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. I 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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