Abortion. One of America’s favorite “hot button” issues. And like most if not all “hot button” issues, this question has the tendency to polarize advocates on one side of the debate or the other. Request permission to straddle the fence and speak out of both sides of my mouth, perhaps even with forked tongue.
No, I do not believe that the government should enact laws to further restrict right to or access to abortion with the singluar exception of the mother’s life being at stake. I remain committed to the idea that the choice of whether or not to have an abortion is a personal choice to be made by and between the mother and her physician. I came to this position for a number of reasons.
As a young teenager, I worked the midnight shift for a short time at a greasy spoon reastaurant. There I met a cook, a man who had once been sent to jail for performing illegal abortions and was now released. I was curious and asked him a lot of questions. He described to me his practice and my eyes were opened. Therein lies the first argument in favor of safe, legal, medically supervised abortions. One of the first concerns that we (the Roe vs. Wade genration) had as young people advocating for the right to abortion was the safety of the mother. Women will choose, under certain circumstances, to have an abortion. Those circumstances are not limited to the risk of losing your own life. They include incest, rape, spousal abuse, mental health of the mother, and many issues besides. They go beyond prostitutes getting abortions although that is part of the picture. And what we realized at that time was that women were being subjected to back-room, coat-hanger abortions and suffering mightly at the hands of unscrupulous practitioners. I would not like to see that return. To restate this point: We advocated for safe abortions as an alternative to backroom butchery.
I came, though my life course, to understand that not every culture practices Christianity, not every belief system espouses the notion that a non-viable embryo or fetus, or even sometimes a newly born child, as having a “right” to live. In America the view of the “preborn” as fully human is largely a Christian prejudice and it should not be imposed on people of other beliefs. I believe that Christian fundamentalists are largely behind the push to criminalize abortion. I believe that this push represents the radical view that all but them are going to hell if they don’t practice this particular faith in this specific way. And I believe that this view – that abortion in general should be criminalized (you use the word “restricted”) except when the life of the mother is at stake – overly caters to one set of religious values over another. To summarize my second point: I believe that the move to criminalize abortion, is led by fundamentalist Christians and as such it imposes those Christian values on others and infringes on our right to choose and practice religion other religions and live other lifeways.
I believe in the rule of threes, i.e., that you should support your point of view with at least three arguments. At this point, though, I don’t really have a third well-formed (and hopefully valid) point to make. I do have more thoughts and a lot more to say. Let me make this point: I value Life. I absolutely value the unborn. But I have witnessed too many instances of child abuse and neglect. My heart bleeds for the living children, unwanted and unloved.
There was a woman I met as a teenager. She had been talked out of having an abortion by well-meaning Christians who quickly abandoned her to a life of prostitution once the baby was born. And I recall vividly that one night when I watched, helplessly, as she brutalized that child. And I decided then – she should have had the abortion. No, abortion doesn’t prevent child abuse. It should not be used as birth control. But preach it, don’t legislate it.