Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Abortion and Education

As a young girl, I viewed abortion as the ultimate evil.  From my perspective, people who performed or received abortions did not value human life.  They were baby-hating monsters.

I remember the first time I felt Emily move.  The sensation was surreal; the closest I've come to a spiritual experience.  It also verified my views surrounding abortion.  As she grew in my uterus, and my belly expanded, I would place my hand over her kicking feet and imagine what she looked like.  My heart was full of happy anticipation as I envisioned what meeting her would be like.  I would wonder how a person could abort such a precious gift.

My miscarriages enforced this notion.  All I wanted was a baby, but my body refused to cooperate; instead, I underwent spontaneous abortions.  Unlike women who had surgery to rid their body of an unwanted pregnancy, I had no choice in this decision.

All these thoughts left me feeling bitter.  Rather than learning about the populations who had abortions, I harshly--and prematurely--judged their hearts and prided myself with exceptional moral thinking.  Clearly these people were cold, unfeeling creatures with little regard for human life.  Heck, they probably sanctioned atrocities like physician assisted suicide or the eugenics movement.

When I shed my false pretenses, around the same time I started questioning religion, I allowed myself to fully consider a woman whose desire to be a mother is juxtaposed with her wretched situation: no partner, no income, no resources.  Rather than view these experiences from my very biased perspective, I pictured myself in their situation.

Ben and I might be below the poverty line but we are not impoverished.  We also don't consider ourselves to be low-income; we have bachelor's degrees, are attending or considering attending graduate school, and grew up in stable homes.  We are privileged.  So to fully consider what it's like to be a pregnant girl while living in the ghetto, I needed to look at things from her background.

This shift had a profound impact on my views regarding "pro-choice" or "pro-life."

The problem with these stances are the dichotomy they represent: if you align yourself pro-choice, you don't care about babies; if you are pro-life, you regard an infant's life over a mother's.

Each side villainizes the other while refusing to concede important concessions: health of a mother, consequences of having sex, the importance of birth control.  And both sides marginalize the most affected populations: the low-income and undereducated woman.

With this in mind, I have a proposal:  let's kill the ideologies.  I feel a person could be pro-life and pro-choice.  My theory derives from this hypothesis: if we offer educational resources to the low-income and teenager populations, abortion rates will decline.  I am not talking about sex education, something I feel is equally important (heck, I wrote about it two years ago), but classes on reproduction, child development, college preparation, career placement, and feminism.

How might these classes mend a broken system?  By empowering women.  I think a well known fact is, education equals power.  Consider this, when you fully research all options available to you, a decision becomes much easier to make.  It also feels good.  If a girl knows more about her body, and about the future opportunities available to her, she will feel less inclined to (excuse my explicit description) open her legs to every man who comes along.  She will know that her femininity is something to honor, not display.

I believe this is where feminism plays an important role.  As a girl discovers the power within herself, the power of being a woman, she will recognize that her place in this patriarchal society is to let her femaleness out.  To roar.  Loudly.

Learning the history of how woman have been treated over the ages will give her the precedent to change the current system.  She will recognize that she is not a second-class citizen; rather, she is as important as the man who attempts to exploit her sexuality.  More importantly, she is in charge of her sexuality.

Yes, a person can be pro-choice and pro-life.  We can recognize the beauty in child birth, and the special gift it is to woman, while also informing women of their choice to be powerful rather than submissive.   Let's be rid of harmful ideologies and move toward a more progressive and, ultimately, loving philosophy.

Babies and woman are important.  But if a woman is not allowed to fully express her femininity, she cannot bear and rear children with a firm foundation.  It's more than about life, it's about hope. And hope comes from opportunity and knowledge.  I think we can all agree on that.


  1. I'm a religious person, and to me abortion is wrong.. But I know that not everyone feels the same way I do or believe the same things I do, so why should they act according to what I believe? I have two aunts who had abortions (for different reasons) and I do not villify them, nor do I allow the choice they made to color my feelings towards them. Just because it's something I wouldn't do... Well, I'm in the camp that you hate the sin, not the sinner. Unfortunately, in the world today, some feel they have no option. Others become pregnant from horrific circumstances (rape, abuse) and cannot fathom carrying that child as a visual reminder of those moments.
    I agree, women do need to be empowered, to be educated to know what making the choice to have sex means, how our bodies work, the cost (physical, emotional and financial) of the choices they have. We need to stand up for ourselves, and take control of our lives and bodies.

  2. D, I also would not get an abortion--miscarriages were painful enough (as you well know). What I really want to emphasize is the awful situation a woman is placed in to have to make that decision! I guess that's where I feel things are broken. We shouldn't have to make those decisions especially with the technology of birth control and other contraceptives. Of course there is something to be said about men not having to deal with this....(Thankfully, men's oral contraception is currently undergoing clinical studies.)

    Hear, hear to standing up for ourselves!

  3. You bring up a great point that, unfortunately, it is often times the women who have the least resources to pull from that find themselves thrust into motherhood - without the skills necessary. And it is often these women that we then end up supporting through government funded programs. It's much cheaper for us to implement better/more sex education classes in schools, provide more resources for children in schools to help continue on to college, and access to contraception than to pay for the child once they are born to a mother who is unable or unwilling to provide for them. Abortion, to me, should be left up to each individual women. It isn't for me to determine what should be done with another woman's body - nor should I judge her for what she ultimately decides. I think if we stopped acting like , "If we don't teach kids about sex they just won't have it" and "Abstance only!" we'll have a lot less teenage pregnancies - and all those young girls can then go on to fulfill their dreams, and can become mothers when they are old enough and ready.

  4. Very well-written. This is a tough topic to write about and you did it very well.

  5. I believe that choosing to kill an innocent human being is never a valid "choice," and that the choice comes in when one chooses to have sex. I'm very pro-choice in that area, so in that respect I suppose you could say I am both pro-life and pro-choice. I just believe that no one should have the right to kill any innocent human beings that result as the consequence of their choice. (Obviously, this does not include pregnancies that result from non-consensual sex - in that case it's a matter of not punishing innocent human beings for the circumstances of their conception)

    To me, being pro-life is no more a case of me "imposing my beliefs" on others than an abolitionist was imposing their beliefs on Southern slave owners in the 1850s. Abortion is a human rights issue, not a religious issue -- the folks at prove that very well.

  6. Awesome post. I am coming to this place myself, and I truly wish there were more support for single mothers and struggling familes.

  7. I think that the different sides of the argument are not speaking the same language. Those who are pro-choice often do not view the fetus as life and are, in their eyes, not killing a baby but empowering a woman to have a choice over what is going on in her body. Those who are pro-life see abortion as killing a baby and protecting a life is, obviously, more important than protecting one woman's rights. I believe that, for some women, to embrace one's sexuality it to be sexually active and that women need to know their options before getting pregnant- this would be a good way of preventing abortions (which would make both sides happy).

  8. Joanna, after reading your blog post this morning I can understand why my post struck a nerve. I agree with you that abortion is wrong. I do! I would never have one myself because I find every baby to be a gift (even when I joke about being done with children); however, I feel the argument has moved away from the value of human life and turned into a war zone. Neither side wishes to understand the other. I believe that if we address the real problem--women getting pregnant unintentionally--then we won't have to worry about abortion unless in cases of mother's health, incest, or rape. When I think about pregnancy, my heart aches. I loved everything about pregnancy, even the morning sickness. I feel, though, the pro-choice and pro-life stances undermine the societal issues that are the real problem--lack of education when it comes to sexuality and the choice women have to say "no" to sex. Does that make sense?

    When I referred to religion, it was more a personal reflection. As a religious person, I lacked compassion for others because I felt proud in my moral superiority. I do not wish to infer that all religious people are like this because I am sure others are not nearly as extreme as I was. Anyway, I do appreciate your perspective and I feel that both movements have a place in society. I just wish we could avoid extremes and remember the human toll of all our positions. Women are being victimized just as much as babies, I mean babies cannot enter this world without a woman so we must address women's health issues if we are to bring the healthiest babies into this world. By "healthiest" I mean those who will be cherished as the gift they are to the world.

  9. Do you think that ALL babies are gifts to the world, regardless of the circumstances of their conception, or any physical/mental disabilities? That is one of the most troubling aspects of the "pro-choice" arena, to my mind -- the idea that some babies are disposable if they are not perfect (e.g., the fact that 90% of babies with Downs are aborted), or even if there are one too many.

    I absolutely agree with you that the real problem of women AND men not fully understanding or appreciating the potential consequences of sexual behavior needs to be addressed, and that abortion will not significantly decline until that is done. However, that's where the two sides differ - most "pro-choice" people believe that the solution is to merely to throw contraception at everyone (in the guise of "sex education"). However, most (but not all) of the "pro-life" side finds that problematic because all contraception does is provide a false sense of security. It lets people think they can have all the sex they want with none of the consequences. However, PP's own statistics state that 54% of women who came in for abortions were using contraception at the time. 14% of that number state they were using their method perfectly (which seems surprisingly high given the method failure rate of most contraception). Even the Supreme Court, in the Casey v. PP decision, noted that our society has become dependent upon abortion in the event that contraception fails.

    I think the true root of the problem is more fully expounded upon in this article, "The Two Lists." The bottom line is that our society treats sex like a recreational activity these days without realizing or appreciating its consequences (both positive and negative).

  10. This was extremely well written, Amber. And I am glad that you have opened your mind and no longer view abortion as the "ultimate evil". We never know the life circumstances of other women and because of that, their actions shouldn't be judged. Great read!

  11. JoAnna, I feel that we will not come to any consent on this issue. I dislike the word "agree to disagree" because it sounds so patronizing; instead, I think we both have important ideas and high morals that need to be shared with everyone. Even though we disagree about beginnings (conception) and endings (God and Heaven), I do think we agree on the middles (importance of family, responsibility, and accountability) which will, ultimately, help move things in our society forward while maintaining a strong foothold on traditions of yore. So I respect your opinion and enjoy reading your own evaluations of these issues and I hope you do not mind the polite banter with which we have been engaged. I also hope your weekend is restful. : )

  12. I think I agree with your statements here, but I just want to add one option that most people forget about: adoption. Dyany and I can't have kids (and by can't, I mean we REALLY can't...she doesn't have a uterus any more.) It is very hard for us to sit and watch people that are able to have kids, but they chose not to. And it's even more difficult to watch them chose to abort their babies. Yes, I get your point about low income teenage girls. But even they have the option to give up their baby to a family that is better able to care for the child. Most adoption agencies will pay for all the medical bills, and even counseling if necessary (in fact, the adoptive parents usually pay for these things with their adoption fees.) I hope more people remember adoption when they debate pro-choice versus pro-life.

  13. Jake,

    I understand fertility problems and the importance of adoption. Clearly, my family history indicates that adoption was emphasized in our growing up years. However, psychological support will not cure the pain and suffering a woman will experience as she carries a child--without the love and approval of the man and her family--gives birth and places the child for adoption. It's an emotionally demanding experience, equivalent to abortion, and should also be avoided. If teens and other women were educated in many areas (like morality and consequences), there wouldn't be the pain and torment that accompanies choosing between keeping a child, abortion, and adoption.


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