Today Is Blog for Choice Day
I am pro-choice, and I believe that there are three big reasons for that:
- I am a woman.
- I do not want children.
- I understand what it is to hold an absolute, uncompromisable position on an ethical issue.
The first two, I think, synthesize to create the beginnings of my stance on abortion. I am a woman, so I have wrangled with the same issues of birth control and pregnancy as almost any woman. I console myself with the statistics--I take birth control pills, and those are 99.9% effective, supposedly--but then there are the exceptions, that .1%. I know two women who got pregnant while on IUDs, which have a similar effectiveness to birth control pills. I know one woman who got pregnant while on the patch. So the "personal responsibility" angle doesn't have much sway for me; since I started having sex, I have been "personally responsible," but so have plenty of other women I know that end up pregnant nonetheless.
And I don't want children. I have never wanted children, and despite the assertion by some that that will change by my 18/20/25/30th birthday, I'm on the threshold of the latter and ... it ain't changed yet. I could devote a whole post to my reasons, but that is beside the point. I will suffice to say that I do not have the personality or temperament to care for another human being full-time (just ask my droopy houseplants or my husband who occasionally has to plead with me to launder his underwear), and that I place as a higher aim caring for the people already on the planet rather than making new ones to be cared for. That is not to say that I fault those who choose differently than me. Just that I have my reasons too.
Well, where the twain meet--my femaleness and my choice to remain child-free--is where I find the germ of my pro-choice beliefs. I wasn't always pro-choice. I remember arguing with my best friend in the eighth grade about abortion. I was a radical animal rights activist then (more on that in a moment), and life was life: It was an uncomplicated belief that did not acknowledge much less account for the moral complexities of any of the questions on which I had decided the answers. (I was twelve years old, mind, when I figured all of this out.) It was wrong to take life. Period. End of story. Therefore, abortion was wrong.
Enter the third point. I was a radical animal rights activist, and the basis of the most fervent of my beliefs left as little wiggle room as anti-choice beliefs leave for the complexities of these questions. It did not matter if experimenting on one rat would save one hundred children, it was wrong and shouldn't be done. It did not matter how humane one made farming and slaughter, eating meat was wrong. So was wearing leather or fur (I still think the latter is true). Circuses were wrong. Zoos were wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I drew the line just shy of declaring pet ownership (excuse me ... guardianship) wrong because I had pets and the cognitive dissonance was just too much for me to handle. But everything else was wrong.
If you ask me today how I feel about vivisection or meat-eating or the display of animals in zoos and aquariums, I can't give you a five-second answer anymore. Because there reached a point where I began asking the hard questions. I fell in love with a guy who ate meat. Did I truly believe that he was evil for doing so? I began to ask how I would feel if he became sick and had to rely on a treatment developed using animal research. It had been much easier to consider martyring myself to my beliefs and refusing treatment than to subject my one-day husband to the same conditions. Likewise, I began asking the same questions about abortion. Gone was the myth of the irresponsible young woman using abortion as birth control; that young woman could suddenly be me, and the hypothetical accident would be just that: an event that occurred despite all precautions. Or what if I was raped? I found out that my step-grandfather was a child molester and had raped one of my older cousins. What about that? What if she'd been a bit older and had become pregnant? The line became fuzzy and then disappeared altogether. I could hold myself to as high of moral standards as I wished. I could agree to carry and bear an unwanted child gotten under violent circumstances. But I realized the terrible injustice of doing the same for others, of pointing to a person whose circumstances and beliefs I did not know and sentencing her to meet the standards that I--in my comfortable, privileged, and non-troubled life--had set for myself. I had never been raped or molested. I had never been pregnant. How could I make that choice for someone else?
I have often seen the quote that anti-choice women with moderate beliefs think that abortion should be allowable in cases of rape, incest, when the life of the mother is in danger--and for them. About one-third of U.S. women will, at some point in their lives, choose to abort a pregnancy. A big hoopla was recently made when the number of U.S. citizens who identified as "pro-life" went over 50%. 49% of women surveyed identified as "pro-life." Looking again at the report from the Guttmacher Institute, half of U.S. women will have an unintended pregnancy at some point in their lives, so unless the pro-choice women are dominating that stat, then some of that third of women having abortions come from the "pro-life" camp.
I don't say this to point fingers and cry hypocrisy. I say this because these women have had the same realization that I had on many issues when I reached a level of moral maturity to see issues in more than dualist terms. Surely, these "pro-life" women terminating their pregnancies have convincing reasons why they should be granted an exception for abortion. And that is exactly why no one beside the woman can make that choice, because what do I know of what it is like to stand in your shoes? Hers? Or hers? And what do any of you know of what it is like to stand in mine?
I have the utmost respect for people who decide that abortion is unconscionable and make their personal choices based around that belief. I believe it is possible to be anti-abortion and pro-choice. I support the efforts of those who want to reduce unintended pregnancy, and I support the efforts of those who want to make it easier for women to put their children up for adoption if they choose to do so. What I object to--and why I am writing this post for Blog for Choice Day when I should be doing homework--is the assumption that anyone can make so personal a decision for someone else.