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Friday, January 11, 2013

To Be or Not to Be...Pro-choice

Anytime there is mention of the term "pro-life" or "pro-choice", people immediately have a strong reaction. Some people get uncomfortable. Some people jump at the chance to defend their stance. Others jump to vilify your's.

In a world of black and white issues, pro-life and pro-choice are simple: You're either against abortion or you're for it. But the problem with that reasoning is that our world is never that simple. The truth is, 99% of the time, life is one big gray area. Every situation has it's own issues, it's own difficulties. No two cases are the same. So how does one decide whether they are pro-life or pro-choice?

Many people are raised in a pro-life household (often due to religion). And therefore, those people often feel ashamed to consider themselves pro-choice. Some people are so saddened and angered by the idea of a woman having an abortion, that they don't take the time to consider what being pro-choice actually means. I was one of these people.

I was raised in a Christian household where sex before marriage was wrong, homosexuality was unforgivable, and abortion was an unspeakable act. I felt strongly that a woman who had an abortion was a "certain kind" of woman (or girl) who was irresponsible enough to get herself into a "situation". I also felt such sympathy for the unborn baby. The funny part is that I ended up realizing that I was not only pro-choice, but strongly pro-choice while doing research for a paper that was intended to discourage people from supporting the pro-choice side of the fence. However, the sympathy for the unborn child is still there. As a mother myself, I don't think that will ever go away. It is important to note that while I absolutely feel that abortion should be kept safe and legal, it is always a sad occurrence, in my opinion.

It was hard to realize that I was having second thoughts about my pro-life stance. I felt awful, like an accessory to murder. But then I realized...being pro-choice didn't make me pro-abortion. It didn't mean that the idea of abortion thrilled me. After all, I was pregnant during three times in my life when plenty of women would have considered (or even gone through with) abortion. The first time, I was only 4 months into marriage, without resources, and completely unprepared to be a parent. The second, I went through a separation (almost divorce). And the third time, I was on birth control and not planning on another child for at LEAST a few years. I could have terminated any of those pregnancies. But I made the CHOICE to carry them, to have them, to love them. I had a choice to do that, and I was grateful for it. Women in China don't have that choice (aside from the first time). They are forced to abort. And we deem that as "wrong". So how can we see forcing a woman who can't afford a child, who's child is suffering and will certainly die, or who will die herself if she carries her pregnancy, to carry a pregnancy to term? How do we justify that?

There are plenty of circumstances that most people don't think about when they deem themselves pro-life. For example, what would these people do if they were faced with an ectopic pregnancy? I've heard lots of pro-life people refer to the removal of an ectopic pregnancy as a miscarriage. Not so. In rare cases, women (and their babies) have been known to survive an ectopic pregnancy. So, when a woman consents to having it removed (if the fetus is still alive), she is making the decision to terminate the pregnancy. My own mother made this decision at one point in her life. Because in most cases, the baby will die, and the mother can as well...people like to refer to this "removal" as a miscarriage, but in reality, unless the fetus has already died, it is in fact an abortion. It is, however, considered a "medically necessary" termination (obviously).

What about women who purposely get pregnant, only to find out that something awful is wrong with their child? That their child is suffering? That their child won't live outside the womb for more than a few torturous minutes? If they make the decision to have an abortion...are they evil? I don't think so. Especially if there are other children involved, or the mother's life is in danger, or the baby is suffering in-utero. This is a major decision that requires serious contemplation of many factors. Of course, if they choose to carry the pregnancy as far as they can in order to meet their child and resolve the idea of never-ending "what-ifs", they are more than entitled to do so. That's the beauty of it--it's their CHOICE.

I know a few girls who were raped. If they had become pregnant as a result, I can absolutely understand why they would choose to terminate. Likewise, I would understand if they chose to carry, as well. Again...a CHOICE.

The bottom line is this: No one likes the idea of a dead baby. No one gets the warm and fuzzies from thinking about it. No one aspires to abort. But life happens. It's as frustratingly simple as that. Baby making isn't a perfect science. Life isn't a walk in the park. I wouldn't want my choice to carry a pregnant to term to be taken away. And I wouldn't want the choice to end a pregnancy taken away for me, my daughter, or for other women. Because sometimes life happens and it isn't pretty. Sometimes it's just a mess. And depending on what you are capable of, as a woman (or partner), you deserve to make the choice yourself. Am I against putting limitations on this choice? Nope. I do not believe a woman should be able to decide at 35 weeks pregnant that she just doesn't want to be a mother. I believe that this decision is one of MONUMENTAL responsibility and should be treated as such.  Whether it's an early abortion or a late term abortion, it should be given an immense amount of thought...because it's something that you have to live with for the rest of your life. And despite the fact that you may choose to terminate your pregnancy, this is the first decision that you will make as a mother. You will ultimately decide if your child will suffer or thrive, if you can support a child, if you feel comfortable letting someone else have your child....you will decide, for you...and for your child.

So the next time someone asks you if you're pro-life or pro-choice, give it a little thought before you answer. You may surprise yourself.

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