Abortion and the Right to Choose

There are few subjects that occasion such heated debate as abortion. You have all these people throwing slogans around and using labels that don’t say much, like “right-to-life”. There are many who seem to believe that it’s impossible to value both life and choice. Of course, the same people who talk about the sanctity of life before birth also seem to be the ones campaigning the most loudly for capital punishment and prosecuting wars overseas, so apparently, they believe in the sanctity of some life.

Personally, I have absolutely no doubt that Katie was a person before she was actually born. It isn’t logical or rational, and I don’t honestly care if anyone believes me or not. Before she was born, I didn’t really think I’d personally be able to conscience an abortion. Now I know that I couldn’t.

I don’t presume to make that determination for anyone else. While I’ve never been wealthy, I do know that the level of privilege I’ve enjoyed throughout my life as a white middle-class woman in a first-world society might make it impossible for me to even begin to understand the choices that face vast numbers of women in the world. How could I possibly try to tell them what to do with their bodies?

In any case, I’m glad that for the present, despite the efforts of far too many people, women in the U.S. at least have the legal right to control their fertility. I want my daughter and her daughters and their daughters to have that important freedom.

Even here in this first-world society, there are too many cases in which children are conceived by women who aren’t in good health, or who are abusing their bodies and thus the bodies of their children with drugs and alcohol, for those children to ever have any hope of health. Or the women don’t have access to health care and adequate nutrition and housing. The current figures on poverty in Georgia alone are heartbreaking, and those hit hardest are single women and their children, as usual. Georgia isn’t the worst in the nation, of course. Without looking, I can almost guarantee you that Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana will be lower. Arkansas and possibly South Carolina are likely to be there, too.

They may have been born into a cycle of abuse from which they haven’t escaped, and may never escape. They may still be children themselves–there are plenty of 11 and 12-year children who’ve gotten pregnant. In short, there are many pregnant people who have no business having children.

If they bear those children, who will care for them? Who will pay for the health care, food, shelter, and other things that the child needs and deserves? Who will love and cherish that child, teach him or her to survive and thrive in our world? You? When was the last time you adopted a child or opened your home to foster children?

I do think abortion is sometimes the best choice for those in the situations I’ve described. 1I know some incredible parents whose pregnancies weren’t planned. I know some marvelous children who I am very glad are in this world who were born because of unplanned pregnancies. I’m not saying that everybody who has an unplanned pregnancy is bad or will be a rotten parent—I am saying that I get very, very worried about some of them, and I can understand why some of them chose to end their pregnancies with abortion. Adoption is better, but the fact is that there aren’t enough people willing to adopt the unhealthy babies often borne by these mothers and there are far too many children getting older and older in foster care because nobody is willing to adopt them.

I’d much rather live in a world in which nobody ever had to make the choice of carrying a pregnancy to term or killing it. We don’t live in that world. It is, therefore, up to us to change our world to provide more and better choices to women who would otherwise choose abortion. Until those choices are there, I will not stand in the way of any woman who wants an abortion.

Nobody who advocates, or even tolerates, actions like blowing up clinics and murdering doctors who perform abortions can call themselves “pro-life.” It’s telling that the pro-choice advocates have never stooped to similar acts of violence.

Those who call themselves pro-life are too often simply anti-choice because they only care about what happens to fetuses. They are against public health care and anti-poverty efforts such as food stamps and the free lunch programs in schools. They’re even against sex education that talks about anything more useful than abstinence (and abstinence-only education has been shown to be highly ineffective). At the same time, they’re in favor of capital punishment and sending our troops all over the world to die in senseless or economically-motivated conflicts (but against veterans’ benefits and decent medical care for military personnel). I am pro-choice and pro-life, from cradle to grave.

Obviously this isn’t a simple issue, but working to stop teen pregnancies will go a long way towards slowing the number of abortions. The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (404-524-2277) is concentrating on that, and they seem to be doing some good work. Of course, Planned Parenthood has been around and doing good work for a long time (and most of that work has nothing to do with abortion, but health in general).

The best fictional treatment of the abortion issue I’ve ever read was in the book Solomon’s Knife by Victor Koman (the book won the 1990 Prometheus Award).

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