Hello! I hope that you are well since our last exchange on global and domestic inequality. Our topic for this week has the potential to make us and most of our readers as uncomfortable as a vajazzling would, so let’s just dive right in (yes, that’s what she said).
Although Mitt’s 47% comment was insensitive (and sadly, reflective of the way we view poverty and the need for government assistance in this country), I’d say what will probably rank #1 for a long time in the catalog of “Stupid Things White Men Say” is Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” flub. That came on the heels of a year of what has felt like a legitimate war on women and our reproductive rights. So let’s chat about that shall we?
As a woman I generally prefer for most people to stay out of my lady business, unless I give them express permission to um, be there. If only I had one of those magical wombs that could just “shut that whole thing down” (but, you know, basic biology), and somehow sense when “attack sperm” are on the loose!
I view Roe v Wade as a landmark decision in our nation’s all-too recent (39 years) admission that women, like Soylent Green, are people. That us ladies may just be qualified to make the best decision regarding whether we should expand our lady business, so to speak. In that regard, I am pro-choice.
Let me clarify for any readers who haven’t realized it from nearly every post I’ve written, but I am a Christian. I love Jesus so much I want to take him behind the middle school and wash his feet with my hair. Let me also clarify something for people who somehow think that the word “choice” is a synonym for “abortion.” It’s not. I, like many people who define themselves as pro-choice are not pro-abortion. I’d be hard pressed to find a lot of people who are pro-choice who love abortions.
Being pro-choice means trusting that women can, with their doctors (and maybe, hopefully, with their husbands/boyfriends/families), figure out the best course of action. It means that I believe that even before conception, women should be empowered to make good decisions about birth control and when/if they should have sex. I believe that if a woman chooses to have a child, she should be able to do that knowing that there is a safety net available to her, that she still has options even then.
Unfortunately, I find that a lot of pro-lifers seem to be pro-existence. I believe that existence begins at conception. I’m not sure when consciousness does. But I make the distinction between existence and life because merely giving someone the right to exist is not the same as giving someone a shot at life.
Over to you.
You had to open with a vajazzling, didn’t you? How am I supposed to follow that?
Okay, I think we can agree that Todd Akin is an idiot (at least his comment was so idiotic that I’m willing to extrapolate it to his character) and neither of us will be picking him for our kickball team. (You owe me $20 for the t-shirt, by the way. Our team name is The Vajazzlers.) But I’m not letting you get away with that War on Women comment. Are you talking about the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban? No? Just a grad student who wants the taxpayers to fund her contraception? Help me out here.
I, like you, am all aboard the Jesus train. And of course that informs my view on abortion. But I’d rather not get too heavily into that, because (a) people get skittish when you talk about JC too early in the morning; and (b) I’d be pro-life if I weren’t a Christian. Here’s the deal for me:
Life has to be defined with a beginning point and an endpoint. From Grey’s Anatomy, I have learned that time of death occurs when the heart stops beating (there is debate, but let’s go with that). Now, the beginning is a little trickier. Does life begin with the first heartbeat? With conception? With the moment you bite into your first Cinnabon? These are philosophical questions to the extent that any attempt to pin down an answer will never truly be met with a hard and fast one. But within the abortion debate, the definition matters because once you decide when you believe life begins, any abortive measure after that point is an attempt to end that life.
Now. That sounds dramatic, no? Especially when one considers all the other arguments that you bring up: existence vs. life, right to privacy, etc. But for me and a lot of other pro-lifers who aren’t bombing Planned Parenthood clinics (they believe in something else entirely), every other argument is extraneous. Every other point is about human preference. Every other point results in the endowment of worth, LIFE even, upon a being as dependent upon whether the person carrying that being wants it. And to me, that is both arbitrary and scary as shit.
And can I just add that I have nothing but love for people who have been through this and decided to get an abortion? I’m not them; I don’t know what they went through to get there. I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center in NYC and counseled people who had abortions (and liked them a lot more than the psychos holding up pictures of aborted babies outside a local clinic). This is not an Us vs. Them thing for me–it’s about sanctity of life at all levels, and to me that trumps the privacy issue. Especially considering the fact that I’m all Conservative Personal Responsibility Get Your Free Birth Control at the Clinic Down the Street Sandra Fluke and all.
Does that sound a little less warlike coming from a lady, or are we just approaching this from much different places? Back to you, SS. With all the love in my heart.
If it helps, I think that vajazzling is the Agent Orange of the War on Women. Really, you want to put what, where now? (Is what she said).
There are a couple of personal reasons for my being pro-choice, in addition to my philosophical ones. I like probably most other people have someone close to me who has struggled with this decision so it is somewhat difficult for me to approach this from a purely philosophical/academic perspective.
And that is where I land on this. Beyond the privacy issue and beyond the criticism that many express about women not taking personal responsibility, is the fact that even if I share these stories, it’s impossible for you or I to truly understand what someone is going through in that moment. Do I think abortion is the best choice in all circumstances? No. But I can’t say with much conviction that it’s any of my business to tell another woman and her family what she can handle and what she should do with her body.
Anyway, my point is that one woman’s beloved bean may be one woman’s worst nightmare. Taking away her right to privately consider safe and legal options, especially if she doesn’t see life in the same way, feels like a gross government overstep. I’d rather focus our energies on making sure that women feel empowered to make wise judgments for themselves (and explore why they feel that they can’t say no) and provide them with access to contraception so that there are fewer unplanned pregnancies. Unless you know, that’s your thing. In that case, have all the beans you want!
We women are broken, aren’t we? I blame Eve. What was her problem, anyway? But really, personal accounts remind me of so many of the words I heard from clients at the pregnancy center. Everyone really does have a story (even if they don’t appear on the Kathie Lee and Hoda segment). And too many of them involve this kind of heartbreak.
Each of our stories makes us who we are, and no two are exactly the same. And I personally believe that grace is big enough to allow for those differences and celebrate them. But I don’t think it gives us an out in the way of letting us define what we can handle or what fits our life. I guess what I’m saying is that for me, the foundation of my opinion on abortion (or any other huge matter) has to be more than anecdotal. And it has to involve a higher authority than my feelings or my own assessment of a situation (my heart often lies like a dog anyway). Which, I guess, brings it back to faith for me. Because ultimately, as a believer, I have to ascribe to the doctrine of my body not being my own. Which is offensive to a worldly, independent thinker. Also offensive? The fact that God doesn’t put a premium on my comfort or convenience the way I do, what with the bigger story he is telling and all.
I agree with you that we need to, as a culture, address why women don’t feel empowered to make good decisions when it comes to men and sex. I think that’s also part of my pro-life stance: the act of abortion addresses that insecurity at such a late point on the continuum of decision-making that it doesn’t come close to dealing with the real problem. And I think our ultimate goal should always be to meet the woman where she started being broken, not down the line when brokenness is made deeper.
No matter how much my faith shapes my decision and worldview, to me, good public policy in a democracy is not always going to line up with those beliefs. I believe as well, fundamentally, we have a less free society when government has the power to legislate morality. And it is a gross overreach of government to determine whether or not a woman should continue a pregnancy.
Still, personal experience makes me grasp the gravitas of this choice and the painful swirl of feelings and fear and pain that unplanned pregnancy could bring. It’s about the fact that there is a moment when theory and the letter of the law meets reality and the spirit of it. And when you’ve had that moment, you realize it’s just not that simple. It’s not a black and white issue, it’s a complicated series of grey, many more than 50 shades (sorry, I had to).
Question for you–do you think that the number of abortions performed will be reduced if Roe v Wade were overturned?
On a practical level, I can’t imagine going back on Roe v Wade because we’ve been forty years down that road now and I think overturning it would create such nationwide backlash as to render us more polarized than ever. And abortions would still occur. So while I wish we were not a culture that performs as many abortions as we do, I think we have to attempt to change that by dealing with women at the individual level now rather than at the legislative level (when it comes to their choices, brokenness, etc.) Which is why I think crisis pregnancy centers like Midtown Pregnancy Support Center (shout-out!) in NYC are so great: they don’t condemn a woman for having an abortion, but they offer her alternatives and support whatever her choice.
But to your point on separation of church and state: let’s not fool ourselves. Government legislates morality every time it outlaws a behavior. It’s just a matter of which moral compass it uses to deem certain behaviors wrong. And I can’t agree with a compass that doesn’t protect and respect life at all levels (even Sandusky levels, which is why I’m anti-death penalty–hey, can we agree on that?!). I don’t agree with a policy that deems life sacred only once it has exited the vajazzled area or, while still pre-vajazzle, is called “life” solely because it is wanted and/or planned for.
I guess in this roundabout fashion, we’re kind of reaching the same point: which is that I think that the solution lies in prevention and access to information and education. I’m all for crisis pregnancy centers, just like I’m all for clinics making sure that women have contraception. The issue is that a lot of women don’t seek that out. I’m not sure how to change that. Obviously there are a lot of other factors and cultural norms that go into why women don’t. But I hope that one day we won’t have to have these conversations because abortions will be exceedingly rare (by choice).
Bottom line: I sympathize with anyone who is in a position to have to make this kind of decision, because it is truly heartrending, and I hate the brokenness that I have seen because of it. And I long for the day when abortion is a part of our past, not because we had to force polarizing legislation, but because it has become unnecessary.