I was never really good at picking sides. When my friends would argue and then ask me to weigh in, more often than not I told them I was on my side, not anyone else’s, and promptly invoked Switzerland status. The reasoning behind this is that I usually agreed with (or could at least concede to) parts of what each were saying, so I truly didn’t have a side to stand on.
That’s often what I feel when I cast myself into the roiling sea of political insanity. I don’t really have a political home, as neither party or wing espouses everything I believe in or fight for. I could claim to be an Independent – and I often do – but it seems like such a cop-out. Shouldn’t I pick? Shouldn’t I completely align myself with one party/wing and just quit bitching about the few things that don’t fit quite right?
Maybe. But I don’t wanna.
As an out-and-proud lesbian, who also happens to be an LGBT rights activist; a granola-eating, recycling, socialist-utopia-wanting, organic-food-buying hippie environmentalist; and a card-carrying member of the 47%, I most certainly do not fit well within the conservative movement.
Now, reading the above, one might think I would instead fit quite nicely along that Democratic left wing. And I would…except for one thing.
I am adamantly, unapologetically pro-life.
I know, I know. Very un-feministy of me. But please keep reading anyway.
What this means is that I don’t fit on either wing or in either party, which should be quite disconcerting. Thankfully, I’m sufficiently full of myself to be comfortable in my own skin and my own ideals/beliefs, so it’s all good.
And yet abortion is one of those topics where it might appear that I straddle the party line a bit. But that is not necessarily the case – at least not in any conventional way.
I believe that life begins at conception. Period. I believe that taking the life of that child because you don’t feel like having a kid right now is one of the highest forms of ugliness available to the human race. (Left wing, chill out. Just keep reading.)
But… (and it’s kind of a big but)
I don’t think birth control is a bad thing. Yet that is supposed to be part and parcel with being pro-life – this idea that everyone should see a child as a gift from God, and accept it without question or protest. But right or wrong, there is only a fraction of the nation’s population that thinks this way, and an even smaller fraction that actually lives this way. Therefore I think contraception is, overall, a good thing for the majority of women – which puts me solidly at odds with the pro-life movement (of which I used to be a ginormous part), as well. Like I’ve been saying – I’m not good at fitting in.
To add insult to injury, I no longer believe that a “contraceptive mentality” is what is causing so many abortions to be performed. It’s simple human selfishness that is the root of most of it, which was around long before birth control. The reasoning behind why I believe this is long enough to be another article, which I’ll probably end up having to write after I get flamed on both ends for this. But for right now I prefer to just move on to what I really want to talk about here, and what’s likely going to piss off both factions at once – why abortion should remain legal. At least for now.
(Simmer down now, right wingers. Hear me out.)
It would be wonderful to think that if we outlawed abortion it would just go away. That people would finally realize the true horror of it, and we as a society would start to rightly view children as gifts and blessings, and motherhood something to be prized rather than avoided. But that is not what would happen. Some may argue the nation has stopped feeling this way because of the contraception mentality, but I argue that it has little to do with it.
The main thing that changed with the advent of birth control is that women basically gained the right to say “no”…no, I won’t bear another child to you after the doctor told me it would likely kill me to do so…no, I refuse to bring another child into this family when you already beat the ones we have…or simply no, I don’t want to. It’s about personal freedom, and being able to explore and enjoy your life as a sexual, sensual creature as nature intended. It’s about being on equal footing with men, who can relax and enjoy themselves in whatever sexual situation, because they’re not laying there hoping and praying they don’t get knocked up.
Now this is another point where it gets sticky, because the pro-life movement in general is based largely on Catholic/Christian beliefs – including the belief regarding sexual immorality, and how you should remain sexually pure until you are properly wed (at which time you should accept any children as gifts and blessings). So birth control should not be an issue at all if you are living the right way.
The trouble with this is two-fold.
One, kids will be kids (especially when hormones are in charge). No matter how diligent you are with your teachings and exposing them to the idea of waiting, it’s often an uphill battle. That doesn’t mean we should just sit back and let our children run wild because hey, they’re going to do it anyway. That’s not what I mean. Kids, starting from a young age, need to be told and taught how beautiful sex and sexuality is, and what a powerful thing it can be if you treat it with respect. But they also need to know the incredible emotional (and often physical) toll it can take on them, and to be well informed of all possible consequences.
(Side note: I just noticed I use parentheses a lot. Like, a lot lot.)
This being said, I’m also not stupid, or blind, or amnesia-ridden regarding my teenage years. I remember that surge of hormones, that desperate yearning for physical, sexual touch from another human being. And I know there may very well come a time where one of my children decides, regardless of what they have been told, that the time is right now. If and when that happens, I want them to also be knowledgeable about the various methods they can use to protect themselves – and have those methods available – even while counseling them that the repercussions are most often not worth it.
It’s a double-edged sword. If you prepare your kids with strict, abstinence-only viewpoints, then later on down the road if they decide they want to take that step, it is very likely they will do so unprotected and unprepared. But if you prepare them by educating them on contraceptive methods, you risk them taking that as permission. Just another one of the 548,290,471 possible ways to screw up your kids.
And secondly, in this country of religious freedom (as it stands now, anyway), not everyone belongs to those particular religions or holds to their more restrictive tenets. Removing access to birth control is a needless and harmful effort for those who rely on it for family planning purposes – or yes, just to keep themselves and any potential unborn children safe while exploring their sexuality.
***end birth control tangent***
Outlawing abortion isn’t necessarily going to change women’s minds – they’re just going to find another way to go about it.
Which brings me to my fervent belief that should it be outlawed, we will have a prompt and devastating return to the “back-alley” abortion procedure – botch jobs done by unqualified quacks in unsanitary conditions for obscene amounts of money. More women will die or be rendered infertile because of this than do now due to abortion complications, and all we have to do is look at history to show us the truth of that statement.
Not to mention if it becomes a criminal offense… Can you imagine a mother of four children under the age of six, whose husband is an abusive alcoholic and forbids her to use birth control, but still insists she fulfill her “wifely duties”? If the unthinkable happens and she faces either bearing yet another child to her abuser or attempting to locate someone underground to perform an abortion, she risks either dying at the hands of a shady doctor-person or going to jail and leaving custody of those other four babies in the hands of a monster. I know, I know – situations like this are certainly not the norm. And just for the record, I personally don’t agree with abortion in the situation of this example, as I think there are other choices that could be explored. But I’m playing devil’s advocate here, and I’d like you to play along with me.
My point is, women are not going to stop having abortions just because they are illegal. There will always be desperate situations where a woman feels that is her only choice. As awful as that is and as sad as it makes me, it’s the hard truth. And if there’s one thing I have learned as a pro-lifer among ‘true liberals’, the hard truth pretty much always sucks to deliver.
Arguing to overturn this law is tantamount to believing that keeping kids from having sex is as easy as touting abstinence to teenagers and removing their access to free condoms in the nurse’s office. Great ideal, great goal to shoot for, but unrealistic in application – especially with what we’re given to work with right now. What it very well might do, however, is create more unwanted pregnancies, which could then result in more abortions.
The only way we’re going to change the hearts and minds of America is through scientific, fact-based information. Because much like music and art, science is a ‘language’ that spans all nationalities, all races, and all belief systems. It is universal and extremely difficult to dispute, which makes it perfect for educational purposes.
What we need to get through our heads is that people don’t like to be preached at. It’s humiliating, angering, embarrassing, and generally creates the opposite result of what you’re going for. When you come at someone by saying children are God’s gift and they should see it as a blessing, or abortion is a sin, etc., you’ve already set yourself up for failure. Because the person you’re addressing is probably feeling boxed in just by the very broaching of such a sensitive topic, that when it becomes clear your main reasoning for protesting abortion is because of religious beliefs? Well, right then they dismiss you as a crazy person with an agenda and no real evidence as to why they shouldn’t abort. And you’ve lost them.
And this – this is what we need to avoid. We should avoid saying “no you can’t, because it’s illegal”, or “no you can’t, because God said so”, and instead turn to the science of the thing. Science is not emotional, and usually does not generate feelings of anger when someone disagrees with you – you can simply point them to the study or article or page or whatever that contains the scientific information, and they can see for themselves. Things either are or they aren’t in the realm of science. (Well, until you get into theoretical or quantum physics, but that’s a whole n’other talk show.)
We need to educate these women – to prepare them for battle when their trusted physician tries to convince them their baby is just a ball of cells. We need to explain to them how by the time they find out they’re pregnant, the baby growing inside them has a heartbeat, brain waves, and his or her own blood type. That this makes that child a separate entity from the mother entirely – and this is all usually before she even pees on a stick.
We need to show them images. Not the disgusting ones of cut-up babies post-abortion…all that does is push them away and close them off to what we have to say.
We need to present real pictures and true facts about what their child likely looks like at the time of their crisis, and exactly where he or she is in his or her development at that moment – not with the controversial, invasive trans-vaginal sonogram, but with general pictures already available and ready to be shown without having to violate the woman’s body. And after she has seen the pictures, if she decides she wants to have that sonogram? More power to her.
We need to talk with them about the documented research done regarding the actual abortion procedure, and how babies have been known to react to it, moving away from the intrusive instruments. We can’t think we can just shove a copy of “Silent Scream” into their hands and go off feeling all self-righteous like we really did something. There has to be real learning, and real discussions based on real science.
So far, I’ve focused mainly on pregnant women who might be considering an abortion (well, and horny teenagers). But what about those that have not faced it yet, or may never – men, teenagers, retirees, infertile couples, gay and lesbian couples? Again, the best tool to combat ignorance and indifference is education. And the more people that understand the science of abortion, the better informed the women in their lives will be.
Obama has named education as one of his top five priorities moving forward should he win a second term. Now I know full well what the pro-life movement thinks about the president. But I very strongly believe we need to dump the religious rhetoric and jump on that education bus, no matter who’s driving.
What we need is a secular, national education initiative that teaches the true, scientific facts about the unborn. No religion. No judgment. No shaming. No disgusting, cut-up baby pictures. Just the facts, ma’am.
I think if we could educate at least this generation and the next, we could change people’s hearts and minds on this subject beyond our wildest imaginings – or our harshest legislation. I truly believe that if we can manage to step away from the crazed-zealot image for which pro-lifers have so widely come to be known, and step into the role of scientific educators, then we will see an incredible drop in the number of abortions performed in this country.
So that is why this pro-lifer does not support the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The consequences would just be disastrous at this point in history. You cannot legislate people’s hearts, but you can educate them. Education is – and always will be – the best weapon against ignorance and fear.