Feminism | Posted by Laura H on 11/30/2010

The Beauty of Choice

Being a feminist with a large number of not-so-feminist pro-life friends does tend to give you some perspective. Today, having a heated argument with a friend over abortion, was one of those times I really felt our difference in perspectives.

Later, after the debate, reflecting on the exchange when my temper had cooled off, I found that I was more upset than angry. I really value my friendships and I hate it when issues like this come between us. But the pro-choice cause is something that I care about passionately and there are times when you have to make difficult decisions about your priorities. The only thing you can do is hope that, after all the anger has passed, you can still recognise the people you care about in the rubble your conflicts, and be truly happy to find them again.

Abortion is difficult. Really gut-wrenchingly difficult. And as Frederica Mathewes-Green once said, “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.” Often abortion is very emotionally difficult for the woman and any family involved, and I wish with all my heart that no woman ever had to go through that sort of distress and the stigma that is often attached to such procedures. Everyone wishes that pregnancy happened only to women who really want a child, who feel emotionally, physically and financially ready to care for that child, who have the necessary support to bring up that child well, and whose lives will be enriched as a result of their pregnancy. But it’s when we assume that this is the only appropriate response to a pregnancy that we run into difficulties.

The reality is that for many women, a child is the last thing they want. They may not feel they are old enough to bring a child into the world, they may be unable to provide financially for a child, or they may just decide, in an equally legitimate decision, that they just don’t want to carry another human inside them for nine months. And we should accept that, because whatever the reason a woman has for wanting to terminate her pregnancy, she damn well knows better that you or me or a group of men sitting in a room making up laws, what the best choice for her is.
I’m going to say something now that may anger some fellow pro-choicers: I don’t personally like the loss of life involved in abortion – if “like” is the right world, or, indeed, “life!” (which is a separate issue I won’t go into now). I would like to see every pregnancy brought to term, and lots of happy mothers dancing around hospital wards with their chubby, smiling babies. I would prefer it if we didn’t have crematoriums and graves full of aborted foetuses or pregnancies what don’t result in happiness. And that’s what pro-lifers want too, so I guess we have some common ground! The problem is that pro-lifers can’t see any further than that. For them, the foetus is the beginning and end of the issue and the woman housing it will always take second place.

But, in my opinion, the foetus in question is only a small part of the equation. In a perfect world where all children are wanted, loved and born into a world which welcomes them, where there are no women enslaved to their own bodies, where there is no abuse and neglect, no war or drugs or poverty, no failed birth control, no rape victims, no young survivors of incest, no women who make honestly regretted mistakes, maybe there would be no abortion. In a perfect world, financial difficulties would never be a reason for a woman to have an abortion because the Government would step in at once to make sure that she wasn’t forced to undergo any procedure just because she was poor, and would make sure she could adequately provide for that child once it was born. In a perfect world, society would make it okay for a woman to say “no” to sex she doesn’t want and to have the power in a relationship to make sure that her and her partner are using birth control that works for her. In a perfect world, for a woman to have a child would not restrict her freedom or her ability to fulfil her own hopes and dreams. In a perfect world, we would be so medically advanced that the diseases and disabilities that may lead a woman to decide on an abortion could be sorted out. If the world was really like that, maybe we wouldn’t have abortion.

The pro-choice community doesn’t just see a foetus, but a whole complicated, unfair, often sad world where we can’t solve everything. We see the abused, neglected children who are born to parents who never, ever wanted them, and those who go hungry because their parents are unable to provide for them. We see the rape victims who, upon having their control over their own bodies torn from them once, often find themselves, victims of pro-life families and friends, having their right to choose stripped of them once more. We see the women, driven to desperation, who perform abortions on themselves with often tragic results. We see the women for whom “no” isn’t enough, and we fight for them. To be pro-choice is to truly care about others. To choose not to give birth to a child you feel you are unable to care for is, far from taking the easy way out, an act of immense courage and morality. To be pro-choice is to work towards a world where abortion can be safe, legal and rare and women who choose such a path can be supported rather than judged.

I wish that I had said this to the friend who now thinks I’m a sadistic baby-eating monster. I wish I could show him how much common ground we share. We both want a world which is fair, just and happy, we just don’t agree on what that world would look like. What I wish he understood, above all, is that pro-life is the first step to pro-choice. I am pro-life for as many potential human beings as possible. I am pro-life for those who can truly gain something from being alive. I am pro-life for the women who choose to bring a child into the world and those who make the often difficult choice to carry on living as they did before their pregnancy. I am pro a full, happy, beautiful life for all people, and this is a life that is only possible with care, compassion and, above all, choice.

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  • Katherine C. @ at 5:30 pm, November 30th, 2010

    Very nicely done :)

    This is what I usually say to sum up my beliefs on abortion rights: “The woman’s wishes are everything. The fetus is irrelevant.” That’s honestly what I think, but it is pretty inflammatory and does make people think of me as “a sadistic baby-eating monster.” I can get pretty hotheaded about this thing; I hope someday to have as much maturity and fairness as you in this regard.

  • Sophia @ at 6:44 pm, November 30th, 2010

    I also had a debate with a friend over abortion. While I do agree that women, especially teenagers, should be cautious and be sure what steps they have to take before having sex, my friend does have the habit of thinking all pregnant women who want an abortion are “slutty”.
    I asked her about rape and incest, as well as women who get pregnant while using contraceptives – but she looked at me as though those things don’t occur in the world.

  • A @ at 9:36 pm, November 30th, 2010

    I’ve had trouble deciding my position on abortion. I am young and none of my friends or family members, to my knowledge, have ever had an unwanted pregnancy. I didn’t want to become pro choice just because I knew most feminists were too. This is one of those articles that made me genuinely believe in the pro choice perspective.

  • Nano Muse @ at 12:16 am, December 1st, 2010

    I also agree that while I don’t like abortion, I do think it is necessary and everyone has the right to choose. I lost a potential sibling to abortion, but I would rather that than they be born into the psychologically/emotionally incapable and borderline abusive family that was my home at the time. In a perfect world, there would be no abortion because there would be no NEED for abortion. But this isn’t a perfect world, and we need to accept that.

  • Katie @ at 12:50 am, December 1st, 2010

    @Nano…well said.

    I believe that no one honestly “likes” abortion, and making a decision to get one isn’t something enjoyable women look forward to. That being said I do believe that it is necessary in our society right now.
    Maybe when the government tries to help a couple out when they do decide to get pregnant and have a child (I’m talking about legitimate maternity and paternity leave in the workplace, affordable and accessible childcare for EVERYONE, etc.) then circumstances might being to change.
    I am fiercely pro-choice for many, many reasons but I do believe that no one inherently enjoys the thought of stopping the growth of a potential life. But, until our society becomes more “family friendly,” we have to work with what we got.

  • SarahC @ at 3:07 am, December 1st, 2010

    Thank you for this article. You make the point here that I often make in these debates. In an ideal world, there would be no abortion. Not as the result of any ban, there would be no reason to ban it. Because in an ideal world, no one would need an abortion. In an ideal world, every child would be the result of an active choice to get pregnant, and every child would be wanted. If we really want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, let’s focus on reducing unwanted pregnancies.

  • Lolita @ at 9:41 am, December 1st, 2010

    it’s a nice quote but you really should research Frederica Mathewes-Green more carefully before you use her….

  • Laura H @ at 10:32 am, December 1st, 2010

    Yes, I do know what you mean, Lolita, and I did hesitate over whether or not to use that quote, but I decided in the end that it had some useful commentary to provide. And, yes, I am aware that Frederica Mathewes-Green was a pro-lifer, but she was critical of some of the more radical pro-life exploits. I think that, regardless of other aspects of her work, and however it was she meant this quote to be taken, it still has something valuable to say about society and the reasons women have abortions. Or just an excellent example of how pro-lifers and pro-choicers agree on so many important aspects (such as the value of life) but just disagree on how we should interpret such important values. But I agree, it’s a tricky one! Anyway, thanks for your input and a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment!

  • Tessa @ at 7:14 pm, December 2nd, 2010

    I’m fiercely pro-choice and I also care passionately about this issue. I absoultely HATE HATE HATE the whole “pro-life” (aka anti-choice, pro-body control, etc.) position and I get so angry whenever I debate this with anyone. I’m of the firm mindset that IF YOU DON’T LIKE ABORTION, DON’T HAVE ONE!!! But, please anti-choicers, stay out of women’s lives.

    I believe partial-birth abortions should be legal and that federal funding should go towards funding abortion. A woman’s quality of life in my opinion is much more important than a fetus’s potential to be a life. Thus I consider myself “pro-life” because I support a HUMAN BEING’S quality of life. Me, you, lawmakers, and anyone besides the woman in question deserve no say in the matter because WE’RE not affected.

    Because it’s women who are in question, the government thinks it’s okay to raid our bodies and have any sort of say in our reproductive choices. Seriously, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

  • All Saints Day @ at 3:29 am, December 3rd, 2010

    Whoops, just found this again on Instapaper so my comment’s a bit later than I first thought it.

    This is a lot like how I feel about it. I was raised Catholic, in a heavily Catholic area, so I grew up knowing a lot of pro-life people, although none of them were policy makers. And the whole attitude I caught the whole time was that it was a tragedy. That people were getting killed. That holy hell, does it suck for the women who have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. That anyone’s right to control their life and body is about an 8, but the right of a a fetus (which is, in this view, an unborn child) to not be murdered is a 10, just like it would be for a 2-month-old whose mother didn’t want a child. But that people whose choice is “This sucks, so I’m murdering my child” are making the wrong choice. (Because, just like we ascribe them horrid views they don’t actually subscribe to, like “Ya know, I think it’s perfectly okay for me to control women’s bodies,” they ascribe us horrid views we don’t actually ascribe to, like “I want to kill my child.”)

    As much as it’s psychologically easier to ascribe evil motivation to them, they too are doing things for a good motivation (even if I think they misunderstand something and aren’t doing ultimately good things).

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 11:16 am, December 3rd, 2010

    I honestly can not understand how you can be friends with anti-choice people. To me, that’s like being friends with racists.

    They are just bad people, I’m sure some people can find redeeming traits about in both groups but I’m not that cordial.

    To anti-choice people – I could care less what your god/values have to say about anything, now please do the world a favour and drop dead, the rest of us have to live here.

  • Tessa @ at 3:33 pm, December 3rd, 2010

    @ Alex Catgirl,

    I agree with you to some extent. I don’t think people against abortion in the general population are bad people. Anti-choice people in positions of power (lawmakers, congresspeople, etc.) are bad people because their stupid, narrow-minded views on abortion are influential and directly affect women’s lives. But I don’t necessarily think that people in the general population who don’t have any influence on abortion rights are bad people, just naive.

    And yeah, I also hate the god/values thing that anti-choicers try to infringe on people’s lives.

  • All Saints Day @ at 5:33 pm, December 3rd, 2010

    What value are they trying to push? It was presented very, very heavily to me as “A fetus is a person.” and “You shouldn’t kill people.” The former isn’t a value, and the latter doesn’t need to be pushed on me.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re dead wrong. But the bulk of them are closer to bumbling idiots than evil masterminds, and willfully misunderstanding their thought process does no one any good.

  • Halle @ at 8:00 pm, December 6th, 2010

    This article is lovely and it eloquently put together my exact views and gave them words.

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