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July 18, 2011

Pro-Choice is Pro-Life (By Amelia G.)

This article was written by Amelia G., a woman who describes herself as "an undergraduate, feminist, seafood enthusiast, bookworm (and, more recently, blogworm)." She writes for Plenty of Otherwise!

"If you can't trust a woman with a choice,
how can you trust her with a baby?"
The other day I came across an article in the Michigan Messenger about how Thaddeus McCotter, a Republican running for president in 2012, signed a "Pro-life leadership pledge." This means that if elected, he'll "nominate pro-life judges, select pro-life cabinet members, de-fund Planned Parenthood and support legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy."

CPCs pose as abortion clinics, but do not provide abortion or contraceptives (nor do they refer women to organizations that do). As the Ms. article points out, CPCs are notorious for providing false medical information about abortion in order to scare women out of considering it as a viable option that might work for them.

I'm really uncomfortable knowing that I live in a country whose government damn near shut down over an argument about whether to de-fund an organization that does as much good as Planned Parenthood. And it hurts even more to learn that people are actively working to ensure that the nation's laws are on the side of CPCs that flat-out lie to women who come to them for help and comprehensive information.

As someone who cares deeply about reproductive justice and people in general, I'd like to take this opportunity to explain  to Representative McCotter, Judge Pauley, and everyone else behind all of the legislation that has come up since the last election — that pro-choice is pro-life.

A lot of people will be surprised to hear this, but I didn't always identify as pro-choice.

Yeah, really. Because let's face it: the rhetoric sounds great. Don't kill babies. That's something I could totally get behind, you know?

Neither of my parents are U.S. citizens, so they can't vote. Therefore, politics just weren't discussed in our house when I was growing up. I've read that statistically, parents have a great deal of influence over their children's political views. That wasn't really the case for me. I had a few opinions, but those were based shallowly on what I felt to be common sense.

So, when asked for my views on abortion, I would proudly declare that I was pro-life and thought abortion was wrong.

But once I got to high school, I noticed that a lot of people I really respected were especially passionate about their pro-choice views. And important things were going on at the time that forced me to seriously reevaluate my stance. In 2006, when I was a junior, my school district considered adopting an abstinence-only sex education program, to replace the comprehensive one that was in place.

People went apeshit. Friends of mine spoke out against the proposal at school board meetings. Medical professionals came in from out of town to voice their opinion, too. And in the end, we stuck with a comprehensive program.

I was pleased with the school board's decision not to adopt an abstinence only program (even though I didn't believe in abortion, I wasn't quite that conservative; I've always fully supported birth control). But I still could not understand how or why my friends felt so strongly about the abortion issue in particular. And because I knew my friends to be intelligent, compassionate people, I wanted to understand their point of view, so I started researching the topic.

I don't remember a specific moment when I "became pro-choice." I do know, though, that I kept finding instances where I could see myself agreeing that abortion was an acceptable option: rape, incest, poverty, etc.

But what won me over fully in the end were the personal anecdotes. By reading tons of stories about women's experiences with pregnancy, I discovered that it was impossible to put them into boxes marked with the aforementioned labels. It hit me that I couldn't call myself pro-life without taking women's lives and diverse experiences into consideration.

The Supreme Court's upholding of the "partial birth abortion" ban in 2007 (the year I graduated from high school) is the event that both tested and solidified my new pro-choice views. I was furious with the decision, even though when George W. Bush had signed the bill four years prior, I hadn't had a problem with it. That's because on the surface, "partial birth abortion" sounds awful; it evokes images of selfish women who, after 35 weeks of pregnancy, suddenly freak out and realize that they don't want to carry the pregnancy to term. So they go out and have an abortion.

But for one thing, "partial birth abortion" is not a medical term; it was coined by right-wing politicians. And secondly, come on, there have to be reasons for women to get an abortion that late in the game.

And damn good ones, at that.

One woman's story has really stuck with me over the years. It appears on page 14 of  The War on Choice by Gloria Feldt:
We were awaiting the arrival of a son. I'm diabetic, so I had more prenatal testing than most women. At twenty-five weeks I had an ultrasound and the doctor's exact words were, "Vick, you are disgustingly normal and so is the baby." At thirty-two weeks I went in for another ultrasound and my world came crashing down. They discovered that [the fetus] had not grown past twenty-five weeks, and further testing revealed that he had nine major anomalies, including a fluid-filled cranium with no brain tissue at all. He could never have survived outside my womb. My body was the only thing keeping him alive, and I chose to remove my son from life support. I'm a mom. I had three beautiful children, and in fact I have a new baby boy who's here with me now. Who are the people on the anti-choice side to judge me? They've never been in my shoes. I never in my wildest dreams thought something like this could happen, but it happened to me.
The abortion she had in 1996 was made illegal under the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Her experience reminds me of the woman in NE who, earlier this year, was denied an abortion and forced to watch her baby die in her arms shortly after giving birth.

So this is why I feel so strongly that lawmakers should not get between a woman and her doctor. As NARAL's Speak Out for Choice Award recipient Katie Stack said earlier this year during her acceptance speech: "Women's experiences with abortion are nuanced and complicated. But . . . if [we are] given the opportunity to share these diverse realities, we can begin to challenge the stereotypes and falsehoods that are promoted by the anti-choice movement."

Pro-choice is pro-life. That's something I firmly believe and discovered simply by being curious and open. By reading. By trusting/caring about people, and respecting their personal opinions and choices.

I don't think that's too much to ask of humanity.