You guys, I’ve been staring at my monitor for way too long trying to figure out how to say everything I want to say without offending anyone. Abortion is such a delicate topic and it’s so personal and touches so many nerves and it’s just fucking tough to discuss rationally. And I think that’s one of the reasons the pro-choice side seems to be losing everywhere. It’s a lot easier to hold up pictures of mangled fetuses and scream at strangers and to murder doctors – and to convince people that these extremist actions are needed to protect the babies. I can’t do the equivalent, there is no equivalent. So we on the choice side make carefully worded arguments and try to hold debates and sign petitions and lose the battle of showmanship.
It’s easy to throw our hands up and simmer in our rage and gnash our teeth with every new law restricting our rights and to feel just completely useless. And I don’t honestly believe that reading this post on this little goofy blog is going to convince an anti-choicer to join my side, but I can’t stay quiet. It’s not how I roll, y’all. So, I’m stealing an idea from John Oliver (which, if you’re not watching Last Week Tonight you’re missing out, it’s brilliant), I’m going to write a whole bunch about an uncomfortable topic and if you read all the way through to the end, you’ll be rewarded with a video you want to watch. Like of tiny animals being tiny and adorable. Deal? (Yes, you can just scroll down without reading, but that would be a total dick move.)
It’s no news that I was raised as a crazy, holy roller Christian, the sort who knew abortion was murder at the age of 8. I remember a family friend who had a child later in life talking about having an amnio come back as positive for Downs’ Syndrome and (allegedly) being advised to abort. She didn’t, her child was born typical and this was the proof that abortions killed perfect little babies all of the time. I don’t remember much more about the situation, but I know this was (and likely still is) a big anti-choice argument. This myth of abortion-crazed doctors bent on murdering babies in the foulest ways possible because they’re sick, evil men filled with the false pride of Satan. I understand how easy it is to hear stories like that and to truly, deep in your soul, believe that abortion is murder and that there is no greater good than correcting that evil. Especially when you’ve been raised to think this way.
Now, I’m not going to debate whether or not life begins at conception or when a fetus is viable or any of that. I’m not going to quibble over 20 weeks or 22 weeks or 18 weeks. Some people believe life begins when a spermatozoa breaks through a barrier and fertilizes an egg. I get that argument and you’re free to believe what you want. My request is that you realize some people believe different things and that your beliefs are based on your Christian religion and your faith doesn’t get to supersede mine. I’m Jewish now. My religion has different views on when life begins, it’s after birth. My religion teaches the life of a fetus does not trump the life of the mother, or any other “person.” Like, if I was pregnant and my sister had a terminal illness and the only thing that could save her was one of my kidneys, but to donate I had to terminate my pregnancy – well, my obligation is to save the life of my sister. So, let’s all remember that not everyone has the same faith or belief system and that we should try to make broad, societal decisions without using religion as our “because.”
(Although, if we do that, well, a lot of the anti-abortion rhetoric falls apart, now doesn’t it? Let that sink in for a moment. Most of this debate, at least on the extreme anti-choice side, is really people screaming that their interpretation of their god should dictate my choices about my body and what may or may not be growing in it. So, yeah, I don’t expect to change minds because it’s very hard to convince religious fanatics to be reasonable.)
So, this whole post was prompted by the recent SCOTUS decision that buffer zones infringed on free speech (*cough*BULLSHIT*cough*). The problem, well one of them, is that the “protesting” done by a lot of these people isn’t calmly chanting and handing out leaflets and singing freedom songs – it’s intrusive, screaming, hateful, threatening bullying that creates an unsafe environment for workers and patients at clinics across the country. There’s a clinic here in Richmond that I’ve been to. I was 19, working as a temp, had no health insurance and I was in a committed relationship and I made the responsible decision to start using birth control. This clinic was near my home and affordable, so I made my appointment. I’d been to pro-choice marches and I’d been confronted by these anti-abortion protestors before, but it was still super unsettling to be screamed at and called a baby killer when I was just going to get a pap and some Yaz. And it was a quiet day.
I can’t imagine being in the position where I’ve decided to terminate a pregnancy (for WHATEVER REASON), getting to a clinic and being aggressively yelled at, had my license plate number written down by a stranger, have people attempt to block my way as I walk in, have people hand my flyers saying abortions cause cancer or autism or depression or will ruin your womb for all future inhabitants, have blown up, gruesome pictures of botched 3rd trimester abortions waved in my face, while trying to exercise a simple, constitutionally protected, personal medical decision. And that’s me imagining me now. What about teens that have to go? What about women who aren’t entirely comfortable with the decision but know it’s what is necessary? What about the women who are doing this because they’ve already been through a trauma – rape, incest, abusive partner – and are trying to move on with their lives? What if you’re just someone who gets scared by the idea of a medical procedure? And the thing is, no one is saying you can’t go and protest, you just have to do so from a bit of a distance. If you feel you must be in a woman’s face to intimidate her into forgoing a termination (if that’s even why she’s at the clinic), what you’re doing is not protesting. It’s bullying.
But that’s not even the part of the whole abortion debate that really, really gets my fucking goat. It’s this: you don’t believe I should be able to terminate a pregnancy but you’re also going to fight against my ability to actually have and support a child? And you’re going to fight against preventing my pregnancy in the first place? That is the discussion that we should be having – not buffer zones or ordinances or hospital privileges. You, anti-choicer, you want fewer abortions: let’s discuss how we can make that happen. Because shutting down clinics isn’t going to do it. You just have to look into the not-so-distant past (or watch Dirty Dancing) to know that back alley abortions are going to happen, and that’s not good for anyone.
So, what can we do? Let’s start at the beginning – let’s have comprehensive sex education in our schools, and let’s start it while they’re young. Let’s make condoms available to everyone for little to no money. Let’s make sure there’s access to birth control for any woman who wants it. Because, news flash, letting people know how to prevent pregnancy and giving them the tools to do so is a really good way to prevent pregnancy.
Next, let’s make sure if a woman gets pregnant, she has access to good medical care. I mean, it is a health issue at it’s most basic level. Let’s make sure there are good pre-natal programs. Let’s have pregnancy, birthing and mothering classes available to all women. And remember, being pregnant and having a baby can really rack up the medical bills, assuming of course that the woman can afford to go to a doctor in the first place, so if we don’t want women having to choose between carrying a pregnancy to term or paying rent, let’s make sure that her bills won’t bankrupt her.
Speaking of money, kids are so expensive! Let’s give women equal pay for equal work, let’s raise the minimum wage, let’s make sure that if a woman has a job and goes on maternity leave, she can keep her job and still buy food (unpaid maternity leave is bullshit – utter, rotten bullshit). Let’s make sure there’s affordable housing and affordable day care so this new mom can keep a roof over her head and know that her child is safe while she’s at work. Let’s make sure that if she can’t work, that our social welfare system is adequate to raise a child.
Now, I’m not saying doing these things is going to eliminate the need for abortions. Many abortions are medically necessary. I don’t think a woman who is impregnated without consent should then be forced to carry that child. And, when all is said and done, I still believe that an abortion is a woman’s private medical choice and she should have access to one if she wants. But I don’t think anyone would argue that fewer abortions is a bad thing. So why can’t we work from the middle out? It infuriates and confounds me. Instead of having a debate over whether or not the rape that caused a pregnancy is legitimate, or how in danger a woman’s life must be before she can terminate, or how consensual incest can be – let’s help make unwanted pregnancies not happen in the first place and allow women who want to carry to term the stability to do so. Scaring a woman away from an abortion with lies and threats solves only a very tiny part of the issue. If you claim to be pro-life, then prove it by supporting the life you’re so hellbent on saving.
CONGRATULATIONS!! YOU MADE IT TO THE END!! As promised, here is a video to make your day better: