Can You Be Both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?
I'm so tired of seeing articles and memes whose only purpose seems to be to make every woman who's had an abortion, or even considered having one, feel guilty. And to make everyone else hate abortion.
But, more important, I've heard so many people—including friends and relatives of mine—say that they only vote Conservative (in Canada) or Republican (in the US) because they are pro-life, and won't vote Liberal (in Canada) or Democrat (in the US) because they're pro-choice.
The bottom-line is that they want abortion to be illegal again. Like it once was. Because abortion is wrong. Because it’s murder. And women who have abortions must be terrible people.
Let me present what I see as the main points for both sides.
Why I Consider Myself Pro-Life.
In the big picture, I know that the little cell that’s been implanted will (given a reasonable amount of luck) grow into a real, live baby, and then into a child, and, later, an adult. When there is an abortion, that will no longer happen.
The person who would have lived now won't.
So, yes, when you call choosing to end a pregnancy "murder," a part of me agrees.
And I feel sad when a baby is aborted, for whatever reason.
But I also know that looking at abortion only from that perspective is like looking at a photograph instead of a video. You see a very small part of the picture.
Why I Consider Myself Pro-Choice
Many people who want laws against abortion seem to be in the camp that says it's the woman's fault she got pregnant so she has to have the baby whether she wants to or not.
And too many of those people don't seem to care what happens to either the mother or the baby after the birth.
And therein lies the problem. If the mother is only seen as a conduit for the baby's birth, and if no thought is given to what happens to the baby and its mother after the birth, that's not really pro-life. That's what some people call "pro-birth" or even "forced-birth."
(My next post will offer suggestions as to how we can more effectively be pro-life.)
Before even considering passing laws that make abortion illegal, we need to ask a simple question: "Why do women get abortions?"
Which of the following scenarios would be solved by having laws that force girls and women to have a baby?
- She's a teenager, and her boyfriend has no money and no job. And she knows her parents will hit the roof. Have told her they'd kick her out of her home if she got pregnant.
- Her boyfriend got her pregnant because he refuses to use a condom even though she has begged him to.
- She was feeling really depressed and vulnerable, and a casual friend at a party kept giving her drinks and sympathizing, and she let him seduce her.
- She and her partner were being responsible and using contraceptives, but she still got pregnant.
- Her partner has refused to support her if she chooses to keep the baby.
- Her physical health isn't good and a pregnancy will seriously compromise it.
- Her emotional health was fragile even without having a baby. She's afraid this would push her over the edge.
- They already have several kids and they love them, but they're struggling financially to look after them. They can barely manage as it is.
- The baby is unlikely to survive, and even if it does, it has abnormalities that would require a great deal of care and expense.
- She's in college and knows she'd have to drop out. But she desperately wants to finish her education so she can support herself and then have a child.
- She got pregnant and then the doctor discovered she had cancer and the cancer would kill her unless she had chemo. But the chemo would harm the baby.
- She was raped. By a family member. A friend. An intruder. A co-worker. A strange man in an alley... Is it okay to tell a woman who’s been raped to just deal with it?
- She's only a child. Eleven or twelve. When is it too much to expect a young girl to go through the physical and emotional trauma of carrying an unwanted baby until its birth?
- Her partner is abusive and punched her in the stomach or threw her down the stairs to get rid of the baby. What if she's terrified for her life if she doesn't get an abortion?
- One of her parents is the abusive person.
There could be many more “What If’s?” But I’m hoping you get the picture.
So again, tell me which of the above scenarios would be solved by having a law that prevents girls and women from having abortions?
Right. The answer is "None."
Why should anyone else have the right to force a girl or woman to carry and give birth to a baby with no consideration for her circumstance and her physical and mental health?
And why should the burden of responsibility for babies be placed solely on the shoulders of women and girls?
Babies come from two people: a father and a mother.
As Howard Wolowitz mentioned so eloquently on the Big Bang Theory, his part in creating his daughter took about five minutes.
Of course, some fathers' roles might take more minutes, and they might be tremendously supportive, but no father has to do what the mother does—take physiological and emotional responsibility for the baby for nine months, give birth, and care for the newborn.
And some women have to shoulder some or all of the financial responsibility, too.
Some realities women face:
- Fathers can leave and not pay child support and often get away with it.
- Women who are the single bread-winner may find they are paid less for doing exactly the same jobs as men. And women of colour may earn even less than white women.
- Women who work full-time jobs are still often expected to look after the home and children, too.
- Canada has 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, plus longer time if needed (for both parents). But that may not apply or be adequate in all cases. The US only offers only 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
- Few workplaces make accomodation for babies after the maternity leave is over. And women who breastfeed in public are still often looked down on or asked to leave.
- One in four women (probably higher) will be sexually assaulted. Some repeatedly.
- Many young girls and women are being trafficked in Canada. Of course, their abusers will force them to get abortions if the girls get pregnant.
- Girls and women are still often blamed for being assaulted or trafficked while the men or boys who rape or assault them all too often get a slap on the wrist.
- Many women are abused or murdered by their partners, spouses, abusers, and even parents.
- Every 2.5 days, a woman or girl is killed in Canada, usually by a spouse, a family member, or an intimate partner. In the US it's up to 4 women per day.
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that one in four women will decide to have an abortion.
Yes, there are a small group of women who will treat abortion as birth control.
But the majority will agonize over their decision, usually choosing abortion only because they don't see any other realistic solution.
Abortion is the direct result of our propping up a society that doesn't take care of its women and mothers.
The issue isn't really abortion.
Abortion is the consequence of the circumstances in her life that make a girl or women feel that abortion is her only way forward—the only way she can survive this challenge.
Placing all the blame for choosing to have an abortion on the mother, and creating laws that put all of the ownership of the baby on her, is the easiest way for the rest of society (not to mention the father) to ignore the circumstances that led her to need an abortion in the first place.
We have to do better.