Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Abortion is one of those life decisions I'm glad I never felt the need to make. When I, at 17, found myself pregnant and not yet married, but very much in love with my boyfriend since 8th grade, I had my two favorite dreams come true that year. First, Richard and I married, then 7 1/2 months later, 22 days before my 18th birthday, I gave birth to my first son. 1964 was one of my happiest years.

There are many teenagers who are caught in this dilemma, who do not have the options and advantages I had. Loving babies as much as I do, I have counseled unwed teenage girls to have their babies and allow them to be adopted. As far as I know, all but one did. That girl was a diabetic whose health and life were very much in jeopardy. I supported her decision to abort. I cried with her, prayed with her, and made sure she got her facts straight and took her responsibility as a potential mother more seriously. (Her sex education up to that point had consisted of her mother telling her, "You can't get pregnant, it could kill you." The girl actually thought that because of her diabetes, getting pregnant was a physical impossibility.)

I never felt any regret for my part of that unfortunate situation, rather I felt encouraged that a young woman's life was saved and that she was better informed to deal with her sexuality. The clinic which served her has since been closed. My stint as a volunteer counselor lasted less than a year. Crisis pregnancies were not the only problems we handled. I burned out in about 10 months.

I've never felt so strongly about defending Roe v. Wade that I got out and demonstrated as a Pro-Choicer, but I am glad that we have it. With that ruling, women won the right to control their own bodies. The back alley practitioners with their knitting needles and clothes hangers were replaced with sterile clinics and trained staff.

My beliefs are somewhere between the two extremes. I do not regard all abortions as murders, nor do I regard all abortions as mere medical procedures without moral significance. I believe sexual behavior is a personal matter that should be handled thoughtfully, responsibly, and privately. I believe in better sex education, and I believe that abstinence is one choice among many to be made in private, not as a result of arm-twisting and emotional manipulation. Expecting a girl to make vows to her father to preserve her virginity until he decides it's time is LUDICROUS! This is 21st Century America, for God's sake!

I was behind a car the other day which sported this bumper sticker message: Pro-Faith, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice. Inside the car was a man, a woman, a child dressed like they had been to church. I respect that. Beside them was a car with a Choose Life car tag. I respect that, too. Different people reach different conclusions. It is not my job to judge them.

According to one of my former mother-in-laws, there were many women in the 30's, 40's and 50's, who used the services of the local country doctor to limit the number of children they had. "I missed my period this month, Doc, can you get it started again?" was all it took. What method he used was unclear, but from what she described it sounded like a D&C without much anesthesia. Later, they were fitted with a diaphragm and supplied with condoms. She also told me about the rhythm method, which explained the red x's on the calendar on the back of her bathroom door. My own mother never explained anything to me.

How my grandmother and her sister limited their children to one each, I don't know. I do know their physician brother delivered both of their babies, a degree of familial intimacy I would not have been comfortable with, but obviously they were ok with it.

Research was done in the 1990's which showed some correlation between the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 and the lower crime rate in the 90's. Unwanted children make up a large portion of our prison population, they said. With increased restrictions since then, the crime rate is again on the rise. There may be no link between these two occurrences, but it sounds logical to me.

I do believe that if the same amount of time, money and effort that has been spent on men trying to maintain control of women had been spent on education, empowerment, and respect for women and their rights, abortion would rarely be necessary. Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, "The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control." I think she's right.

And I still don't understand how anyone who claims to be Pro-Life can advocate for war or capital punishment. "Bombing for peace makes as much sense as f*****g for virginity," one sign read at last week's Peace Rally in Washington. I agree.

Obviously, these life and death issues are not as black and white as some people would like to believe.

1 comment:

Zoilus said...

Freakanomics. Supposed to be a fantastic book, but I haven't read it yet, either.