“So…. I read your blog,” my friend said awkwardly. I could tell she wanted to say more or ask something, but wasn’t sure how. After a little fumbling of my own trying to figure out what was bothering her, she finally asked, “Well, are you pro-life or pro-choice?”
My friend’s bravery in bringing this up has got me thinking….
We’ve been trained (myself included) by the political world to think of abortion as fitting into one of two boxes. My goal in this series is to show that the issue is too big to possibly fit inside one or the other. I also hope to show that there are things we’re doing that keeps us trapped in these boxes. Hypocrisies, biases, assumptions, being dismissive, etc. are limiting us from both seeing and addressing the real issues.
It might help to define these boxes we put ourselves and others in when thinking about or talking about abortion. When I tried to talk about abortion 10 years ago I had no idea these boxes existed. I didn’t know what each box contained. And I had no idea that people can place you inside a box against your will. To clarify that last point, if you support something that smells “liberal”, you are automatically put in the pro-choice box, like it or not. If you say anything that hints at “conservative”, you are automatically put into the pro-life box, like it or not.
As I define each box, let me be clear that the box doesn’t necessarily reflect what you personally think. However, once you choose a box, or it’s chosen for you, it is how YOU ARE SEEN by others. And while you may define your own personal beliefs a little differently, you don’t get to define the box itself. It’s defined for you by extreme voices within your box as well as people judging you from outside of the box.
The Pro-Life Box: Life begins at conception. Abstinence is the focal form of birth control because it can guarantee the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and respects the purpose of sexual intercourse. Sex education should be limited in order to protect young people from naive experimentation. Once a woman is pregnant, it is not her right to terminate the pregnancy, unless her life is in very real danger. Using any method (either by medication or surgery) that destroys the product of conception is a criminal offense.
The Pro-Choice Box: The beginning of life is undetermined, therefore the defense of life does not begin until birth. Sex education and birth control should be freely accessible to empower more individuals. It is expected that the majority of youth will be sexually active. A woman has a right to her own body, including whether or not she wishes to continue to grow a fetus. A woman should be allowed to consider both her physical and mental health when determining whether she wants to continue a pregnancy. Legal abortion is necessary in order to protect women’s rights. The fetus and its right to life is generally not considered, if even talked about, other than as a hypothetical potential. Usually the fetus is simply not mentioned.
My goal is not to try to persuade you to believe in one box or the other. Instead, I’ve started with stories and questions to get us thinking outside the box. I also hope to create a safe environment that as we step outside of these boxes, we won’t get trampled on or beat up. We should be allowed to safely explore together, without judgment.
Some of the ideas I’ve shared so far are new and some are old, depending on your own story. I have to start somewhere, but we can take the time to be introspective and first understand our own thoughts and feelings better. It’s easy to simply accept the box and its entire contents. I know I’ve been making a lot of good adjustments in my own journey; adjustments that haven’t put me into a different box but have helped me step outside of the one I was in.
Let me take a moment to summarize what we’ve talked about so far, and point out some important questions we should be asking ourselves as we think about abortion.
First kiss – Women don’t always know how to advocate for themselves. A number of factors contribute to how a woman feels when engaging in physical contact with a partner. Can she trust her partner? Can she really say no? Will he listen? As she expresses her desires, how will that impact the relationship? This effects the number of unwanted pregnancies, which contributes to the question of abortion.
All the Boys Be Like – The burden of purity and virtue has been largely placed on the woman’s shoulders. We expect women to be exceptionally responsible for their outward appearance, conduct, and the arousing effects they have on men. That responsibility and burden carries over into the abortion discussion when women are also labelled and judged for finding themselves in an unwanted pregnancy situation. There is frequently a lack of sensitivity and understanding when discussing women in relation to the abortion issue.
To the Victor, the Spoils – Our lack of openness and support for when people become sexually active can have a negative effect on a couple’s awareness of their full range of rights and choices. Because we disagree on the amount and content of sex education for our children we are further divided. Communities are not able to fully support youth and adults in being respectful and responsible about sex and products of conception.