With all the recent bills passing state legislatures (by white men primarily) restricting or limiting access to abortion, I’m struck once again with how we label our views—what we are supposedly for or against. There are many aspects to all this we could discuss, but quick disclaimer, I do so hesitantly, because, as a man, I’m beginning to think we (men) should just shut up when it comes to this issue.
Our physical inability to know what it’s like to be pregnant or give birth, should, but rarely does, gives us pause. I write then with such firmly in mind. The only reason I address this issue now, I hope, is to stand in solidarity with those women who while wanting abortion to remain legal, are tired of being portrayed as either, “pro” abortion or indifferent to the ethical questions involved.
What I want to address are some of these self-designations. Supposed “pro-life” people don’t appear, to me, very pro-life when it comes to almost every area outside the abortion question. Do they ever ponder that fact? But the term “pro-choice” which too many people hear as, “pro-abortion” seems, to me, to be the most misunderstood. Believing abortion should be legal, in my mind, does not make a person, for, or, “pro”-abortion.
This idea that Democrats, liberals, or feminists are “pro”-abortion, that they don’t care about the ethical questions involved, or somehow even cheer abortions on, is something I have never encountered. I have yet to run into or talk to such a person. They seem to exist in fevered imaginations only. What I do know is most of the Democrats, liberals, and feminists in my life just want abortions to be safe. And they know the only way they can be safe is if they are legal and regulated. Such does not make a person, “pro-abortion,” for “baby killing,” “evil,” or someone who cheers on those who have abortions. Even with the recent New York decision, people weren’t cheering for abortion. They were cheering for the outcomes noted here.
Even the term “pro-choice” is misunderstood. It’s not as if those who claim the designation believe the choice is like deciding to have a pet or go on vacation. It’s not a celebration of unbridled “choice” as in the freedom to do as one pleases, and to hell with everything and everyone else. It’s about giving the person the most impacted by the circumstances and context of their pregnancy, the one tied in a way to the decision (physically) no other person could be, the space and trust to make that decision without the fear of being punished. If such decisions (decisions physically intrinsic to men) were denied men, they would no doubt riot and burn the place down.
Fact: Abortions will occur whether they are legal or not. No one disputes that. Abortions have occurred since, one would imagine, the beginning of childbearing. We also know the impact of having an abortion, or not having one, falls harder on poor women than it does the wealthy. The wealthy will always have the option for abortion, whether it’s legal or not, with no material or social impact to their lives. Not so for the poor.
Somehow men and the wealthy have created a world where these issues become mostly women’s problems, and poor women at that. And we still sit in our glass houses and on our high moral horses as we (men) look down upon women in judgement, commenting upon things of which, we have very little understanding and will never experience.
If abortion was illegal, they would still take place, but many of them would result in the death of the mother (In 1930, 2700 women died from abortion attempts). Would that make us all happier? Further, if they are unsuccessful, they may result in the birth of a permanently injured child. Would this salve anyone’s conscious? Is that what we really want?
Would we sleep better at night knowing abortion was illegal, but that many women, possibly our significant other, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, or dear friend might die or severely injure themselves or the embryo/fetus in failed attempts? When we saw a poor, single woman with a brain-damaged child from a failed abortion attempt, would we comfort ourselves by thinking: “Well, at least abortion is illegal.”Anyone who thinks abortion is a simple or plain issue, either hasn’t lived much, has no women friends, or most of their information is based upon emotion or ignorance. Talk to the women in one’s life. Talk to some poor women or women who were faced with some of the most devastating circumstances or medical problems one could imagine and see if one thinks it’s still a simple and plain issue. Maybe in a perfect world it’s a simple matter, but the last time I checked, we don’t live in a perfect world.
Self-designating, “Pro-life” people: It does no good to paint those who believe abortion should be legal as celebrating abortion, promoting abortion, liking abortion, or cheering for abortion. It does no good to call them, “evil,” “baby killers,” compare their views to the Holocaust, or basically mischaracterize their opinions and motives to the point of destroying any hope of understanding or dialogue.
I consider myself pro-life. Except, unlike many “pro-life” people, I try to be so across the spectrum (against capital punishment, for budgets that reflect a preference for children and the poor, anti-empire/war, for common sense gun laws, pacifist to an extent, etc.). I’m not just, “pro-birth.” However, I still think abortion should remain legal and I don’t see such as a contradiction.
I understand the vast differences as an analogy, but to the core point: I’m pro-marriage, but still believe divorce should be legal. There’s no contradiction there. If one believes divorce should be legal, it doesn’t make them, “pro”-divorce or, “anti”-marriage. No one applies that sort of logic to divorce and marriage, but they do when it comes to abortion. Either way, the “logic” still fails.
Additionally, given the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic and Evangelical traditions, and given the white evangelical support of someone as morally unfit as Trump, why would we think, especially now, that we (Christian men) have any moral authority to pronounce in this area? Evangelicals: Supporting Trump has, for who knows how long, completely undermined whatever moral authority you may have thought you had (probably very little, but still…). Do you think anyone gives a damn what you think at this point about sexuality, family, abortion or morality? Please.
Someone might respond, but they should give a damn about what the Bible thinks/says. I hate to break this to the person who would respond so naively, but the Bible doesn’t think or speak. We do. Please don’t mistake your voice or thoughts for the Bible’s or God’s. That is exactly one reason the discussion around this issue is so charged and volatile to begin with. Such assertions help no one and add nothing to the conversation.
I would hope we could agree that while the matter is undergoing this national on-going discussion, abortion should remain legal if only for the safety of mothers, especially poor and disadvantaged mothers. In the meantime, the dialogue needs to continue in such a way where an honest and reasonable conversation around the issue can even take place.
Let me state the obvious: We live in a complicated world. And one of the most complicated parts of that world is sexuality and pregnancy. Every single case of pregnancy has its own complex web of interlocking factors, extenuating circumstances, medical issues, life impacts, and relationships. It is clearly an area where grace, mercy, understanding and love are better applied than a single law, whose only outcome can be their eclipse.
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