I don’t remember when I decided I was pro-choice, but I remember distinctly that I was still calling myself a Christian when I did. (Realizing that God and I basically didn’t share any common viewpoints is one of the reasons I’m not a Christian today.) I understand that abortion is an extremely polarizing issue and that you can never argue your side well enough to convince someone who doesn’t already agree with you, which is why I like to talk about it so much. I find it unfortunate that the conservative argument is simply “because the church says not to”, because that precludes the need for careful thoughtfulness about the subject on the part of the believer. I also find it unfortunate that the liberal argument is simply “because I should have control over my own body”, because we rarely have control over own bodies when it comes to other kinds of protective legislature (i.e. seatbelt laws, drug laws).
I bring this up because this week’s New York magazine has an infinitely interesting article about modern views on abortion and how they’ve changed since the 70s, when women won the fight for the right to choose. I think the article does a great job of balancing the two sides (though, again, it’s not going to convince anyone of anything), but here are the two most interesting points from my side:
1) Until the mid-nineties, the political debate over abortion remained mostly in the theoretical realm, with the role of government at its center. Had it stayed there, it’s possible we’d be in a different place today. But in late 1995, a Florida Republican congressman named Charles Canady had a stroke of insight that would shift it to the realm of both the metaphysical and brutally physical, which is precisely where the pro-life movement wanted it all along. On the floor of the House, he introduced a bill that would ban so-called “partial-birth abortions,” a second-trimester surgical method previously known as intact dilation and extraction. The procedure was extremely upsetting to behold. In it, the fetus—or is it a baby?—is removed from the uterus and stabbed in the back of the head with surgical scissors. It’s a revolting image, one to which the public was ritualistically subjected on the evening news as the debate raged on the House and Senate floors. Defending it was a pro-choice person’s nightmare. Pat Moynihan compared it to infanticide. Clinton still vetoed the ban in 1996, but it was eventually signed into law in 2003 and withstood a Supreme Court challenge in 2007. More important, women were spooked. “A lot of our patients started asking whether or not the fetus felt pain after that, even if they were early along in their pregnancy,” says Albert George Thomas, who until two years ago had spent eighteen years as the head of the family-planning clinic at Mount Sinai. He adds that many women also came into his clinic expressing confusion about the size of the fetus they were aborting. Some were terrified that it was huge, even those who were coming in at six weeks. At that stage, it’s the size of a lentil.
2) Abortion counselors will also tell you that the stigma attached to the procedure is worse than it’s been in years. “When I started as a patient advocate in Ohio in 1996,” says Jeannie Ludlow, a professor at Eastern Illinois University who has written a great deal about abortion, “what I mostly saw were women who were thinking about abortion in individual ways—this is what’s going on in my life, this is what I’m thinking I should do. But by the time I left in 2008, our patients would be saying all that and ‘Oh, and I know I’m going to feel bad for the rest of my life,’ even if they seemed perfectly sure of their choice.”
I remember the truck that drove around my college campus with pictures of aborted babies plastered all over it, and I hated that I was supposed to be won over by emotional imagery in lieu of actual consideration of how a baby–and even a pregnancy–would entirely change my life in ways that I neither wanted nor was prepared for.
I know that it involves killing (what has the potential to become) human life, but I just can’t imagine myself regretting an abortion for the rest of my life like everyone wants me to think I will. I sort of want to have one, actually, just to make myself a t-shirt that says, “I aborted my baby, and I feel GRRRRREAT!” I don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face or anything, but I want some support for women who made the right choice for themselves and won’t be made to feel guilty.
I’m interested in your thoughts on the article and subject in general, as always.