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?
I’ll wait here a second for those of you who are laughing incredulously to catch your breath.
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?