This is the post where I mention that I am decidedly pro-choice. I feel like that is probably obvious, but I’m stating it explicitly because it’s necessary to know going forward. Also worth mentioning: this blog post is in response to an article my friend found on refinery29.com. I just had too many feelings reading it (as per usual) and needed to get those out. You should check out the article, because it is pretty great.
To summarize the article I am responding to, author Miller interviewed and sat in on a group of students who identify as “Pro-Life Millenials.” In addition to this, the author researched statistics and information about pro-life millenials, to corroborate her evidence about them (and to write a credible piece). The title of this article struck me, and I was instantly drawn to it, because I am interested in exploring thought processes that differ from mine, and because there are just some things I don’t quite understand. Anti-choice mentality is one of them.
I grew up in a Catholic family. I was baptized at 3 months old, and went to church nearly every single Sunday after that day. I attended Catholic school from third to twelfth grade. Suffice to say, I am more than familiar with pro-life rhetoric. When I was sixteen, I identified as pro-life, because killing babies is wrong, obviously. To affirm this identity, I participated in the March for Life. There were thousands of people stamping through the streets of DC shouting chants like, “No, Obama, yo mama chose life!” (Really, this was an actual thing.) Walking among these people, shouting these pro-life things, shaking my pro-life poster, I felt the collective anger of the crowd. I was angry too, but couldn’t figure out why. I watched horrifically-graphic videos of abortions, passed by grotesque pictures of dead fetuses, took in all of this hate and sadness and it overwhelmed me. I think this is probably when I decided that it was time to start investigating my beliefs a little further.
On the walls in my high school, on billboards lining the major US highways, on picket signs outside of Planned Parenthood during 40 Days of Life, on priests’ lips are these words: “Respect life.” An issue as complex as abortion gets boiled down to the adherence of God’s law that, “All life is sacred.” The problem with this thought process is that there are multiple lives to consider in some cases of abortion, but in most, there is only one. Hint: the one I’m referring to is NOT the baby’s life. That’s right, when it comes to abortion, the only life that should matter is the woman’s. This is of course a biased opinion, but I base it on the scientific fact that life doesn’t start at the moment of conception. Though this goes against religious doctrine (at the very least, Christian/Catholic beliefs), a scientific fact is what determines whether or not abortion is safe and necessary for the woman*. Late-term abortions are pretty rare, and most abortions occur early on in the pregnancy (More data about those is found here. The material is a bit unsettling though, please view at your own discretion. Also, resource for fetal development here).
*Or uterus-haver (it’s important to use gender-inclusive language when referring to pregnancy)
I put some of that information in as a precursor to this next bit because it is important to move beyond this “abortion=baby murder” mentality. If you can’t think openly about abortion and pro-choice ideology, you might as well close this now.
I mentioned earlier that lots of pro-life rhetoric doesn’t consider the pregnant person. Abortion is about much more than a baby’s life or death: it is about whether or not a pregnancy is safe, as well as whether or not the pregnancy is wanted or feasible.*(I am going to refer to pregnant people as women for the sake of brevity, but please know that not just cisgender women can get pregnant.)* Abortion is a viable option for pregnant women who cannot support children because of their present financial or health circumstances, or simply those who are not ready for parenthood. In many cases, the reasons for abortion benefit both the woman and the potential child. Would it be better for a woman with an unsteady income to have a child that she is unable to feed and appropriately provide for than to abort the fetus and take care of herself?
Low-income women are typically removed from conversations about abortion. While it is true that adoption exists and is an option, a woman struggling to provide for herself cannot also provide for a developing fetus. She would put additional stress on her body, creating a high-risk pregnancy that could potentially endanger her health, as well as the health of her baby. It is also important to note that intersectionality needs to be considered in order to see every aspect of this issue; low-income women of color would suffer more than low-income white women if abortion were eradicated.
I feel like I’ve been throwing a lot of stuff out about abortion. This is probably well-known information, but it bears repeating because it is highly important. Getting back to Kelsey Miller’s article: There are tons of points that the main interviewee, Emily Wilkinson, makes and honestly, all of them make me angry. She throws out a bunch of bogus statistics about Planned Parenthood, discusses why there aren’t pregnant college women on campuses (which is actually not true) and why that is a problem, and then gets to birth control and contraceptives. As to the remark about pregnant women on college campuses: it is hard enough to be a full-time student, taking a full course load and balancing a social life with getting enough sleep and eating properly. Add a pregnancy to that and it’s enough to send any person spiraling into a breakdown. While it’s certainly possible to be a pregnant college student, in most cases, this is not an ideal situation. I do agree that there aren’t many resources for pregnant students (although I haven’t personally explored this), but I don’t think that that causes abortions. Unplanned pregnancies stem typically stem from unprotected sex, which is common on campuses, especially when alcohol is added to the mix. A great way to prevent abortion is to prevent potential pregnancy (duh?) by using contraceptives. But of course, the “true blue pro-lifer” is against contraception because it makes pregnancy more difficult. Wilkinson says to use the rhythm method to know when your body can conceive. She puts the onus of preventing pregnancy entirely on the woman, which is a lot of responsibility and frankly, not fair. If it takes two to tango, and life begins the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, then can’t we argue that sperm is life? Why is this solely a woman’s responsibility? I would be curious to know Wilkinson’s thoughts on masturbation, because there are definitely a lot more potential babies dying in tissues and socks than in condoms. But I digress.
Abortion is a really traumatic thing for a woman to go through; this is another argument Wilkinson makes against abortion and it is flimsy, at best. Just because something is traumatic, that doesn’t deem it unnecessary. One of Planned Parenthood’s many functions is providing aftercare for abortion. This includes physical check-ups, as well as access to counseling to ensure emotional well-being. Defunding Planned Parenthood, as many pro-life people want, would take away this comforting system. I could list so many other things that are just as traumatic, if not much more, than abortion but that cannot be done away with because they are a part of life. I won’t, but I could.
I’ve mostly just been ranting at this point, because, like I said, too many feelings on this topic. My lasting impression of Miller’s article, and my reason for this post, is that pro-life people are growing in number. They are younger (millenials) and they are using different tactics to sway beliefs, and that is scary. I recently started volunteering for Planned Parenthood and I have already seen, first-hand, the necessity of this organization and the necessity of abortion. I view abortion as a reproductive right, and access to abortion and contraception as human rights. Bodily autonomy is what we call this, and when you let an embryo determine a fully-formed human’s life, you tell that human that they don’t matter.
In sum, abortion is not about a fetus, it is about a person’s right to choose whether or not they want or can be pregnant. Stop making it about the fetus.