Monday, January 23, 2006

Blogging for Choice (Albeit a Day Late)

On my office wall, I have a sign that is a leftover from before the last presidential election that says "I am Pro-Choice America." I should note that many of my students and colleagues are pro-life, and that perhaps it is unwise for me to leave this sign up and visible, right above my desk. But I leave it there because I think that it's important to put a real human face on this "pro-choice" position.

I have never been pregnant. I have never had an abortion, though I know a number of women who have had them. I have supported close friends through abortions, though I do not claim to know what they went through in making that decision, nor do I claim to know what I would do if I were to experience an unplanned pregnancy. The fact that I have not had an unplanned pregnancy has absolutely nothing to do with me being smarter or more responsible than other women. It has had to do with luck.

I was raised Catholic. My grandmother on my mother's side had ten children. Her mother had died when she was two years old as a result of a botched illegal abortion, leaving her four oldest children to live in orphanages and my grandmother, the youngest, to live with a woman from the church. My great-grandparents didn't have the money to feed another child. My great-grandmother made a choice, an illegal and ultimately deadly one. Ultimately, I think that her daughter's (my grandmother's) choice to have as many children as she did was influenced by growing up motherless as the result of her own mother's choice. Still, my grandmother supported two of her daughters (my aunts) through abortions. She did not disown them. She did not judge them for their choices. My mother was 19 years old and unmarried when she became pregnant with me; Roe v. Wade had passed the year before, and she could have aborted the pregnancy. Because she didn't I am here to write this post. This is not a simple issue for me, and I don't think that it's a simple issue for most women.

I suppose that ultimately the simplicity of the issue or whether abortion is right or wrong according to one's personal beliefs isn't really the point though. I don't know if I believe that it would be right to have an abortion were I to become pregnant right now. I can't know, really. Each of us has to make that decision for herself, given our own circumstances and our own beliefs.

Personal convictions aside, however, on the morality of abortion, I nevertheless believe that access to safe and legal abortion is imperative to the lives of women. And I suppose that's really all that I have to say on the subject.


Robert Talbert said...

Without going into specific arguments or experiences, I completely disagree with you on this entire issue. Nevertheless, I'm thankful for your ability to state your convictions without belittling or caricaturing people on my (pro-life) side of the issue, and for keeping it succinct and real. I certainly think we could all do with a little more humanizing even if (especially if) we disagree with each other.

Seeking Solace said...

Right on Dr. Crazy. I don't think that people realize what the consequence could be if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

I do agree with the above comment that we should keep an open dialogue and respect other views. Zealotry on either side of the issue helps no one.

Professor Bastard said...

And my reply here is not intended to cause flaming of any kind (despite my chosen blog name). Some moral questions are inherently incapable of allowing "respect" for the other side's views. To choose a simple and obvious example, abolitionists could not, and ought not have been expected to, "respect" the "viewpoint" of pro-slavery individuals in 1859 (and vice-versa). You cannot "respect" the position of someone who disagrees with you regarding the status of an entity and its right to life as a human being. And, yes, those of us who are pro-choice are in effect saying that something else--a woman's right to choice, usually-- is more important than any claim to continued life that a human fetus has. That disagreement is so basic, so fundamental, so visceral, that, like the battle over slavery, opposing sides, do not and cannot respect one another.

If you are pro-choice, there is nothing to respect in the anti-choice position. And vice-versa. You cannot respect a moral position that vitiates your own. Similarly, you cannot respect the moral fervor or passion or commitment of the person who holds the position. You can only oppose it, socially and politically.

You need not demonize that individual, and perhaps that's all that's meant by "respecting other views." If so, fine and good. But let's clean up the language and be honest with ourselves and our opponents (whoever they are). When it comes to abortion, I don't respect anyone who would anyone woman autonomy and control over her body. I don't because they are willing an evil state of affairs--what is essentially the biological enslavement of moral agents for the betterment of entities whose interests do not outweigh those women's.

If anti-choice individuals are morally sane, they would not respect me or my views. They would call me and them evil. It's simply an abuse of language to claim to "respect" what and who one also claims is evil.

Anonymous said...

I don't particularly want to go into an argument about abortion, but I do have one thing to say, which comes on the heels of professor bastard's comments.

the thing that bothers me most as I think about these issues is that, in my life, there are certain people who are so very interested in preserving my right to choose to terminate a pregnancy or not to have children and yet are completely unwilling to respect and support my choice to have a child.

I have been told snidely not to refer to my unborn child as a baby because, after all, it is really only a fetus and not that different from a developing chicken or dog and I have been reminded in my seventh month that it's not to late for an abortion if my back really hurts that badly. I'm not making that up; those are only representative examples from the mouths of your garden variety, open, accepting, tolerant, liberal academices. It's your choice to have a baby, they all threw in my face.

Yes it is. And if you believe in choice, then there ought to be some respect for my choice to bear children and raise them myself.

Stop the ugliness. Stop the hate.

Rant over.

Dr. Crazy said...

Thank you for the comments, those of you who chose to comment. I'm not going to respond at length, mainly because I really did say my piece in the post. I do want to respond to Anastasia, though: I think it's HORRIBLE that people would criticize you for calling your fetus a baby, etc. My pro-choice position truly is about women having choices - all kinds, including to have babies, to have careers, to have a political voice, and yes, even to have an abortion if that's ok with her. I suppose what I think is that people can be assholes whether they're pro-choice or pro-life, and it sounds like you've encountered some real assholes.

Melissa said...

"The fact that I have not had an unplanned pregnancy has absolutely nothing to do with me being smarter or more responsible than other women. It has had to do with luck."

Thank you so much for saying that!! This is true for MOST women who haven't had an unplanned pregnancy, I believe. Thank you for saying it.