I have swayed from one extreme to the other over the course of my life. When I was 13, the Catholic mother of a friend gave several of us information about and pictures of aborted fetuses, and I became strongly pro-life. My mother (who was pro-choice) disapproved, but left it to me to make up my own mind. While I was in college, my roommate became pregnant, and it was harder for me to maintain a condemning stance--I ended up driving her to and from the clinic for an abortion. During the summers, I worked with a 19 year old woman who casually commented one day about her "second abortion." I asked how many she'd had, and she said three. I was horrified to realize she'd been using abortion as a means of birth control.
And then, at age 24, single and in my first quarter of a Ph.D. program, I became pregnant. I'd taken out loans to pay for school and did not have a job; my boyfriend at the time (later my husband) was barely making ends meet at a job he hated. It was particularly shocking news because I'd tried hard to be "responsible": I'd gone to the campus clinic to get birth control pills but was delayed for over a month due to a family history of heart disease that required several blood tests. We had been using barrier methods until I could begin taking the pill.
The decision to have an abortion was extremely painful, and not one I made lightly. I knew that neither I nor my boyfriend had the wherewithal (financially or otherwise) to care for a child. We feared that if I had the baby and tried to put it up for adoption, our parents would pressure us to keep it (they wanted us to get married). I'd worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot to get into graduate school, and could not see a way to care for a child and remain in school. Having an abortion seemed the least bad of several really terrible choices.
So, where do I fall on this issue? It's far more complicated than the political rhetoric suggests. I do not favor making abortions illegal, in part because history shows that this makes the procedure more dangerous without putting a stop to them. I don't see any benefit in endangering the life of woman who is determined to get an abortion. By the same token, I have a hard time supporting abortion as a casual method of birth control. In summary, I don't think one answer (abortion, adoption, having a baby) can fit every situation in which a woman has an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
What I'd like to see is a compassionate community response that enables each woman to figure out for herself--in the context of her own beliefs, values, and life--what makes the most sense for her situation. If we could step back from harsh judgments and agendas that push one decision over the other, and simply listen, ask questions, and provide support, we might realize that there are times when all possibilities can be moral.
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