For years, I’ve had to explain my pro-choice position to people: family members, parents of exes and friends, classmates, Republican Facebook friends. No, I say, I don’t hate babies. For the record, I also don’t hate Jesus and yes, of course I am grateful my mother didn’t abort or miscarry me. I do not identify as Catholic anymore, but when I was Catholic, I was pro-choice (lots of Catholics are, by the way, they just keep their mouths shut with other Catholics. And the ones who don’t have a dozen kids probably use birth control or had sterilization surgery).
I have been pro-choice ever since I can remember first thinking about the issue at length. When I was young and still believed what I was taught, that God knew what we were going to do before we did it, I always wondered why He would allow someone to get pregnant if He knew that she would miscarry or abort. And then I decided that I couldn’t ever know the answer to that, but in His wisdom, He wouldn’t assign a soul to a baby until it was born alive. Otherwise, I figured, He was a jerk who didn’t deserve my adoration.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have never personally faced an unplanned pregnancy. I have never been pregnant, actually, and I do not know what I would have done in my younger years had I become pregnant. Something tells me I wouldn’t have had an abortion, but I can’t know for sure. But I do know that I have middle school health class, an older sister, and Planned Parenthood (among other cheap clinics, such as the campus health center) to thank for the fact that I did not face an unplanned pregnancy.
Not everyone has access to the resources I did– health education classes explained how pregnancy happens and introduced different forms of birth control. A sister who made me an aunt at age 10 showed me that yes, teenagers can get pregnant. College tuition fees covered the health clinic, which enabled me to get birth control pills for $5 a month, when I was an undergrad. A car transported me to Planned Parenthood for annual exams when I was uninsured. For some time in my late 20s and early 30s, I had health insurance but it didn’t cover pregnancy OR birth control (figure that one out), so I paid full price at the pharmacy for birth control (that stings, by the way, but it’s cheaper than having a baby).
I’m sharing all of this because I just posted this comment on an article about a bill in the state of Indiana to pull all funding for Planned Parenthood.
Of course, anyone (pro choice or not) would say that abortion is not ideal and we need to get those numbers down, but the only effective, proven way to reduce abortions is by educating about and providing birth control. People who identify as ‘pro life’ but who advocate against birth control availability are adding to abortion numbers, and that is a real shame.
It occurred to me that a lot of pro-lifers don’t get that many of us who identify as pro-choice would not have an abortion, but we wouldn’t want to take the option of a safe, medical abortion away from others. It’s true: I don’t like abortion; the thought of abortion is sad and hard for me. I even tried to talk a friend (unsuccessfully) out of getting an abortion in college. I begged her to call her mom, who I didn’t know but assumed would want to help. She did not call her. She went ahead with the abortion and I had to support her decision. I ended up driving her to Planned Parenthood (twice, they made her wait in between appointments to think about it), shielding her from the protesters, and sitting with her afterward. It was tough on me and worse for her. It was not a lightly-made decision.
I certainly would not have an abortion if I became pregnant right now, even though I am not married or financially capable of raising a child. (If my doctor told me my life was in danger, that might change things, yes). We are pro-choice because we understand that pregnancy is dangerous, especially for young women and girls. We understand that victims of rape and incest should not have to further suffer by enduring a long pregnancy, an emotional and painful childbirth, and the life-changing event of either caring for a child or giving a child up. We understand that scared or desperate women and girls will go to extreme measures to end a pregnancy, whether they throw themselves down a flight of stairs or use a coat hanger to induce miscarriage. Some even end their own lives.
The fact is, abortions will happen, so they need to be offered in a safe, medical environment. If not, the pregnant woman is much more likely to die, too, and that’s two lives lost in the name of “life.”
As a pro-choice, pro-child woman, I feel that educating about birth control (and making it available without judgment or stigma) is the only way to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and therefore, prevent abortion. Abstinence-only programs that teach that condoms, etc. don’t work are only serving to increase abortion rates, not to mention sexually transmitted infections, because it is a lie. Even the Pope has acknowledged that condoms work!
I understand the desire to prevent children and teenagers from becoming sexually active. Making sex (or anything) taboo* by railing against it just makes it more and more interesting, though. If anything, we should be encouraging pubescent girls to masturbate so they don’t think they can only learn about sex and their bodies from sexual activity with another person. It breaks my heart to think about middle schoolers having sex and giving blow jobs. They’re kids! They don’t need to complicate their lives with adult drama and bullshit! (I tend to agree with Chef: “Seventeen. You’re ready.”).
But the truth is, because we are mammals, people have sex for non procreation purposes. Abstinence is a cromulent individual choice, but to try to advocate it across the board (and have it be policy to reduce teenage pregnancy) is just plain silly. Religion puts emphasis on a topic and then tells kids that they’re bad for thinking about it. I have known more than one scared, pregnant teenager from a religious home who got an abortion simply because she couldn’t stand her parents finding out she’d had sex. Would you rather have the kid who gets a secret abortion or the kid who comes to you for advice when he or she is thinking about becoming sexually active?
I understand how abortion has become such a passionate topic. There is sadness and power the images that pro-lifers share (although, I am convinced, many of them are photoshopped) and in thinking about aborted children. I would like unplanned pregnancies and abortions to be very uncommon. But the fact is that having safe, medical abortion services available ultimately saves lives.
*Religion adds to the taboo. I was raised Catholic, as I mentioned, and I doubt I would have been so curious about sex as young as I was if the Virgin Mary hadn’t been part of my upbringing. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know what intercourse was because I always knew that the Virgin Mary hadn’t had intercourse. I have come to the conclusion that little kids shouldn’t know what a virgin is– it just complicates fragile, young minds that should be thinking about Lite-Brites and fractions instead of intercourse.