In 1985 I attended the State University of New York in Binghamton. One day I entered a stall in the ladies restroom where someone had written on the wall, "Anyone who gets an abortion should be killed." Underneath this, someone else had written, "This is typical of the so called 'pro-life' view."
In the early 1990s, I lived in Miami, Florida and became involved with the local NOW chapter. We went to a women's health clinic one morning to counter protest a group of "pro-life" activists. The protesters stood outside with pictures of bloodied fetuses, and were clearly very passionate about wanting to save these babies. I approached one of the women and asked, "If you really want to stop abortion, why aren't you out here promoting the use of birth control and sex education?" The response I got was a shocked face and the comment, "Abstinence works."
These stories illustrate the two main problems I have with the Pro-Life movement. It seems to me that there is a lot of talk about the sanctity of life within a context of hypocrisy. Many of these same people support capital punishment as fervently as they oppose abortion rights. I don't see them out marching for children's rights, health care reform, support for the homeless and hungry, or dollars for our lagging public education system. It seems to me that these well intentioned folks don't care nearly as much about life after gestation as they do about making a point about their view of G-d's will. Where is their passion when it comes to the rights of the born? At that point the message I hear is, "You're on your own."
At the same time, it seems obvious to me that the clearest path to preventing unwanted pregnancies, and therefore reducing abortions, is the effective use of birth control - which requires accessibility and education. But the Pro-Life movement is based in a set of values that sees human sexuality as sinful, and therefore something that should be denied and repressed. In order for the issue of abortion to be squarely dealt with, the Pro-Life movement must face the fact of preventing unwanted pregnancy. Additionally, they must allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest, and to protect a woman's life.
I have never had an abortion, and I have two very wanted children whose lives I treasure beyond all things. I deeply believe in the sanctity and miracle of all life, including animals, trees, insects - you name it! When I was a kid, my parents made sure that I understood clearly where babies came from, and that I knew how to prevent pregnancy. When I was 14 years old I received a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves," as a gift from my father. When I was 16 and became sexually active, my mother took me to get birth control pills.
I have taught these same lessons to my children: people enjoy having sex, but there are risks of disease and unwanted pregnancy; wait to have sex until you meet the right person who you trust and who really loves you; and use birth control until you want a baby more than you want anything else in your life, because once you have a child, you need to give everything to that child.
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