Thursday, January 22, 2009

blog for choice: thoughts on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

When I used to live on the Hill, I dreaded this day. Every January 22nd, hundreds of anti-choice protesters would descend upon the Capitol (specifically, the Supreme Court building) and make my morning work commute more difficult. They carried their posters of mangled fetal parts and wore shirts that proclaimed the message "choose life". As the years went by, I noticed that the protesters were getting younger and younger.

While I no longer live on the Hill, I still happened upon a large group of protesters on the Metro this morning. I may be old now, but there's no way that these protesters had graduated high school yet. They were wearing their "Right to Life" sweatshirts in a blood red color (was the color symbolic?) and some carried rosary beads. All were headed to Union Station where they were sure to join countless other protesters.

Dissent is American, so I am not going to argue against their desire to protest. By all means, speak your mind. However, that means I can too.

While I can appreciate that young people feel passionately about a particular 'political' issue, I must question to what extent do they understand the issue. After all, abortion is very complex. How does one understand the complexity of the issues when one's world view is narrow? Seriously, what did I know about life at that age? At 16, I was anti-choice. I went to Catholic schools my entire life and believed everything I was told without question. It wasn't until I entered college and began to explore an entirely new world that I began to question what I was taught in Church and at school. It's not as if doubting and questioning were encouraged in my religion classes. It wasn't until I was forced to think for myself and be responsible for my actions that my world view expanded.

Shortly after high school, this is what I realized:

  • Not everyone is Catholic
  • Not everyone follows Catholic teachings
  • I respect that people have different beliefs because of their different backgrounds
  • I can learn a lot from those that are different than me
  • The best way to understand a differing point of view is to put oneself into those shoes.
I consider myself pro-choice and pro-life (notice that I never use 'pro-life' as a synonym for 'anti-choice'). While I myself will probably never choose to have an abortion (unless it is medically necessary), I cannot judge others for making that choice for themselves. I may never fully comprehend the reasons why someone would have an abortion. I can put myself in their shoes and never really understand. Regardless, it is their choice and legally it is available to them. As far as my pro-life self, I will always support programs that have proven to reduce the # of unplanned pregnancies.

I wish that the anti-choice movement would understand that the world doesn't respond well to absolutes. Only about 10-15% of the American population would prefer to have abortion outlawed completely. Hillary Clinton once said that abortion should be 'safe, legal, and rare'. Certainly the two movements can agree on the 'rare' part. However, what has the anti-choice movement done to make abortion a rarity in our society? Fighting to make it completely illegal is not what the majority wants. How about supporting ideas that have proven to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies? Like comprehensive sex education? Or improved access to contraception? Or how about making the domestic adoption process less complicated? There are tons of children in foster care in the U.S. yet babies in China and Guatemala are the ones being adopted.

No, no. Instead the anti-choice movement would rather protest Krispy Kreme's recent free donut giveaway instead. That's an excellent use of time and resources, American Life League.

Today, President Obama is expected to lift the Global Gag Rule (yippee!). His administration is expected to support the Prevention First Act. Perhaps the anti-choice movement would like to join the current administration in supporting policies that will make abortions rare.

6 comments:

Bilbo said...

Well said! I'm 100% with you on this...

Juliet said...

"The best way to understand a differing point of view is to put oneself into those shoes."

Then maybe you will understand why I passionately dislike the term "anti-choice." Here, I'm just going to copy this more or less word-for-word from what I wrote another blogger, 'cuz it seemed to convince him (I mean, not to agree with me but to understand where I was coming from--just in case he reads this and thinks it sounds awfully familiar):

I strongly oppose the label "anti-choice" because (as someone who loathes abortion and has a lot of sympathy with the anti-abortion movement, although I guess I am not in practice against legal abortion) I believe it deliberately refuses to recognize why most people who are opposed to abortion oppose it--not because they want to take choices away from women, but because they have very sincerely held beliefs about the value of life and what life is that lead them to think abortion is not an ethical choice. You can disagree with those beliefs as vehemently as you want, but reducing them to "anti-choice" ignores why they're even held, and I think just makes the debate even more vitriolic and less productive.

You don't have to use the phrase "pro-life" (which I guess you dislike because you think it suggests people who are pro-choice are "anti-life"? which of course is a ridiculous idea, so I won't quibble with that), but I think you have the responsibility, if you want to engage in productive dialogue on this issue, to use a phrase to describe your opponents that they would use to describe themselves--so, "anti legalized abortion" or something like that, which is not as euphonius but at least expresses what they actually believe.

(This would have been part of the post I keep meaning to write about abortion if I ever got around to it, but I haven't yet. Maybe by January 22, 2010.)

King of New York Hacks said...

whoa..heavy stuff. All sides well written. Making me think thats for sure.

anOCgirl said...

bilbo: thanks!

juliet: nope. actually, i realize that's why some people are against abortion. i don't dismiss that at all. i simply didn't mention it. and i question why some teenaged protesters are protesting to begin with. as young as they are, do they really believe that life begins at conception and therefore abortion is wrong b/c life is precious or are they protesting b/c that is how their parents feel and they have yet to question their parents' beliefs?

perhaps i should just use "anti-abortion" going forward. but the reason why i used 'anti-choice' (and your argument confirmed it) is that essentiallly, yes, some people feel that abortion is not an ethical choice therefore abortion is wrong and should not be legal, which, essentially, is taking away that choice/option from those who do not believe that way.

also, i think it's interesting that you prefer the term 'anti-legalized abortion' instead of just anti-abortion. is this b/c you realize that abortion existed before it was legal, it exists now and will exist regardless of its legality? i think what the anti-abortion movement fails to realize is that abortion will always be there. so, it can remain legal yet we can enact measures to ensure that the smallest amount of women will use it as an option (by improving adoption procedures, ensuring access to contraceptives, etc). OR we can make it illegal and create an underground abortion movement where women who seek abortion will risk their lives to have an illegal/unsafe one. it's already happening in latin america so the idea is not that far fetched.

king: hey, there! welcome back. missed your comments!

Generation Next said...

I can't believe that article about Krispy Kreme. Are they delusional? That is practically putting words in their mouth and just shows how little anti-choice groups have to go on when they have to make up drama.

Seriously. I get so angry over things like this.

Juliet said...

"i question why some teenaged protesters are protesting to begin with. as young as they are, do they really believe that life begins at conception and therefore abortion is wrong b/c life is precious or are they protesting b/c that is how their parents feel and they have yet to question their parents' beliefs?"

You have to question because you don't know. I know you are coming at this from the perspective of what you thought when you were a teenager. For my part, I wasn't raised religiously and I disagreed with my parents about abortion at that age. I also don't think that you can entirely discredit the possibility that 16-year-olds can, in fact, think for themselves. You can never judge a person you don't know. Feel free to question, of course, but in the end I don't think there's much point going down that road.

"perhaps i should just use "anti-abortion" going forward. but the reason why i used 'anti-choice' (and your argument confirmed it) is that essentiallly, yes, some people feel that abortion is not an ethical choice therefore abortion is wrong and should not be legal, which, essentially, is taking away that choice/option from those who do not believe that way."

I don't know how much clearer I can make this. Opponents of abortion believe that abortion is murder. (Notice I AM NOT claiming they are equivalent.) Nobody goes around saying they don't believe in murder but they don't want to take that choice from other people. People who think certain choices are ethically wrong are always trying to take those choices away from other people. That's basically what the legal system is all about. I'm sure you believe in taking choices away from people in other areas, and there may in fact be nothing immoral about your beliefs as far as that goes, but it's only the pro-legal-abortion movement that uses "choice" in this way that tries to circumvent the question of whether that choice is even moral by claiming that because it is a choice, nobody else has a right to take it away.

"also, i think it's interesting that you prefer the term 'anti-legalized abortion' instead of just anti-abortion. is this b/c you realize that abortion existed before it was legal, it exists now and will exist regardless of its legality?"

No, it's because I don't think you would claim to be pro-abortion and I was trying to put myself in your shoes. ;) What you wrote after that is why I accept the inevitability that abortion will and probably should always be legal--not, fundamentally, because I think abortion is okay, or acceptable enough that it should be left up to the individual's discretion (although, meh, I am almost there), but because I don't think society can get by without it. But that doesn't say much for society.