Sunday, January 22, 2006

But I'm Always Blogging for Choice!

I wasn't going to blog for choice with all the other good feminists, because I write about abortion all the time and if you don't know where I stand by now you're just not paying attention. But then the Super Genius was all like "It is still time for anyone that is concerned to stand up and speak out, or to sit down and write." And so here I go. I've written a lot about how reproductive rights are essential to women's right in general. One only has to look at how the abortion debate has grown into a debate about a woman's right to have access to birth control of all sorts to see that this is really about who gets the final say over what happens to a woman's body. And once we accept that the government can make broad laws about what medical treatment we receive, we're accepting that we're not as fully citizens as men are. You men might not care that the government is constantly intruding on the treatments my doctor deems necessary for me, but I'd think at least some of you would recognize the scary problem of the government deciding what medical treatments someone can receive based upon the morality of said treatment for what it is. But I think I'd rather talk about the fact that supporting the criminalization of abortion is cowardly. This is a nuanced claim, so listen up. I'm not knocking people who are personally anti-abortion. I'm not suggesting that being personally anti-abortion is cowardly. I'm saying that, if you think abortion should be against the law, you are, in fact, a coward. Which is fine. I'm afraid of crossing bridges and I hate heights and open escalators. But at least I'm honest with myself that when someone's like "Let's go rock climbing" and I say "no" that I'm refusing to face something that frightens me. And what, you might ask, frightens those that want to see abortions criminalized? Life. I'll wait here a second for those of you who are laughing incredulously to catch your breath. Ready? Okay, here we go. Life is messy and scary and often doesn't turn out like we want. The baby we so desperately hoped for has some condition that makes its survival outside the womb impossible. Or we are pregnant with triplets and the doctor says that it will be nearly impossible for us to carry them to term and that we should consider selectively reducing the pregnancy to give one baby a real chance. Or we're told that having the baby might kill us. Or we're raped. Or we can't afford another child. Or we're leaving our husband or he's leaving us. Or we're thirteen. Or we think we'd be shitty moms. Or the condom broke and his wife is our sister. Or we've already had four abortions. Or we hate kids. Or we're on drugs. Few women make the decision to have an abortion lightly. We weigh a bunch of complicated factors and make the best decision we can under the circumstances. Most women who have abortions feel it was the best choice for them taking everything into consideration. Some come to regret it. Most don't. But they're complex decisions that get to the core of what it means to be human and a good person. Do you try to bring another life into the world or not? And it's not just some philosophical discussion that academics and politicians make and then decree from on-high what the right answer is. This is where it counts, when it counts, a woman, her doctor, and hopefully her family trying to do the right thing when the right thing isn't so clear. And isn't that what the folks who want to criminalize abortion are afraid of? That the right thing isn't clear, that there's not just one right and obvious answer that fits every situation. Rather than face that, they just want to make all abortions illegal and return certainty and moral order to the universe, or something, I guess. What's especially scary to me is that criminalizing abortion seems premised on the idea that there will be some point in the unwanted pregnancy when the fetus will magically turn the woman into a "Mother"--someone who puts her child's needs above her own, and who either finds it in her to make a proper home for the kid or finds it in her to put the kid up for adoption. Anyone who's known actual women knows that this is not the case. Women who want kids can be shitty mothers. Women who don't sometimes find themselves really taking to it once it happens. But you can't predict. You can't say for certain. Again, we're just shitty, imperfect people who never have enough information to make perfect decisions but who have to make decisions anyway. No, there's no way to say whether that fetus might have grown up to find a cure for cancer. There's no way to know whether it might have been a serial killer either. You can't know if that women would make a good mother or that woman a poor one. You can make all the moral objections you want to abortion, that's your business. Stand in front of your church, in front of the clinics, write long letters to the editor, whatever. If you want to try to influence women to make other choices than abortion--if you're fine with sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong--that's your business. But making abortions illegal says to me that you don't trust women to make the right decisions for themselves. If that is the case, I just have one question for you: If women can't be trusted to do what's right, why are you trusting them with the babies?

10 Comments:

Blogger Kat Coble said...

First off, as much as I abhor abortion, I'd much prefer that it be legal.

r. If you want to try to influence women to make other choices than abortion--if you're fine with sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong--that's your business.


How does helping women make the choice to give birth, providing them with the tools to do so and supporting them fiscally and emotionally equate to "sticking your nose where it doesn't belong" ?

If wanting to see a happy ending for everyone and saying "I'm here to help" is nosy, then thank God for nosy people. I've been one for a long time, and I'm thankful. Thankful that my grandmother didn't abort my dad. Thankful that I've been a CPC volunteer whose helped hundreds of scared and grieving women find peace in their situation.

I really resent the idea that compassion rates no higher in your book than interference.

1/22/2006 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

Aunt B.:

Hear, hear. Since I don't have a womb and can't get pregnant, I should have no legal say in the matter of abortion. However, (and it pains me that anyone should feel the need to say this; it should be in the "Goes Without Saying" category) I stand (and vote) with all women who understand the need to have final say over what goes on in their own bodies.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings, Aunt B.

Mycropht:

Ooh, be careful, comrade. You're treading on tenuous ground there. Seriously, though, the "I'm here to help" attitude usually seems noble on the surface, but isn't it what has gotten many progressives and liberals labeled "do-gooders" (pejoratively, of course)?

I'm not making light of your point, because I agree wholeheartedly that if a woman wants to keep her pregnancy, and needs help to do so, then she should get that help. However, if a woman has decided-- for whatever reason-- that she will not keep the pregnancy, then whatever help is offered should be in concert with that decision. Otherwise, such 'help' would fit Aunt B.'s definition.

True compassion should come without conditions, especially the condition that one's decisions should fall in line with your own morality. I'm not accusing you of that, Mycropht, but that is part of the pseudo-Christian vibe behind the push to criminalize abortion.

1/22/2006 08:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Katherine, at least surficially. I am against abortion, but I don't think it should be illegal. Mostly because I just don't think the government should jump into something that is a very personal decision.

I sometimes feel like that's the real cowardly position. The one woman I've known who has confided in me that she had it done was a complete mess over it, and it's hard to think about allowing that emotional train wreck to happen to someone else.

w

1/22/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Yes, but W., I have to say that word "allow" creeps me out. If women are really fully autonomous human beings, then we have to have the right to do things that we might come to regret.

As much as I respect the impulse to protect women from the pain your friend suffers, there comes a point when that protection doesn't keep us safer, it limits our ability to act as full adults. That's why I respect an anti-abortion position and a philosophical argument and a moral one, but cannot and never will accept it as a just legal one.

If women are going to be full citizens, we can't sit around making laws to protect them from themselves, as if they are all a little developmentally disabled and need the guidance of legislators because they aren't smart enough themselves or capable of living with their decisions.

Church Secretary, thanks.

Kat, then, resent away. Everything I write is not addressed specifically to you as an individual and so if you're going to take what I say as some kind of personal attack and insult, there's not much I can do about it.

Clearly, your position comes from one theological viewpoint and mine comes from another. You believe that your god has mandated that you concern yourself with the care and well-being of everyone in the world. You feel you have a stake, maybe a small one, but a stake in what happens to everyone.

I feel that my primary obligations are to my family, friends, and community, in that order, and to maintaining our well-being. What other people do is their business. I can and probably do have an opinion about it, but I have no great stake in it. I do think that people who have no obligatory ties to me sticking their nose into my business and attempting to influence my behavior is offensive, because it attempts to tie their fate to mine and mine to theirs.

Those are two irreconcilable positions. It's not surprising that we should disagree. What's surprising is that you would, knowing my position, be offended that, when your religious beliefs don't mesh with mine, I'd privilege mine.

1/22/2006 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

Of course you can priveledge whichever position you like. It's your life. As mine is mine, and my actions are directed in concert with what I deem compassionate. Are we only allowed the types of compassion you deem necessary?

However, if a woman has decided-- for whatever reason-- that she will not keep the pregnancy, then whatever help is offered should be in concert with that decision.

Yes, it should. And I've given it. There seems to be a presumption by society at large that a dislike of abortion means an absolute shunning of all who engage in the practice.

Everything I write is not addressed specifically to you as an individual and so if you're going to take what I say as some kind of personal attack and insult, there's not much I can do about it.

Disagreement from me doesn't stem from personal affrontry. Taking issue with your point, as I so often do, isn't because I think you are writing me love letters--as you so often seem to believe. Disagreement from me comes when I think that your point has flaws.

In this case, I think the flaw is that you have decided what line is to be drawn where, and anything outside of your personally-ascribed borders is suspect. I found it ironic that you claim the interaction between a counsellor and the person seeking her help to be one of the counsellor's "sticking [her] nose where it doesn't belong" when that very interferance in a woman's personal choice to seek abortion alternatives can itself be viewed as nosing up another's business.

Ironically, all of the CPC actions I've been involved with have been privately funded. We've had offices where the women come to us. We don't take your precious tax dollars, we don't harrass outside of clinics.

There ARE those of us in this scenario who've long ago realised that the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many. Randall Terry may want every clinic shut down. NOW may want abortions given out like candy at Halloween. Yet what Jane Jones needs when she is scared, lonely and facing an impossible circumstance at either hand is someone to listen, understand, give direction and support whatever her ultimate choice may be. Ride across town to the abortion? Sure. Clothes for the new baby? Yep. An attorney to place her child for adoption? Yep. A home to live in after her parents kick her out for being pregnant and 15? We do that too. Of course, according to your definition not one of these actions is our business. Perhaps we shouldn't bother with any of it anymore.

I stand by my definition of compassion. If you need help and ask, I'll do whatever is in my power to give you the help you seek.

You feel you have a stake, maybe a small one, but a stake in what happens to everyone.

Actually, I don't at all. That's the exact opposite of what I believe. I KNOW that I have no stake in what happens to anyone. I do, however, believe that true charity is to act on behalf of another without any benefit to yourself whatsoever.

1/23/2006 01:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that word "allow" creeps me out.
Ya know B, I think you may be a little paranoid. You tend to interpret everything in the worst possible way, with me 'allowing' people to make their own choices, and Katherine thinking you were personally attacking her. Do you really think I was making some sort of argument to restrict personal choice? I explicitly said I didn't think the government (and by inference the rest of us) should have any say in that choice. That's a choice between two people at most.

I did agree with you. I wasn't making an argument against the legality, I was just sharing part of the source of my own personal conflict on the subject. Don't try and interpret it differently.

w

1/23/2006 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Katherine, I sometimes can't decide if I'm really that unclear or if you deliberately misunderstand me. I suspect you deliberately misunderstand.

You ask "Are we only allowed the types of compassion you deem necessary?" To which I reply, that's pretty much the most offensive thing I've ever been asked. I don't set the rules. I don't make policy. I'm not sitting around deciding what's right for other people. I don't "allow" anything. I'm not under the misguided impression that everyone should do things how I would and that, if they don't, they suck.

And how dare you insinuate that I do. Each person has to decide for her own self what is best for her. I don't know any better than anyone else what is best for another person. Nor do I give a shit about attempting to figure out what's best for them and enforcing it.

Don't you see? I don't give a shit if you help a million women get abortions or not or set them up in loving homes or hand them out millions of dollars. I don't care. That's your business. I find such behavior to be butting in. You don't. Hence, I don't do it. But I don't give a shit if you do. That's your business. You do what you think is best. I'll do what I think is best.

I don't think you think I'm writing love letters to you. I think you do perceive things as personal attacks when they aren't. Why else do you come over here and say things like "I really resent..."? If you aren't personally insulted, why do you feel resentful?

Also, bullshit on you claiming you don't feel a stake in what happens to people. You think Jesus was lying when he told you to go out and minister to people, that the way you treated the least of them would be how you treated him? I doubt it. Jesus told you that you have a stake in the wellbeing of everyone. Don't come around here claiming different.

Plus, if you really believe that true charity is "to act on the behalf of another without any benefit to yourself whatsoever," why is it so important to you that I recognize the inherent value in what you're doing?

W., calm down. I'm merely mulling over the implications of any of us, not you specifically, feeling like we can't "allow" things to happen to other people. Do I think you were making some kind of argument to restrict personal choice? No, of course not. You said something I found intellectually engaging and thought-provoking and those were the thoughts it provoked. I wasn't attacking you or your position. I was considering what you said and how it made me feel and responding to that. I'm sorry you felt that I was attacking you.

But Katherine and I have some pretty fundimental misunderstandings of each other, obviously, that go far beyond this post. And we do our best to overcome them or get around them. And sometimes we butt heads. You're free to have your opinion about what's going on, but I'd appreciate it if you refrained from taking sides.

1/23/2006 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

Katherine, I sometimes can't decide if I'm really that unclear or if you deliberately misunderstand me.

You must be that unclear. I don't set out to disagree with you for kicks.


I think you do perceive things as personal attacks when they aren't. Why else do you come over here and say things like "I really resent..."? If you aren't personally insulted, why do you feel resentful?

It's my writing style. Relax. I don't take things you say as personal attacks, any more than I feel personally responsible when you say "Nashville, I'm bored" . I know that's your writing style and that you aren't waiting with bated breath for me to drive over to your place and whip out the Yahtzee. For me, I say "I resent...." or "I take issue with..." as a way of framing my formal challenge to anyone's position with which I disagree.

Also, bullshit on you claiming you don't feel a stake in what happens to people. You think Jesus was lying when he told you to go out and minister to people, that the way you treated the least of them would be how you treated him?

Allow me to explain. Yes, Jesus said the whole Least Of These things. That in no way means that I feel a personal stake in what happens to people, or that I have a personal stake in what happens to people. Jesus isn't Buddha, Muhammed or L. Ron Hubbard. He never said that my salvation or spiritual condition was dependant on the way I treat people.. I believe very strongly that "by grace [am I] saved, not through works, lest any man should boast." Therefore my personal salvation doesn't rest on how I treat people. Therefore treating people with kindness doesn't win me anything. I don't believe the nonsense that some 1950s Christians have cranked out about good deeds earning you a bigger mansion in heaven.

Any good deeds I do are done not for me, not for attention, not for points on Heaven's Giant Cribbage Board. I simply believe that kindness is no bad thing.

why is it so important to you that I recognize the inherent value in what you're doing?

It isn't. I don't give a damn what you think about what I'm doing. You made a statement. I'm debating the logic of that statement. I'm questioning the efficacy of your position. I don't consider you to be the arbiter of my behaviour, and I in no way judge the efficacy of my own actions against your stated positions.

1/23/2006 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Twyla said...

One of the best, simplest essays I've read on this subject for a long time. You make several wonderful points.

I can't help thinking about the fact that women get a short stick medically in a lot of ways. How many women have died in the emergency room because their heart attack symtoms don't mimic mens? And why don't they prescribe medications differently for women, since it's been known for a very, very long time that women have different responses to meds and doses? I wonder.

1/24/2006 06:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not taking sides B. I just didn't want anyone thinking I'm anywhere near that line of intellectual thought you were talking about. It's just a sensitive topic for me.

w

1/24/2006 12:06:00 PM  

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