Friday, January 27, 2017

Refusing Labels: Reflections on Abortion as Both a Political and Moral Issue

I am not pro-life, and I am not pro-choice. I am not anti-abortion, and I am not pro-abortion.

This stance may seem contradictory, but it makes perfect sense in my head. I cannot comfortably align myself with either of the political movements or any simple black and white positions on abortion. If you would like to understand why that is, read on. I do not share my thoughts in attempt to persuade or convince anyone. I share them as a means of expression, with the goal of creating greater understanding. I feel it is important to admit I do not perfectly understand everything (or anything), so I welcome others to share their thoughts and experiences with the hope that they might add to my own understanding.

I'm going to work backwards, starting with the last of my four opening statements. I am not pro-abortion. I respect the sanctity of life. I believe in God's command to multiply and replenish the Earth. I have four beautiful children of my own, and I respect the process by which they were given life. It is both grueling and immensely rewarding. Because of these deep seated personal and religious beliefs, I oppose elective abortions for personal or social convenience.

However, I am not anti-abortion. I acknowledge that under rare circumstances there is moral justification for an elective abortion. A woman who is raped should have unfettered access to a safe and legal abortion. When a competent physician tells an expectant mother that either she or the child will not survive the birthing process, she should have immediate access to a safe and legal abortion. I am grateful for the medical advancements in both chemical and surgical abortion procedures that provide these women choices. These procedures have saved lives, both during the rare exceptions that should be made for elective abortions and also after the harrowing experiences of miscarriage (also known as spontaneous abortion) and ectopic pregnancies. There are times these chemical and surgical abortions are vital to preserving a woman's reproductive organs, and thus pave the way for future successful pregnancies.

I do believe women should be given these choices, and I believe these choices are deeply personal. These choices are only between the woman, her physician, her partner, and her personal faith. I do not want legislators regulating this process. Yet, I don't identify as pro-choice. To many, the pro-choice movement is equivalent to pro-abortion, and as stated above I am not pro-abortion. I cannot get behind the rallying cry of "my body, my choice", because I acknowledge there is a second body in formation. That second body, even in it's earliest stages, is part of a natural and beautiful life-forming process. That process should be respected and honored.

Yet, I cannot align myself with the pro-life movement, because I have yet to see legislation that compassionately acknowledges the necessity of exceptions as mentioned above. In addition, most of the recent legislation we are seeing goes beyond just regulating elective abortions for personal or social convenience and extends the arm of the government into the heartbreaking experience of miscarriage. I can in no way support a political agenda that includes regulation of the most personal and intimate moments of a grieving woman's life. I cannot endorse legislation that creates the potential for women who miscarry to be interrogated during their grief. I will not stand for that.

So where does that leave me? Am I a passionate and informed citizen with no path forward?

Absolutely not. While I may not neatly align with either established political movement, I am free to act. I will teach those under my influence about the sanctity of life and its creative power. I will support legislation that seeks to prevent the number one cause of abortion: unwanted pregnancy. I will fight for comprehensive and science based sexual education courses. I will fight for a woman's right to pay the same in health care premiums as a man (her reproductive organs should not be a financial burden -- for what would man be without them?). I will fight for her right to access affordable birth control. I will fight for her right to healthcare that is not predicated on employment or familial status. I will donate to clinics that take frightened teens and college aged women under their arm and provide them with prenatal care and adoption information and guidance. I do not have to align myself with a defined political movement in order to make a difference. 

Pregnancy must be viewed as the beautiful, naturally occurring process that gives us all life. Women should not be discriminated against because they are in the midst of this process. I will fight against that discrimination. Women must be given adequate time and space to heal after delivery. Women need a network of support in order to successfully nurture a child in infancy. Until we create family friendly healthcare and leave policies, women will continue to experience pressure towards having abortions for personal and professional convenience. Until we end the stigma that is attached to being an unmarried mother, women will continue to seek abortions for personal and social convenience. This is a struggle our greatest feminist heroines understood. Even when abortion was completely prohibited, these women spoke of the need to protect the unborn child. They knew that women experienced abortions, regardless of their legality, because of the stigma attached to being an unmarried mother and/or the demands required to care for and properly nurture a child into adulthood. If we as a society still have not taken steps to end that stigma and support both the mother and child, we certainly can not expect to end abortions. Elizabeth Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B Anthony -- they understood the complexity of this topic and its relation to female empowerment.

Abortion exists because women are not equal to men (does the man have to wear the scarlet letter?). Abortions have been and are performed regardless of legal status. Prohibition is unable to end the demand for abortions; treating women with compassion, respect, and honor might. If, like me, you find yourself stuck somewhere in the crossfire -- not wholly aligning with either the pro-life or pro-choice movement -- please, please, please take action. Donate to a women's clinic or shelter. Inform yourself, and vote for legislators that prioritize the prevention of unwanted pregnancies over displays of partisan piety. Show compassion toward women who face(d) the tough choice to abort or keep their pregnancy. Refrain from judgement. Use your voice to help others see that a meaningful solution to this problem will only be found when we work together and honestly seek a better understanding of opposing views.


Lara said...

Can we please be friends?! A friend shared this post with me. It is the first time anyone has put into words the feelings and frustrations of my heart as I was just lamenting that I hate the labels of abortion because neither explain my beliefs. Thank you!

Liz Szilagyi said...

I'm glad you found it. I've wrestled with these thoughts for so long, and I appreciate knowing that sharing them may help others as they wrestle too.

Lindsey said...

I love it. I think this is a great way to look at a very complex topic. One thing we oversee when we discuss this is that the majority of abortions are done on middle-aged white middle-class women. That demographic would require a different solution, since it seems like they're getting surprise pregnancies when they thought they were already done having kids, or that they got pregnant on birth control, etc. They like to keep their dignity intact and keep their pregnancy a secret... so what solution for them? Maybe changing society to be more accepting of older women, professional women, having babies, like you said? Or making adoption easy? Or sterilization cheaper? We'll have to keep thinking. It would be wonderful to have abortion legal and availible, and never used.

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