The whole abortion debate is a hot one in Mississippi, as the state fails to close its last abortion clinic in Jackson. Tempers flare quickly when the pro-choice topic comes up, but much fuss is over a lack of understanding rather than an actual difference of opinion, at least in my case.
Living in Mississippi and being pro-choice is sort of like being an atheist and living in Spain during the Inquisition. Definitely hazardous to one’s health and well-being. All across the nation, the debate is fiery and often turns violent.
I have to shake my head.
I don’t get some of the more rabid fanatics of the pro-life faction. They claim to value life, but they then resort to actually killing abortion clinic workers. They claim to be Christian, but then they harass patients who approach the abortion clinics, when the usual reason for going there is not even abortion.
I’m unable to see how they justify their behavior. It’s utterly alien to me.
You see, I’m pro-choice, but also anti-abortion.
Huh? How can that be, you wonder?
They are not the same thing. I’m pro-choice, because I don’t feel that I have the right to choose for all women in all circumstances if and when they would opt for the abortion. I don’t think that abortions should be used as birth control either. To me, abortions are a last ditch solution to a problem that actually has no solution.
It might be rape. It might be genetic flaws that would leave the fetus to grow into a baby that would die young, after many months of struggling and even pain, never getting to enjoy even its mother’s arms. It might be a baby that has some birth defect that means that it will die during or shortly after birth. It may be a case of incest, a girl too young to safely give birth, a woman too old to safely go through childbirth, or a woman who’s own health is so fragile that pregnancy and childbirth are apt to destroy her physically if not kill her. It might be some sort of circumstances that I have never thought of.
But it isn’t my responsibility to predict when and if a woman should be able to get a legal abortion. That’s her moral and medical decision, one that she should not take lightly either.
I’m in my fifties, going through menopause. That does not mean that I am sterile, however. I never conceived easily, and when I did, it usually ended with a miscarriage. It’s not impossible (though highly unlikely) that I could end up pregnant now. When I was a kid, “afterthought” children were not uncommon, and they typically were the result of a woman thinking it was all behind her, and then surprise, here’s a baby of your own that is younger than your grandchildren!
Now it’s true, Greg and I would welcome that baby, despite the adjustments that it would require in our lives. But how would I feel if I found out that there was something seriously wrong with that baby, that it had little to no chance of anything resembling a normal life, and that carrying it to term would also endanger my own health? Would I want to take the risk to have a child that was severely handicapped or would die anyhow?
I don’t know.
Making that decision in a hypothetical situation is not the same as making that decision and then having to drive to an abortion clinic either. I don’t know what we would decide, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.
But nobody else has the right to make it for me either.
That’s why I am pro-choice. My aversion to the idea of killing a fetus makes me anti-abortion. Who knows, that fetus might have been the next Mozart or Einstein. At the same time, it could be the next criminal or mass murderer too. No woman knows for sure, but no woman in her right mind with anything resembling a moral compass would make the decision lightly to opt for the abortion.
I would cry as I agonized over the decision, and I’d cry on the way there. I’d cry on the way home too.
But I would also remember the woman I heard about. She was pregnant, and the baby was kicking inside of her the way they do that last trimester. She could feel it, alive and moving. The whole time she felt it moving, she knew that when it was born, it would die. There was no chance of survival beyond a few minutes. She carried that baby to term, knowing from the first trimester that it was going to end that way, and then, she gave birth and the baby died, just like the doctors had known all along it was going to do.
I could not bear that agony. That knowing that there was absolutely no hope for that baby and that his fate was sealed at the moment of birth. There was nothing that the doctors could do about it, his defect was not repairable.
She was a far stronger woman in her convictions than I would be, I’m afraid. I would likely have opted for termination once the reality of the situation was known without a doubt. I don’t think I could have deluded myself into a fantasy where there would be divine intervention at the last minute to change the course of fate.
I would have also thought about the immense amount of money being invested into a non-viable situation. How could I justify that when so many go without medical care at all, even when the medical care would spare their lives?
I’m anti-abortion, but pro-choice. I believe there are times when modern medicine and the mother agree that the pregnancy is a really bad idea. I believe there may be other situations in which the pregnancy is a horrible thing, beyond inconvenience or embarrassing for the mother. I agree that there are times when a girl’s body is well developed enough to become pregnant, but not developed enough to manage a pregnancy without causing her harm. I don’t see where there is an up side to telling a 10 or 12 year old girl that she has to carry a baby to term after being molested, even though it is likely to leave her unable to bear a child when she’s old enough to actually be a mother.
At the same time, I don’t think that even the parents should be able to actually force a teen to have an abortion. I remember a girl I knew when I was a teenager. She became pregnant and hid the pregnancy from her parents until it was nearly time for the baby to be born, using baggy clothing and even a girdle, as well as half starving herself to keep her weight down. She told no one, not even her closest friends, about her pregnancy, fearful that word would get back to her parents in the small town. She was certain that her parents would physically drag her to an abortion clinic and force her to terminate the pregnancy.
It also meant that she had no prenatal care, and it all resulted in disaster. Whether it was a preventable disaster is probably debatable, as the boy was born with some genetic issues and a severe type of dwarfism. At five years old, he was the size of an infant, yet able to walk, run and play the same as any other five year old, and without any apparent intellectual handicaps either.
I still remember the fear in the young mother’s face as she talked about what her parents would have liked to do, but that she had managed to hide it too long for it to be an option. At seventeen, she did not have the legal right to refuse the abortion (in that state, at that time–laws are different in most states). She did, however, have the legal right to refuse to put her son up for adoption, and she did raise him, at least through the age of five, at which point I lost contact with her.
As her teen peer, I agreed with her that it was wrong for her parents to be able to do that to her and the unborn child. I still agree with her on that front. She should not have had to hide the pregnancy to prevent the abortion.
But she should have had the choice.
That choice is why I am pro-choice, even if I am anti-abortion.
I hope that it has helped you understand that there is a difference, and it is a really big one, between being pro-choice and being pro-abortion, and that being pro-life does not mean that you have to be anti-choice either. When I say I am pro-choice, I’m also saying that I don’t have the moral right or responsibility to decide when and if a pregnancy should or could be terminated. If women are opting to use abortion to kill unwanted children over and over, then we have an issue with their morality and that is what needs to be addressed. Surely it is far cheaper and easier to use birth control to prevent conception than it is to endure repeated abortions anyhow, and the few women that I know that have ever had an abortion weren’t exactly thrilled to have the opportunity either. It’s a tough decision, and none of them chose it lightly.