women, to limit their options and to make them subordinate to men. In many societies a serious approach to reproductive health has to have this perspective in mind. We must seek to liberate women."

    Dr. Nafis Sadik
    Executive Director, UN Population Fund


    Ideally, women exert control over their bodies through effective contraception, but this is far from an ideal world. Safe abortion must remain an option for any woman who faces such a choice.
  • That those who label themselves "pro-life" so rarely consider the disconnect between their relentless defense of the rights of fetuses and their disdain for the lives of people who have actually been born suggests that, far from having the most enlightened perspective, theirs is actually quite shallow.

    Amen! This kills me. WWJD, indeed.
    • Jesus totally supported widening the gap between economic classes, leaving needy people to starve, and kicking people who couldn't afford healthcare out on their arses. Jesus didn't grok the poor and the sick at all.
  • Another Link

    In addition to the "Moral Abortion" topic I referenced above, here's another link of interest: How I Lost Faith in the Pro-Life Movement, a fascinating, step by step narrative. Followed by lots and lots of comments.
  • Nodded at every paragraph.
  • I'm sooo late reading this but I just had to say: perfect post.
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