This is an invitation. To stop and reconsider ideas that you have held tightly, maybe for a long time. To ask questions. To look at someone else who holds a different idea, belief, or conviction than you do, with eyes of love. To speak honestly and with love and to listen earnestly and open your heart.
I'm not sure why I'm called to write on this particular topic at this specific point in time. Perhaps it is the strong relationship between my last post on NFP, contraception, pregnancy, abortion, and how all of these relate to women's empowerment and the world we live in. And of course there is the imminent election - abortion keeps popping up on my radar as the election approaches. (Of course I already kind of gave away where my presidential vote is going here!)
In the interest of full-disclosure (gotta walk the honest walk!) I will state up front that I definitely identify more strongly with the "pro-life" movement at this point in my life. But I have considered myself "pro-choice" at other times. I also have experience talking with close loved ones about abortion - those on either side of the issue - and I know that it can be discussed both passionately AND compassionately.
That being said I believe that part of the problem is the "dichotomy" of "pro-choice" versus "pro-life". This is not a simple issue and even people who call themselves one or the other, may have very different views or ideas than people in the same "camp" as them.
Frozen fingers hover over the keyboard. Where to start? Which "side"? What is THE ANSWER? I'm afraid I don't have the answer but I do have more questions. As with many controversial issues, if you start to read about abortion you will quickly start down an endless rabbit hole of information and of course, opinions. For someone like myself (a Gemini of two minds, wishy-washy, open-minded, undecided - whatever you wish to call me) this can be very confusing as you click, read, and follow the infinite path. (Comments, as always, are particularly deadly! Beware.) Instead of clarity you may end up with your brain twisted into dendritic knots. I may not have anything new to say, but I do have my own unique experience and perspective. Hopefully writing about abortion may bring new transparency and open conversation on a very sensitive issue.
For me, it helps to break abortion down into relevant and irrelevant issues and the questions that we must ask ourselves. There are other people's stories and perspectives to consider. And when all that is said and done, after we've done the research, and asked the questions, what do our spirits whisper to us when we get very still and quiet.
To me the most relevant issue is the baby. Is it a baby? Is it a fetus or embryo or zygote? Is it just a ball of cells that feels nothing? When is the point of viability?
The biggest problem with abortion is that we don't really know the answers to these questions. And actually all of these words are just terms - scientific words - to describe the process of growing and developing. As in all things that we humans break into stages to understand them - pregnancy, childhood, the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly - these separations are artificial. Everything that is needed to form a whole human being is there when the sperm and egg are joined together.
What about pain? When is the baby able to feel the pain of an abortion? It is clear that there are abortions being performed on babies who feel and some who are "viable". I recently heard of twins born at 24 weeks gestation and surviving. About 12% of abortions are in the second trimester of pregnancy, and, although rare, some past 20 weeks. This year a baby was born at 21 weeks 5 days and survived. The point of "viability" is a huge gray area in the argument for allowing abortions.
To me technology does NOT always = better. It has not proven better in birth, in our food sources, or in caring for our children. But with improvements in our medical knowledge babies are surviving against all odds at more premature stages. Also as we get clearer images of babies in the womb through ultrasound and other images we get to see exactly how human babies are from a very early stage of development. So in a bit of an ironic twist, technology is showing us very clearly the miracle of life that begins as a baby in a mother's womb.
I recently read the book Unplanned, by Abby Johnson. I believe everyone should take the time to read it - both "pro-lifers" and "pro-choicers" and everyone in all the shades of gray between. Abby Johnson was a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas who ended up having a dramatic conversion after witnessing and participating in an abortion. The description of that event alone makes the book a worthwhile read. Also since she was a very active participant in the pro-choice movement, and now the pro-life movement, she has a very unique and informed perspective.
Did you know that there are Abortion SURVIVORS? Yes, people who were meant to be aborted as babies but live. Awful but true.
I was thinking the other day about what children might have to say on the issue of abortion. Now, I'm not suggesting that we all ask our kids what they think, because in my opinion it is not a topic that children should be burdened with (heck, I'm still barely able to wrap my brain around it!) But I have a decent idea of what most kids would think and say. Kids have a way of cutting through everything - fancy rhetoric, scientific terminology, and emotional baggage - and I'm pretty sure kids would naturally be against abortion. Here you can find some voices of children and their feelings about abortion. I'm not saying that children can understand all of the complexities surrounding abortion, I'm simply noting that kids have a way of seeing things how they are and they are much better than adults are at trusting their instincts. Thinking of their reactions, thoughts, and words can help us reconnect to our inner-voices.
I guess it's pretty obvious that I've convinced myself that when talking about abortion, we're talking about taking a LIFE. I have a difficult time seeing much of any other way (but as I've stated, am willing to read material that may change my mind).
Once that is clear in my mind, there are some things that just become irrelevant. One of those is that there are people in the "pro-life" camp that are hypocritcal. This ranges from statements such as "I don't want a white, middle-aged man telling me what I can or cannot do," to "Pro-life people care about a fetus but then don't do anything to help real, living people (poor children/mothers etc.)" or "How can you be pro-life and be pro-gun/pro-war/pro-death penalty".
Sure, there is hypocrisy. There is hypocrisy everywhere. But that doesn't mean that we reject everything the Hypocrite believes just because that is what they believe. In fact, the Hypocrite may have some things right.
Another argument that doesn't sit well with me is "It's my body". It seems pretty obvious that there are always two bodies involved in abortion.
Another irrelevant, peripheral argument that come to my mind is the world's population. Yes, there are a lot of humans. Is this a problem? Could be. Is abortion the answer? I don't think so.
The Gray areas:
Finally, we get to the hardest part of this topic. The mothers. Our mothers, sisters, friends, and daughters. Women with stories. Women who feel trapped and out of options. Women without a partner, or an abusive partner, with few financial resources or with big dreams. Young women and old women. In the most horrible cases, women who are taken advantage of, abused, even raped - often by people that should love them. In the case of poor women, the hard-reality that they cannot give a child the life they dream of. And of course the children that actually live this reality - of poverty and lack, or even worse of pain, abuse, and neglect.
From the Facts on Abortion, "At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45."
30%of women by age 45 will have an abortion!
For me, this is not about judgement or condemnation. Many women I know who are pro-choice readily admit that they don't feel abortion is right for them but they don't think it's for them to decide for another woman. We *feel* for the mothers that come to a place in their lives where they feel like this is the best decision for them. Because the truth is:
NO ONE *WANTS* TO HAVE TO HAVE AN ABORTION.
I don't have the answers to these terrible, unfair, inhumane circumstances. I believe the big questions we need to ask ourselves are -
Are we fighting AGAINST the world we actually live in now?
Are we aiming for what we know the world SHOULD BE?
I know it's idealistic, but I want to aim for a world where abortion isn't even necessary. I know that all "the bad stuff" is still there - it's still happening every day. So we work to end these terrible things. We reach out with compassion and love to those who aren't as fortunate as we are. But we can't use one, or even many, bad things to justify another. Two wrongs never make a right.
Holy Tangled Monkey Chains! I know that this post was hardly an unbiased look at the "sides" of abortion. In the end I make up my mind based on what makes sense to me and what my heart is telling me. The only thing I know for certain is that most likely I will change my mind again tomorrow and the day after that. I welcome other respectfully stated viewpoints here.
I do think I've shown that I respect and understand parts of the "pro-choice" perspective and the "pro-life" perspective. I'd like to propose a paradigm shift to "pro-humanity" - the humanity inside a woman's womb, the humanity of the pregnant woman who feels alone, trapped, and without options, the humanity of the father of the child in the mother's womb, the humanity in the religious and non-religious, the humanity in politicians and priests, and for everyone in between. Because I love humanity.
11/5/2012 10:41:44 am
Oh Susan, this is wonderful. As the original article pointed out for me, no matter what labels we chose for ourselves I think there are areas of overlap and maybe in some (most?) circumstances more similarities than differences if we can just get over ourselves and listen to each other.
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Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.