I could never write about this without first saying that I never want to be in the position to make such a choice, but if I am, I hope that I make the decision in line with my beliefs. A lifetime of mistakes has taught me that I do not always hold true to what I believe, that I am weak, I am flawed and that often, when tested, my convictions fall at the feet of my self preservation. And so I will not say with any certainty that I would never have an abortion, only that I hope, when faced with the decision, that my faith would be stronger than my fear.
I was raised in a society in which Christianity was more than religion, it was the only religion and Christian values were synonymous with morals. I was brought up to believe in the sanctity of life. I am staunchly anti death penalty, regardless of the crime. I do not believe in peace by military action & I am yet to find a war that I can support. I do not like abortion and for that reason, I am absolutely pro-contraception. I believe in adoption. I believe in free and universal health care. I cannot stomach that your worth as a human being is determined most by where you were born and the colour of your skin. I believe in assisting asylum seekers, I believe human rights are for all humans, not just those that have the “right” citizenship. I am pro-life, not just pro-birth.
I want to take a moment to talk about lives that are no longer celebrated.
I am pro-life. I am as pro life of the mother as I am life of the child. There are women in the world who have made the incredibly difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy. They have been labeled as callous & shameful. They have been told that they are sexual hedonists, seeking pleasure with no consequences. They are depicted as unfeeling monsters, selfish pleasure seekers, unworthy of the organs they were born with. Shame on you, Society.
Like all things in today’s sensationalist media, the conversation around abortion centres around the extremes.
“Pro-life” was a term created by those in opposition to legalizing abortion in reaction to the 1973 US Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade which held that a woman may terminate her pregnancy in the first trimester, and may also terminate her pregnancy “subsequent to viability … for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” The words were framed to take the focus away from a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy, and shift the conversation to a discussion about the sanctity of human life.
“Pro-Choice” is a political term introduced by pro-abortion rights groups and serves a similar function – to focus the conversation on the rights of the pregnant woman without mentioning the fetus. As has become the unfortunate status quo, a political messaging war was waged and the media abdicated its responsibility to keep both sides accountable. It has subsequently been used as a mouth piece for both opposing views. In the meantime, a real conversation was, ironically, aborted.
I have been reticent to write about this topic. My Christian friends will almost certainly be concerned that I see grey where “the Bible is black and white”. My agnostic & atheist (and generally more liberal friends) will likely be more understanding, but I’m not sure by how much. As one friend put it many years ago: “You’re pro-life?”, disbelief and disgust registering in her tone. “How can you be young, smart and female and still be pro-life?” I re-live that conversation every now and again, bemused by my mixed reaction of intense anger and also, embarrassment.
A Christian friend of mine was sexually assaulted. I remember her struggling with the decision to take the morning after pill. She contacted me, confused and scared and I was struck by the absurdity of our conversation as we tried to figure out the age old question of whether life began at conception or at implantation. She had just been raped and the guilt heaped upon women by society and by religion was of more profound impact than the heinous violation that she had just lived through.
I have Christian friends who will not use hormonal contraception because they are afraid they are killing life before it has a chance to be.
I have seen women who have live ectopic pregnancies, threatening their lives. We advise them to end the pregnancy before it ruptures and becomes life threatening. I wonder if society would prefer we allow their lives to end instead?
I have seen families struggle with the decision to end pregnancies when there are significant abnormalities that are not compatible with life after birth. Should we force them to continue a pregnancy, labour and delivery of a baby who will live minutes in order to feel better about our collective stance on the sanctity of life? Are we that cruel?
I have seen young women in difficult circumstances for whom a pregnancy, let alone a child, represents genuine psychological and financial ruin. Are we happy to sit on the sidelines and judge their decisions, without providing easily accessible social structures for them to feed, clothe and raise the child after it is born?
When we talk about abortion, we talk about the women. We never talk about the men who, for many women, are no longer in the picture. Their selfishness is frowned upon, but acceptable. Their morality is questioned, but not decided upon. But we label the women as primarily selfish. We impose on them that the price for having the biology to sustain a budding life is the ‘privilege of pregnancy’ and those women who reject that ‘honour’ are somehow immoral.
It seems to me that society values life much more before it has taken its first breath than after.
As a collective, society wants to force women to give birth, to “bear the consequences of their decisions” without bearing the consequences of ours: thousands of children in foster care, millions of starving children, stagnant maternal mortality and morbidity with rising neonatal mortality rates, neglected and abused children, childhood poverty, child slavery, child trafficking, dysfunctional teens and psychologically damaged adults.
Our governments make contraception expensive, our religious organisations make it controversial, our men make it undesirable and our media and vanity make the side effects unacceptable. And when the inevitable happens and unplanned pregnancies are on the rise, we insist that the fault is with the individual (not individuals).
There are some women who simply do not want to be pregnant. Maybe they skipped a pill, maybe they couldn’t afford it, maybe they just didn’t want to take it. Maybe they made an impromptu and unwise decision to engage in unprotected sex. Maybe they found out they were pregnant and decided they simply did not want to be mothers. Are their rights any different to those of women who have a genuine medical reason to terminate a pregnancy?
I do not like abortion. It is an affront to what I believe. In my own life, I hope that if faced with the decision, I would not make a decision to terminate a pregnancy. But I do not believe that in my profession, or in my politics, I have the right to make that decision for any other woman.
I believe that the best course to prevent abortion is to make contraception free and widely available, it is to de-stigmatise sex education and introduce it into schools as early as possible, it is to teach young boys to value women and for us to counter the messaging of the sexual domination of women by men, to make women’s health inexpensive and accessible, to make raising a child a little bit cheaper and to make adoptions a little bit easier.
I am pro-life, not just pro-birth.
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