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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