Most people who know me, despite my liberal viewpoints, would know that I'm also pro-life. I was the kid in high school who wore a Rock for Life T-shirt, complete with fetus playing guitar on the front and an inflammatory message on the back. In college, I've attended my fair share of anti-abortion protests, I volunteer at a CPC (a non-coercive, non-deceptive one, I may add) and I'm planning to attend a March for Life with my friends this coming January. Yet, I have my own issues with the pro-life movement. I don't like that none of the major pro-life organizations also denounce family planning counseling and contraceptive usage. I don't like that many politicians who claim to be "pro-life" also are too willing to cut funding for SCHIP, public education, or WIC, programs that would actually help the mother and child before and after birth. Mainly, the one thing I cannot stand: Sidewalk Counseling.
Sidewalk counselors make me ashamed to admit that I am pro-life. From my own observations (not all, but a good portion) as well as video footage (everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com), all I see are people harassing women. They surround them like vultures, armed with Bibles, rosaries and Our Lady of Guadalupe, repeating their pleas over and over again. "Don't kill your baby, it's a decision you can never take back!" "We'll take care of you!" They don't stop with speaking or shouting. They'll do everything they can to get as close as possible to the girls and women, to the point of grabbing them (something that is a violation of the law). Some of these girls look so young, younger than my sister, and frightened. Meanwhile, you have people in the background chanting Bible verses about sin, hell, and murder. It's quite the scary scene.
I do not support abortion. I don't see it as a right. I see it as a sign that we've failed. If women cannot keep a job, access health insurance, or face a world free from stigma, have we met the needs of women? If so many of our teenagers are getting pregnant, where have we failed in that regard? And if so many health issues and complications arise from pregnancy, are scientists conducting research, in order that we may be able to save two lives? These are the questions that run through my mind.
At the same time, if abortion is a right in this nation, if it is seen as a sad but necessary evil, how can you berate those girls and women for their choices? The choice to terminate a pregnancy rarely comes easy. Most women want their pregnancies to be positive experiences. Many dream of a healthy child, a little boy or girl. At the same time, if you're just barely feeding yourself, how can you take care of a kid? What if adoption is not presented well, but is used as a coercion tactic (look up Leslee Unruh)? What if you have serious medical issues, serious enough that one or both of you could die? What if you were the survivor of rape/incest? What if you could lose a scholarship? What if you could lose your job? What if your partner was abusive or neglectful? What if you were trying to figure out how to care for children you already had?
I believe we need to focus on these ills, to focus on bearing burdens and creating solutions for these larger issues. At the same time, I do not believe it wise, compassionate or a good use of faith to browbeat these women. Abortion comes with possible physical complications (as every medical procedure does) and emotional experiences that differ from woman to woman. Yes, it ends a life. No, it's not always easy. It's scary. The whole experience is scary. They know what it means to be pregnant. They've thought and prayed about their choices. Many think it won't happen to them until it does.
Is it too much for the pro-life movement to step back and have some compassion? If we're going to make any progress at all, it isn't through chasing after people on a day that's already stressful for them.