Christmas Wish 2: Choose to Have a Heart
I was thinking about book reviews and Rihanna on Oprah and Bachelor Pad and Jay Leno’s 5 million dollar “pay cut” and how long it is taking me to grow my hair out and how it’s kind of a bummer that summer’s over and then I realized, this is the kind of stuff that deserves a fraction of my attention right now.
Yesterday a conservative Christian member of the Tea Party reblogged Christmas Wish 1 then deleted that post but he wrote something like, “How can you say men shouldn’t have a say in a woman terminating her pregnancy?”
That’s actually not what I said and I try not to respond to such things but that comment stayed with me all day.
What frustrates me the most about the pro-life movement is how they willfully misconstrue what it means to be pro-choice.
I was raised Catholic in a deeply religious household. While I’m not a practicing Catholic anymore, my understanding of the doctrine remains. I understand the pro-life movement and why a different interpretation of the sanctity of life is so important to pro-life adherents.
I disagree with the movement but I respect the choice for people to be pro-life because, I am pro-choice. It’s a shame this doesn’t work both ways.
To be pro-choice is not to be pro-abortion. Personal opinions about abortion, mine included, don’t matter. I’m certain you would be surprised by my personal opinion.
What matters is that I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Being pro-choice is to advocate for women having the right to choose what to do with their pregnant body. It is to advocate for that right to be immutable and codified by law. It is to ensure women have access to safe, and in an ideal world affordable, resources for terminating a pregnancy if that is what they choose.
To be pro-choice is to choose the sanctity of a woman’s life and her choices over everything else. When people say they aren’t pro-choice, to borrow a phrase from Mari Naomi, a part of me assumes they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Being pro-choice is being pro-life—the life of the woman, the mother who has to carry the fetus for nine months, deliver the baby (if she’s lucky enough to carry the baby to term without a medical crisis), and then, in too many circumstances, be primarily responsible for the care and feeding of that child.
There are any number of reasons why a woman might not want to carry a pregnancy to term. Those reasons are none of my damn business. They are none of your damn business. It is not my business if a woman has one abortion or ten. I cannot possibly judge what a woman chooses to do with her body. I can only hope she is making a decision that is in her best interests and, to a lesser extent, those of her loved ones.
Saying the ultimate decision lies with the woman doesn’t mean men shouldn’t be involved in the conversation about what to do in a pregnancy and it’s absurd to suggest that’s what pro-choice advocates are saying. Conception requires two people and in situations where the sex is consensual, it should take two to discuss how to proceed. Being pro-choice is not about excluding men from the conversation. It cannot possibly be. I would never want it to be.
That said, the final decision belongs to women and it should belong to women. Is that unfair? Perhaps but in this matter, I am willing to err on the side of unfairness until medical research makes it possible for men to carry a pregnancy to term. I’m pretty sure that’s never going to happen. We don’t even have a male birth control pill yet.
And that really says a lot about this issue, doesn’t it? That says a lot about the place of women, and the responsibility women have for thirty or forty years of their sexually active lives.
We don’t even live in a country where appropriate sex education is universal. Some schools are still teaching abstinence and then we wonder why there are so many teen pregnancies. Really? If we lived in a country where young people were properly educated about sex, birth control for both men and women was both affordable and easily accessible, we would have far fewer conversations about choice and life.
The birth control pill was approved in 1960. In that time, several pills have been developed to enhance male virility but somehow, in 52 years, drug companies haven’t devoted the required energy and resources to developing a safe birth control pill for men.
It’s not pro-choice people who don’t want to involve men in these conversations. It’s the medical establishment that won’t allow men to have the reproductive freedom to take a pill and have more reliable control over their fertility.
What’s more galling, than how the pro-choice movement is so misconstrued, is that we need to have conversations over and over again about abortion when the mother is at risk or when a woman is raped. I simply cannot understand this position and I’m glad for that. I don’t want to understand it. I don’t want to understand such a profound lack of humanity.
Remember that 16 year old girl in the Dominican Republic who was initially denied chemotherapy because the DR has banned abortion? She died. She was 16. Her name was Rosa. Her mother is devastated. Her mother feels like her life, too, is over.
If that happened to my child, I would rise up. I would burn the country down and then I would burn the ashes.
Cancer is often fatal but we don’t know what would have happened had Rosa been treated in a timely manner. If she had been given treatment when she first needed it, she might be alive now. What about the sanctity of her life? A child, a teenage mother, is dead because of a law meant to preserve life. That is a repulsive contradiction.
Rape is a difficult experience. There are no words to accurately describe so intimate a violation. You can get close but you can never get it quite right. Rape is dehumanizing and degrading and many other things. To then be expected to carry a pregnancy to term that rises out of rape is insanity.
We seriously need to have this conversation, STILL? We still need to listen to faith-based arguments in a country founded on the separation of church and state? Conservatives love to froth over the Constitution while roundly ignoring what the Constitution actually says. We still need to listen to ignorant, ill-informed politicians who want to conjure magical anatomies and pseudoscience cobbled together from “talking to doctors.” We still need to debate legitimate versus illegitimate rape? What, exactly, is the threshold for legitimacy? Is that something requiring documented papers? Are we talking rape passports here?
Women are people. They are made of blood and heart and for certain people to be so cavalier about the lives of women because of a principle, to treat women as less than equal, as something to be legislated, for a principle, it stuns me. It hurts.
I’m proud to be unconditionally pro-choice. I’m glad I still have a heart. That’s what I am always choosing—to have a heart and to recognize the bloody, beating hearts of women.