I tell myself to keep quiet, but I can’t keep quiet.
To be clear: I am pro-life. By this I mean I hold all life sacred, from the ant to the eagle, from the bot-fly to the barrier reef, from the dandelion to the old-growth forest, every fawn and rattlesnake, every vulture and morning dove. Every man, woman, and child.
I am also pro-choice.
Why? Because life is messy and hard, and right now society makes it even harder for women and children. So many people don’t stand a chance, and no one is going to help them. Women have to make hard choices, and pregnancy termination has been with us since 1600BC at least.
Had I gotten pregnant at 16 and kept the child, when I was briefly married (with my parents’ consent) to a man 10 years older, I wouldn’t have stood a chance either, and no one would have helped me. I know, because no one did, even without a child. Had I gotten pregnant and kept the child, I would have made a terrible mother. I was an alcoholic. Uneducated. Poor as dirt. And, perhaps most importantly, I didn’t want a child. I have never wanted children, perhaps intuiting what a dreadful mother I would be. Back then, the idea of getting my tubes tied didn’t even occur to me, and no doctor would have performed the operation on a young white girl anyway. (I use the ‘white’ qualifier since many Black, Latino, Indigenous, and disabled women were forcibly sterilized by the US government. )
Not all women are born to be mothers, regardless of what a certain group of evangelicals say. Also, let’s be clear, rich (white) women will still be able to get abortions by jetting off to a more civilized country. Poor women will not. They will seek out illegal abortions, and many will die. I guess their lives don’t matter.
And since I’m adopted, I know a little about that as well. My adopted parents weren’t bad people, far from it, but they shouldn’t have had children. Didn’t help them, and didn’t help me. Certainly didn’t help my birth mother, whom I met in my adulthood.
I am pro-life because a woman should have autonomy over her life and body. A woman is a person, not a vessel in which a man deposits his seed. A woman is her own person. A woman lives her own life. A woman makes her own decisions.
I don’t believe a fetus is a child. And as it happens, scientists don’t agree on when life begins either. There is an interesting talk by Howard A. Schneiderman Professor of Biology Scott Gilbert, who admits he can’t answer the question of when ‘personhood’ begins. However, he adds with “absolute certainty” that there is also “no consensus among scientists.” Gilbert, who teaches embryology and developmental genetics, is frequently invited to lecture on this subject and has given this talk to diverse audiences from around the country and to the Vatican. In part of this talk he says:
“There’s actually an interesting Biblical break on equating persons with human embryos. The syllogism goes like this, Genesis 9:16 says that those who kill the image of God must themselves be killed. Exodus 21:22, which is in a passage explicitly about what killings are murder and what killings are not murder, says that if a man causes a woman to miscarry, he is not killed, but he has to pay a fine to the woman’s family, determined by the court. So, the fetus then does not have the image of God. According to these passages, the image of God, personhood, is obtained at birth. It is a, literally, a birthright.”
I’m sure that won’t change the mind of any anti-abortionist.
Still, I don’t believe a girl who is raped should be forced to carry a child to term. I don’t believe any woman should be forced to give birth to an unwanted baby.
I would love the world to be different. I would love the world to value the lives of women — women with sovereignty over their bodies. I would love a world without the death penalty. I would love the world to provide health care, housing, food, a basic income, and education to everyone, so the poor weren’t forced to live the painful lives they often do. I would love refugee children and women and men to be greeted as family in need of love and assistance. I would love it if men stopped beating and killing the women in their lives. I would love to live in a world in which contraception was free to all, so there would be no unwanted pregnancies. That’s a pro-life world.
I’d love all those things. And if they existed, I’ll bet there would be very little need for abortions. But I’m dreaming. As of right now, even as many work hard to move in the right direction, we have to admit none of it is true. Now, the rich and powerful crush the poor; inequality is rampant, and supported by those in power. Seventy women are killed by their domestic partners every day in the US and SCOTUS has just ensured there will be many, many more gun deaths in the near future, and that many women will die in botched abortions.
This will not stop abortions. It will just stop legal, safe abortions.
I will never understand a society, like the US where I have lived for many years, that values guns above women. Or maybe I do, and just don’t want to admit they’re fascists, in the midst of a slow-moving coup. American Taliban. Next, they will come for our contraceptive methods. Next, they will come for the LGBTQ+ community. God help us all.
I have never felt this hopeless.