Thursday, May 09, 2013

still pro-choice... but

My daughter Alexis and her husband, Christian are pregnant.  She's about 23 weeks now I think.  I am excited and really looking forward to becoming a grandparent.  My only grief comes that they live in Oakland, CA and we in Buellton... it is a bit more than a 4 hour drive in reasonable traffic so I won't get to see Kiddo (their name for the one who is coming) nearly as often as I'd like.

Two weeks ago we had the wonderful experience of being present while Alexis had a sonogram and we saw Kiddo, moving around inside his/her warm and safe place.  I teared up.  I have dreams and hopes and fears of all of the potential futures there in Kiddo.  Sitting in the waiting room, I saw a number of young women, obviously pregnant, waiting their turns.  Most were with partners, but one or two were alone.  Most seemed excited, a few scared, and one or two were less obvious.

I couldn't help but wrestle with the question of abortion as I thought about the joy of our experience and the pain an unwanted pregnancy is for some young women.  I couldn't help but think of the wonderful visions we hold and the terrible ones held by some other women in similar circumstances.  And I couldn't help but think that while Kiddo is becoming a baby, Kiddo isn't one yet.  At the same time, I could not and cannot deny that Kiddo is well on the way.  This is not just a mass of cells or a growth... there is a potential here that is awesome and wonderful beyond words.

So... I am still pro-choice.  I cannot make a decision for a young woman about the rest of her life when I have not walked in her shoes and felt her fears and despair.  I know that pregnancy is not a simple condition and that pregnancies are lost for "natural" reasons all of the time, many times with nobody even knowing that a pregnancy had occurred.  Our reaction to those losses is not the same as the death of a baby and there are good reasons for that.   But I am also reminded that an abortion is not like a haircut and isn't and never should be a simple decision.  What is happening here really is miraculous.  So, I am also pro-life.  In my best of all worlds, there would never be another abortion.  In my more realistic hopes, abortion will be extremely rare but when it happens, it will be safe, affordable, and accessible.  More importantly, all will know that as a society we have done all we can to make that choice unnecessary.

All too often, those who label themselves pro-life are really pro-birth and see no need to provide care for the woman while she is pregnant nor for a child once it has been born.  As a society we do little to address the structural issues that force a woman to make a decision she may not feel the need to make were circumstances different.  We must address those issues as a nation if we really want to lessen the number of abortions.  There should be comprehensive sex education for kids so a girl knows how her body works and doesn't.  We in the Church should be speaking to them about the values of sexual relationships and the responsibility that goes with that without the stupid overlay of abstinence only (which of course works... until it doesn't).  And contraception should be affordable and easily accessible.  Let's make unwanted pregnancies rare.  Sure they will still happen, but we could make them much less common than they are now.

And then we need to think about cultural supports for children and families.  As a culture we need to put in place serious, serious supports for families with young children and especially for families with special needs children and adults so that facing a future with a child with issues doesn't equate to financial ruin.  We need affordable, quality childcare.  We need structural supports that allow parents to be a part of their children's lives such as family leave and flexibility in work hours.  We need positive adoption policies and processes that allow parents to surrender children without legal repercussions.  We need to work to alleviate poverty which is associated with higher rates of abortion.


Michael Mahoney said...

I agree with you 100% - on most of it...

I do agree that the pro-life side does focus too much on the birth, and not enough on the life. Support of the mother and child afterwards is not only important, it should be of primary concern.

I do agree that we need to change the national view of abortion from a medical procedure to an important life choice with lasting consequences. No one, no matter how pro-choice they may be, comes out of an abortion unscathed. (Which is why the idea of intentionally keeping parents out of the process is deplorable)

I do agree that if we had better support systems, we would have less abortions. (But I don't believe that "better support systems" equates to "more handouts."

I do agree that life is full of potential, and that should be weighed heavily. (more heavily, in fact, then convenience)

And I do agree you will make an excellent grandfather.

roy said...

thanks Michael

It does seem that there is a tremendous amount of common ground or at least can be so that at the very least we can work together to lessen the number of abortions. That strikes me as a worthy goal regardless of where one stands on the issue.

I like the way you talk about changing the language from being a medical procedure (which is only a part of the issue) to a life choice with lasting consequences. As for keeping parents out of the discussion, in general I agree, but I'm also aware of circumstances where parental involvement is the last thing needed. One would hope that a good counselor would see the difference and encourage any young person struggling with this issue to involve parents. We do all know bad counselors though and stubborn or embarrassed kids without positive support networks. I think putting the pressure on a kid to prove they need to exclude bad parents has the potential of more bad results than the current system. In either case, I really would rather do all we can to avoid the question at all.

Alexis said...

I want to weigh in here, as I'm who sparked the discussion (or at least Kiddo did).

I think I will need to write a post about this in the very near future, because while I am pregnant, and the nature of the experience has changed my relationship to fetuses generally, I remain pro-choice (for the same kinds of reasons Dad wrote about above).

I agree with much of what was said in this post, and I want to piggyback on the issue of parents being involved. Often times a girl will want to get an abortion and is *forced* to have the baby by parents or relatives. Abortion is not forced on young women (at least not in the US). This is something that think tanks have studied and concluded through much research.

To give an anecdote in support of this, on one of my pregnancy forums a nurse told a horrible story of a 14 yr old girl who was prevented from seeking a safe medical abortion at a clinic. She decided to use a coat hanger instead. She died from a combination of internal bleeding and infection. This is why Roe v. Wade happened. This is why parents shouldn't *have* to be involved - especially when often these same parents took their child out of sex ed and didn't explain the importance of contraception.