Thursday, June 04, 2009

In another world...

I can't tell you how many times I've thought about writing a post about my thoughts on abortion. The reason is because I have truly been all across the spectrum of stances, from absolutely pro-choice to absolutely pro-life and even some sort of in-between stage of belief. The post just never came together the way I thought it should, so I've never posted anything. This isn't even the post I wanted to write next, but the other will wait.

With the recent tragic murder of Dr. Tiller, one of a scarce number of practitioners willing to perform late-term abortions in the US, I feel now is probably one of the best times to get my thoughts together and share. I'll start first by proclaiming I am currently in the pro-choice camp, a return to my original stance on the subject when I first learned what an abortion was but for vastly different reasons.

In those early pro-choice days, I was just blissfully ignorant about the creation of life and so felt it shouldn't be anyone else's business what a woman does with her body. I know the majority of pro-choice vocalists still stand by this "her body, her choice" mantra, but now that I am fully aware of how complex pregnancy and embryonic/fetal development are, that isn't why I'm pro-choice nowadays.

In an ideal world, I would be pro-life. I was very strictly pro-life after getting pregnant with my twins. Seeing those heartbeats via ultrasound just weeks after I'd gotten the double lines on my home pregnancy test, even though I was testing fairly early because I had actually been trying to get pregnant. And, I thought about women who don't even realize they're pregnant for a couple months because it wasn't intentional. So much would have already happened by that point. I started to find it very difficult to understand how anyone could believe the life inside a woman's uterus was not a life of its own. A brain, a heart with its own distinct beat, blood that carried individual DNA and possibly of a different type than its mother's? How can that not constitute a separate, unique life? I quickly identified with the pro-lifers. That life deserved preservation and a chance for greater potential. Because I'd really gotten into message boards and online communities as a first-time, first in her social circle mom-to-be, I occasionally found other women talking about abortion, and with my complete 180 flip in the debate, I was drawn to and fascinated with the discussions.

What about rape? Incest? What about genetic abnormality? Risk to the life of the mother? Damn it if things aren't more complicated than to decide "want baby" or "don't want baby". Thus began my descent from staunchly pro-life into a realm of abortions being reasonable options under certain conditions, or that in-between stance to which I was referring.

Life-threatening risk posed to mother by carrying to term was absolutely a reason to abort. It's a matter of self-defense. I wouldn't hesitate to fight back against anyone who tried to take my life, especially now that I am a mother. My children need me alive. Abortion is a means to fight back in those cases that a pregnancy is a threat to a woman's life, and that is no more wrong than her stabbing an adult attacker who tried to kill her, in my opinion.

Okay, fair enough, but what about all those other things? Well, like I said, in an ideal world I would be pro-life, meaning that a life created under horrific or perverted circumstances wouldn't necessarily result in a horrible or perverse individual and so deserves a chance at birth. That baby could be the positive denouement that allows the woman to be less shattered and less scarred and, instead, stronger and more empowered to reclaim her life and feel less like a perpetual victim. Perhaps having to carry around the by-product of acts you wish never happened and wish you could just forget would be devastating, though an abortion would never really give you the answer to that "what if", the what if giving birth could have made the recovery easier. Let me also clarify that I don't necessarily think the woman should be raising the rape/incest baby herself but that she could be the reason for and a witness to the joy that baby could bring to a family even if it is not her own.

And now, what about the babies who are diagnosed with a genetic abnormality in utero? (sigh) This is where my views on life weigh in very heavily. I live my life with the belief that there is a greater purpose to it all, nothing happens without reason and nothing is altogether bad. If one of my children was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I couldn't choose to end his life sooner than the illness would take him from me. If my child was born with a chromosomal abnormality, I couldn't decide that his quality of life wouldn't be what it should and end his life then. I can't make the distinction between pre-birth and birth. I just can't. It is that black and white to me. Although any one of us not living with it might think living with Down syndrome or something similarly considered a genetic abnormality is living a lesser quality of life, the children and adults who were given the chance to live their lives of lesser quality have made a profound impact on at least one other person's life. Someone realized they can do more than they thought they could, someone found compassion for others, someone learned appreciation for life's simple pleasures, someone understood how grateful they should be for the health they have...those things are monumental, and if all of the mothers of those children never let them live because they weren't projected to have full quality of life, there would be a lot of good missing from the world, a lot of good missing within us "normal" people.

That is the gist of life in my mind, just because someone suffered in their life in a way we wouldn't want to suffer doesn't mean it didn't do the world and/or the rest of us some good. Every second of life counts for something. That may just be my belief, and I get that while I may not be alone in this belief, it is hardly the belief shared by all humanity or even the majority, which is why it seems super pushy to think others should be expected to conform to this, but is it hard to grasp that we might all be better off if more of us believed something similar? If we all more actively sought to figure out what good can come of our worst circumstances, if we all stopped focusing on people's differences as a means to divide ourselves from one and other and decided to acknowledge differences as valuable and attempt to find a way to learn something new as a result of these differences, wouldn't most people be happier and more fulfilled with life? Wouldn't we be evolving into better human beings rather than feeling as though our species is selfishly, gradually ruining itself?

So, how does any of this make me pro-choice now? Well, like I said, I'd be pro-life in an ideal world, and the short answer is our world is not ideal. The idea of abortion as birth control turns my stomach and crushes my heart, and I don't think that will ever change, but our society doesn't encourage the means to prevent abortion being used for birth control. Our solution is to promote the best method of birth control there is, abstinence, as if there are no other options at all while trying to force every pregnancy to be carried to term. The only thing I see happening if abstinence is the only birth prevention available is a world over-populated by ignorant, impulsive people, a rise in child abuse and neglect, and a lot of miserably cranky, hostile folks who aren't having sex because they can't chance an untimely pregnancy. We can't limit the availability of abortion until we are educating everyone on ALL methods of birth prevention and the effectiveness of ALL types of contraception at the very least. You just can't do one without the other effectively.

Until we stop preaching abstinence-only as proper sex education; until we have wide-spread, well-known affordable and accessible contraception; until we have top-notch unplanned pregnancy counseling and support!; until we have sexual abuse prosecutions that don't have women defending themselves; until we have the methods to determine genetic abnormalities before conception; until adoptions are a viable solution that don't often leave a child feeling disconnected in inexplicable ways...basically, until the world is ideal, safe abortion needs to remain a legal choice, which is why the murder of Dr. Tiller is so incredibly tragic. It is tragic that anyone would think their passion for life is best served by killing someone who is trying to live his life the best way he knows how by helping women who are making the best choice for their lives given their current circumstances. If you're pro-life, I encourage you to put your passion into improving women's circumstances so that they won't ever have to feel like abortion is their best choice, and that doesn't include making contraception harder to obtain and use, advocating abstinence-only sex education, limiting scientific research, picketing in front of clinics that perform abortions, reducing funding for Planned Parenthood, blowing up women's clinics, or killing doctors. If religion is your primary reason for being pro-life, I encourage you to think beyond the religious implications of abortion and find a way to explain your beliefs without religion so that you might reach more people willing to listen since non-religious people often feel religious people are passing unfair judgment. Finally, I encourage all of us to share our beliefs and experiences because our words could be the ones that help someone see a different perspective and our survival could be the light at the end of someone else's dark tunnel.


Belle - A Beauty livin with her Beast said...

I am so up in arms with this subject being a mom myself. I sometimes think..How would my life be right now if that had of been brought to light when I was 15 and pregnant? Would I have done it? I can honestly say the partial birth abortion is the most murderous thing I have ever seen. This is a subject that people have to know the situation of why someone would want to abort a baby before they could judge them entirely.

heather said...

well put.
while i highly doubt that i would ever choose to have an abortion, i very strongly believe that it is a personal decision to be made by the woman. hopefully with the guidance of her doctors, family members and religious leaders (if applicable).
in an ideal world, contraception would be 100% effective 100% of the time. rape and incest would not exist and every pregnancy would be carried to full term without risk to the mother or child. currently this is nowhere near being close to the truth. so i remain pro-choice.

lilcali2mama said...

Absolutely AWESOME post!

So very well articulated. I like how you explained your back and forth thinking, as I'm sure most of us go back and forth on the subject.

But MOST IMPORTANTLY, I love that you gave viable solutions instead of just stating a problem.

Great posst!

NoRegrets said...

It's such a complex issue. But ultimately, I do agree that pro-choice is the way to go.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

belle - Agreed. Too many people think they know the situations women are in when they make these decisions, and in reality, we usually know very little.

heather - I think one of the biggest problems is the lack of support for women in undesirable circumstances. We're all usually a lot stronger and more capable when we feel like we aren't alone and aren't being scrutinized for every choice we make.

lilcali2mama - Thank you! I really felt like I said what I've wanted to say for so long.

NoRegrets - Complex, indeed.