As part of Blog for Choice Day sponsored by NARAL Pro-choice America and the anniversary of Roe v Wade, I’ve decided to be a part of their discussion this year:
“…we’re asking you to share your story about why you’re pro-choice.”
At first I was reluctant to use the words “pro-choice” to describe my views on reproductive rights. I was hesitant to be categorized within an extremely polarized and political issue that is so frequently associated with violent images and protestors. I myself am preferentially non-political in nature and usually don’t endorse a platform so passionately. As a young woman, however, all I knew was that my body was my own- and no one, least of all the state or the government, should have any compulsory power over my health.
I viewed it as a logical progression, if the state couldn’t force me to get an annual flu shot or my teeth cleaned, why should they decide what happens with my pregnancy? It’s fair to say that I didn’t understand the nuances of the debate until several years ago. Weren’t all those people opposing a women’s right to choose just religious fanatics?
Things changed when I discovered a surprising piece of news. Someone very close to me confided that she had gotten an abortion, and for many years I had no idea. Suddenly I felt, almost outside myself, a sense of horror bubbling up. It was an involuntary reaction that I was emotionally detached enough from to analyze a bit. If I was so pro-choice why did I have this vague sense of moral outrage? I suppose I had previously looked at abortions as a last resort, mostly unnecessary if only people were a little bit responsible. I received, and therefore supported, sex education and family planning. I still do. But until that moment I didn’t understand the more complicated feelings: the helplessness, the trapped and conflicted feelings, the fear of being judged.
People like to be morally unimpeachable, and too many people rush to support what they feel is right, without stopping to think about the other lives involved, and how what is right can differ for everyone.
Recently I also read the book (and watched the recent PBS documentary) Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It was an eye opening and surprisingly riveting read highlighting the dangers of limiting women’s rights, whether it is their right to an abortion, a marriage, a family, or running a business. The author makes the points that how a society treats women is proportional to how well they function, that women “hold up half the sky.” Countries that restrict women’s rights sacrifice substantial gains in GDP and countless opportunities to climb out of poverty. Microfinance operations in the third world have consistently demonstrated how much more effective supporting women is then supporting men.
I’m pro-choice because I support women. I support organizations that support women. I support a women’s right to choose, whatever choice that may be. I think it’s dangerous to restrict women’s rights, and Roe v Wade went a long way to make sure women have options. Sure, not everyone agrees with how other people use their freedoms, which is why I feel grateful to live in a country that values freedom, and strives to protect it. I remain optimistic, and I believe that as long as those women are empowered, making their own decisions, doing what’s right for their health and/or their family’s health, then our communities, our nation, and our lives will be the better for it.