22 January 2007

why i'm pro-choice

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Today is Blog for Choice Day* here on teh Internets. I wasn't going to post about it, because I write a tiny blog read only by a handful of my family and friends, so what would it matter? But women's reproductive health is an important issue to me, and after reading many blog posts on the subject today, I feel compelled to write about it.

Why am I pro-choice? I was pretty adamantly pro-life from the time I became aware of the issue until I became pregnant at the age of 19. When I found out I was pregnant, I was between my sophomore and junior years of college, my on-again, off-again boyfriend and I were off again, I was preparing to study abroad in Milan, Italy in the fall, I had no money, and I had plans for the future that didn't involve an unexpected pregnancy.

I went through a lot of agonizing and soul-searching about what to do, and I very seriously considered abortion -- seriously enough to get a list of abortion providers and phone numbers to call to schedule a procedure -- but eventually Greg and I decided to have a baby. It wasn't an easy choice to make, but I wasn't aware until I was faced with the decision how difficult it would have been to choose abortion. Like many pro-lifers, I assumed women who aborted were irresponsible sluts who took the easy way out. Only when I was in a position to consider abortion did I realize how ignorant I was.

What really turned me from being pro-life to pro-choice was that decision-making process. If I hadn't had the chance to choose for myself what was right for me, for Greg, for our lives and circumstances, how might things have been different? How would I have felt had I had no choice? Would I have resented my baby if I were forced to have him, instead of choosing him? I think it's incredibly important that I was able to choose my son, and because I was able to choose him, I understood how important it must be for other women to make a choice for themselves as well. I chose to have a baby, but I can no longer judge a woman who makes a different choice.

I became pro-choice because I learned first-hand how important it is to be able to make such an enormous decision about your own life. I've become more and more strongly pro-choice over the years as I learned first-hand what pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are like, as I've learned more about what life is like for women who aren't allowed to choose, as I've learned more about the dangers of illegal abortions, as I've learned more about how much better off women and children are when children are wanted and planned for, as I've learned more about the realities of women's lives that don't fit neatly into the black and white pro-life mentality.

Recommended posts by women who are far more eloquent than I: Jill at Feministe has an amazingly comprehensive post listing dozens of reasons to be pro-choice, and an old post from Bitch, Ph.D. asks whether or not you trust women to make decisions for themselves.

Share your pro-choice stories or links in comments!

*Edit -- Forgot to add that today is Blog for Choice Day because it is also the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Hooray!


kim said...

Amen. My thoughts on abortion have oscillated all over the place, but most recently the idea that has been most important to me is the decision-making process that you mention. I am deeply uncomfortable with the way pro-lifers characterize a woman's ability to make a decision about pregnancy and abortion.

The "irresponsible slut" paradigm that you mention suggests that women who have abortions have character flaws and are evading responsibility, rather than recognizing that perhaps some women are taking responsibility for other areas of their lives (other children or family members, health, career, finances, etc.) by not having a baby.

The stereotype that women have abortions because pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing are inconvenient (and get in the way of their promiscuous lifestyles, of course) suggests that women are shallow and not devoting serious thought to having an abortion (likewise, requirements that women are informed about fetal development or are given ultrasounds also suggest that women really don't think about abortions as deeply as pro-lifers do).

More recent suggestions that women are victims and need to be protected from further victimization by criminalizing abortion (a pro-life feminist argument, much as I agree with parts of it, falls under this) again suggests that women just aren't capable of making weighty moral decisions about having an abortion (this is why the majority of pro-lifers don't want to imprison women for having abortions - just abortionists - even though they believe abortion is murder, because they don't think that women are responsible in the sense of having the capacity to make that decision).

I get the sense that pro-lifers think that if women truly understood what they were doing when seeking abortions, they would be horrified and would instantly become pro-lifers (leaving aside the fact that many pro-life women do indeed have abortions) - therefore, there must be something lacking when it comes to women's moral seriousness or their ability to make such a decision. My own opinion is that women can be serious, logical, moral actors and still make decisions that I consider very wrong. And partly for that reason, I don't want to enshrine the idea of women's supposed moral defects into law.

karen said...

I just wanted to thank you for your post. First, because I appreciated your honesty - and I think you are fantastic and love opportunities to get to know you better. Second, because it's nice to share the "gray area" stance with others.

Nothing in life is black-and-white. Not even 2+2=4. Blame my education for my philosophical (and, *gasp* LIBERAL) approach to everything, but I've always been this way. True, indecisiveness also seems to run in the Schmidt genes, but I really try to recognize individuals, and consider things in terms of context. And rarely are choices and answers straightforward; rarely are laws and rules appropriate for generalization. I am a huge advocate for personal choice. This does not mean people will necessarily make choices I like or agree with, but it is important to make one's own decisions as they apply to his/her life. Preferably INFORMED decisions, but, you can't have it all. And if I feel strongly about an issue, I will make my opinion known, but I'm not about to force it. Even when I teach, I provide my students with information, perspectives, and tools that are theirs for the taking, but it's their choice to use them or disregard them.

It disrespectful to prevent others from making personal decisions, and it is disrespectful and distrustful to assume a person is incapable of and/or irresponsible enough to make decisions.

Additionally, mere conflicts of opinion does not make the other person dumb, ignorant, or poor in character. Stereotypes of women that do get abortions as selfish, promiscuous, and thoughtless are archaic, and, frankly, plain irritating. If we can't make informed decisions concerning our selves, are you sure it's a good idea that women have the right to vote?

Perhaps this reaction is particularly flared at the moment due to some recent disagreements with a male (ex-)friend who seemed to feel the need to "fix" me, because, clearly, I am doing a poor job of living my life. And I still want to be his friend-his opinion is his, and my opinion is mine. But, I should get off my soap-box and stop preachin' to the choir. Just wanted to share, and say "thanks!" So, thanks!


Glad to hear you survived the b-day party...sounds like you had enough fun for the next century! And awesome cake!!!

and rudeness said...

WOW, great post. You were very honest and open... this is not an easy subject to discuss.

I do have to say though, that I felt like you did (before and after your unexpected pregnancy) and I myself have a similar experience.

When at 23, I become pregnant unexpectedly with a man I had only known for a year, I was distraught. We thought that while we loved each other, it would not be right for us to have a child.

I had an appointment scheduled to have an abortion but backed out while I was sitting in the car. I just couldnt start the car and go through with it.

Now I have a beautiful baby girl and am married to her father and we are now talking about expanding our family.

I do firmly believe that women need a choice. This does not mean that I will encourage others to just have abortions. I have had many friends that have had an abortion that it helped and hindered.

My parents are very much pro-life and talking with them about the subject has only made me shy away from it.

The only thing that I know? That I hope my experiences will help me when my daughter has questions of her own and that I can help her make the right decisions.