Monday, June 24, 2013

In Which I Do Not Care Why You Made That Choice, Just That You Were Free To Make It

I'm going to tell you something I generally only discuss with people I'm considering as potential long-term committed sexual partners:

I do not believe it would be ethically or morally right for me to terminate a healthy pregnancy, so I won't do it.  If I become pregnant, and the fetus and I are physically able to survive and thrive, I will carry the baby to term and raise it.  The level of the father's involvement will be at a minimum fiscal, and based on our relationship at the time.  I won't sleep with anyone who can't accept that reality.  I have great respect for the two or three partners over the years who've said "Yeah, I am really not ready to be a father in any way shape or form and I am not willing to take that risk," and either limited involvement with me to non-risk behaviours or ended the relationship entirely.  That takes a lot of self-awareness and integrity.

Why won't I terminate a healthy pregnancy?  Because I'm physically, emotionally, and financially able to take care of a child.  Because I'm educated about birth control and pregnancy.  Because I have access to reasonably effective, reliable birth control.  Because I live in a city where I have access to emergency contraception in the event of rape, and good prenatal care in the event of accidental pregnancy.  Because, to me, an unplanned pregnancy would be inconvenient and perhaps a little awkward to explain to my conservative employers, but it would not require me to give up an education or a career or other opportunities.

There are personal reasons and spiritual reasons and all manner of other reasons, but what really matters?  Two things:

1.  That I have the right and legal protection to make whatever my choice might be, with the guidance of a trusted physician, and receive safe, legal, reasonably priced healthcare.

2.  That I understand that no part of my personal reasoning for whether or not I would choose to terminate a pregnancy has any bearing whatsoever on the decisions another woman might make.

In Texas right now, laws are being passed to deny women the right to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks.  Many proponents of these laws say "Well, isn't five months enough time to decide?"

You know what?  Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't.  Maybe a woman's just found out she and her husband are carriers for a potentially devastating disease.  Maybe she's escaping an abusive relationship and knows her ex will use a custody fight to keep stalking her if she has the baby.  Maybe she's got erratic periods and she didn't find out she was pregnant until her fifth month, and she's been taking medicines that cause birth defects the whole time.

And maybe, just maybe, nothing in that last paragraph matters because a woman seeking an abortion at any time, for any reason, does not need to justify it to me or to anyone else.  Maybe there should only have to BE two people in that room when the choice is made, and one of them should be the patient and the other should be the doctor.  Maybe we should trust women to know their lives, and their needs, and their capabilities, far better than any other person would know them, and make their decisions accordingly.  Maybe we should assume that a woman considering an abortion has already talked to her partner, her mother, her spiritual advisor, her therapist, or anyone else whose input she feels is important to the decision, and does not need a governmental mandate to do so.

A lot of people say "If you don't have a uterus, you don't have a right to an opinion on abortion."  I disagree absolutely.  We all, every one of us, have the right to that opinion, and the right to speak it freely, and I think that as long as we can do so respectfully, we have an obligation to speak our minds freely.  I believe that a clear and open discussion of the moral and ethical issues surrounding sexuality, pregnancy, abortion, and parenthood is long overdue in this country because we'll never stop using shame and fear to control sexuality until we can have those conversations openly and without judgment.

What we don't have?  The right to turn opinion into law.  The right to assume there is a common religious morality that should direct legislation.  We don't have the right to assume our choices are a universal ideal and judge or shame those who don't fit it.  We don't have the right to claim a moral high ground we do not actually hold, and deny essential healthcare funding (and access) in a perversion of 'Christian values'.  We don't have the right to establish rules regarding when others should have 'made up their minds' or whether someone's reasons are 'good enough'.

There are dozens of reasons a woman might end a pregnancy, and dozens of reasons she might not.  I refuse to split hairs, to even engage in the act of finding 'defensible abortions' that justify why a woman might have a 'reasonable' explanation for it.  I say, absolutely, that it does not matter to me that another woman might choose differently than I might.  It matters to me that both of us are given equal respect and freedom to make those choices, and equal care and opportunity to carry out our choices in the way that is healthiest for all concerned.

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