I have been invited by Cara to make some comments on the subject of this blog from a man’s point of view. I am humbled and honored by her request. Why? Because I doubt any man can truly understand the issues that women confront on a daily basis. I think we can logically see many of the issues that they are confronted with, but as to the emotional aspects of it, we don’t have a clue. We can be empathetic by sensing their feelings, but we do not and cannot experience it. Because of that I am humbled by this request. The fact that Cara trusts me with this awesome responsibility makes me feel honored.
Before I express my current views on a few subjects, let me give you a bit of my history. I am currently 70 years old. Yes, you can have thoughts and express them cogently after 50. I reveal this because it is important to my views. I spent my teen and young adult time in the 60’s, a time of great social upheaval. I witnessed the rise of the women’s movement. Burn the bra, the pill, ‘make love, not war’, etc. It was an exciting time to be alive and to observe, and participate in, such broad spectrum change in people’s attitudes and choices. But, it was also the time of great reflection on what it was to be human. Why did we have war? Why is there racism? Can your country do wrong? Why is there poverty? Why are people living in suppression? We were the original “Hippies”! And, while we may not look it, we still think like it.
Let me begin my current views by discussing abortion. It is rather interesting, at least to me, how my feelings have evolved on this subject. To begin with, I was raised in a pretty typical middle class family affiliated with a fairly main stream protestant faith. Abortion was not a typical subject of conversation around the dinner table. Yes, there were “girls” who left school for what seemed like no reason at all. Teenage pregnancy was a scandal. There was no pill, but hormones still worked. But, how dare you discuss it. Abortion was only an acceptable option when certain conditions were present; health of the mother, rape, incest and a child that would not live outside the womb.
When I started college in the mid 60’ things began to change for me. I found out that some of “those girls” that left in high school did not have their babies, but opted for a very hush, hush abortion. The pill came into existence and now the “fear” of unwanted pregnancies was reduced to almost nil. Lo’ and behold I discovered women liked sex, too! Freedom from fear can do that. And I met women who decided that they had a voice, and opinions, feelings of being oppressed by men, who cared about the world and those in it. It was the most delightful revelation I had ever had in my life, at the time. And, the greatest part of that revelation to me was how little control these women felt they had on their own lives. I want to be a doctor they would say, but society said, well you can be a nurse. I want to be in politics they said, well run for the school board society said. The women were right; they were being oppressed, in many different ways. And one of the biggest was control over their own bodies. Abortion was still illegal and done only in rather shady clinics and backward facilities often by people who only wanted the money and cared little about the future and health of the women. Granted there was the beginning of enlightenment. Some physicians realized that it was better to do it in well-equipped clinics, with trained doctors. But it was very quietly done and not well advertised, unfortunately. But that is what began my real change. The fact that such a life altering event as a pregnancy was controlled by everyone, except the pregnant woman. It was either go full term or break the law. Guys, don’t even go anywhere with this. There is nothing in any law that controls your body as long as what you do is legal. If you do, remember Carol Burnett’s great line, “Men. Do you want to know what it’s like to have a baby? First grab your upper lip. Now, pull it over your head!” That’s without considering 9 months of carrying a child, as well.
The second point on this issue that hit me was the fact that abortion had been ruled illegal by legislators in all states who were comprised of a vast majority of men. What?? There were very few women in politics then (and still surprisingly few, but it has improved). So, what a dichotomy, men deciding what happens to a woman’s body when they become pregnant. It’s actually saying that once a woman becomes pregnant, what she does is to involuntarily surrender herself to the state. That’s the only logical conclusion to that situation.
After college, I headed to graduate school in Chicago. My school was on the campus of the University of Chicago, one of the hot beds of protest against the Vietnam War, social change, outcry against racism and women’s right in the U.S. I witnessed the riots at the Democratic Convention in 1968. I met members of the Chicago 7; I attended services and rallies led Dr. Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson. I watched the power of the Daly Machine controlling the city. What a place to be in a time like that.
Toward the end of my time in grad school the hot topic in the country, along with the Vietnam War, was the pending decision by the Supreme Court on the controversial “Roe vs. Wade” lawsuit. The basis for the law suit was the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Especially the following sentence:
“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
It was the Equal Protection clause which the suit was based on. The main argument against by the anti-abortion movement was that they felt that it violated the equal protection of the unborn. So now the main crux of the matter became apparent. Was an unborn a person under the law? Or, was a pregnant woman not treated as equal under the law? When does life begin? What is life? All important questions, but do they supersede the right of a person (read woman) to have equal protection under the law. I won’t debate here when life begins. That can be a scientific question, or it can be a belief question. There are those that believe that all life is sacred, but by a scientific definition, harmful bacteria are alive and we do all we can to kill them. People in irreversible comas, those on life support with no cognizant brain function and those with severe dementia are alive, but are the living? Those are individual opinions that I leave for you each to decide on your own. But, the bottom line is this; I agree with the Supreme Court in their decision on Roe vs. Wade. Women have the full right to decide what happens to their bodies.
However, here we are over 40 years later and the debate is still going on. Why? I think it can be reduced to only two reasons. One, many men still have the antiquated idea that they are superior to woman and objectify them as things. I actually think they do this because they are afraid of strong independent women who think for themselves. It intimidates them and makes them feel inferior. And, as for me, they are inferior. Men and women are both sides of the human experience. They are the “ying and the yang” of who we are. Personally, I revel in seeing women as my equal. I have had relationships with many women in my life and all of them have were strong independent women who had their own opinions, thoughts, careers and personality. Why would a man want anything else?
The second reason it is still with us is because of some religious factions in our country that hold that abortion should be outlawed because the unborn child is a “person of God”. They proudly refer to themselves as “Pro-Life”. But, here is what changed my mind totally on this group. It is a quote by Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun from Erie, PA. She holds a doctorate degree from Penn State University in speech communication theory.
"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is."
Yes, the same people who want to stop every abortion are usually the same ones who want to cut programs like, early childhood education, aid to dependent mothers, after school programs, defund Planned Parenthood, school lunch programs, Pell grants, all so they can save on their taxes. That is why she refers to them as “pro-birth”. I totally agree with her. I also see that many of these people are from predominately conservative right leaning Christian denominations. They also covertly believe in segregation, few rights for women, right wing governments, authoritarian control over their churches and so forth. They want a world where all issues have black and white answers. There is no room for shades of grey in their worlds. If there were, they would have to think for themselves. They want someone else to decide for them. They live in an Old Testament world where the laws laid down by the priests and prophets tell them what to do. Yet they shout out, “Have you found Jesus!” (Actually, I didn’t know that he was lost) But, at the same time they have no clue about how Jesus preached of love, tolerance, forgiveness, grace and compassion. He makes us whole, not separated like the law. He counted women as his equal. He did not spend time with religious leaders. His disciples were fishermen, tax collectors, common men. Enough said.
So, what is my conclusion? Abortion is a woman’s personal decision. Should she consult with those she loves? She can if she wants to. What about women’s rights? It’s something all men should support, because it is human rights. None of us will be equal until we realize that all of us should be.