Friday, November 26, 2010

Women's Health, Lives, and Autonomy

A few years ago, I never would have guessed I'd be writing this today. I would have been shocked at myself, fearful of my immortal soul, and wondering whether I was committing acts of good or evil. Yet, I have realized that I can no longer espouse an ideology I've held so dearly. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not pro-life.

I can no longer accept a movement that places women's health and lives on the back burner. I can no longer accept a movement that spreads misconceptions about health care in their quest to fight for an agenda. I can no longer accept a movement that puts the onus of reproduction completely on the woman, regardless that it takes two to have sex, regardless of whether she even consented to sex. I can no longer accept a movement that will do everything possible to criminalize abortion yet do absolutely nothing once the baby is born (granted, there are good pro-life organizations, like Feminists for Life and others that address needs for fair pay, maternity leave and others but they are not the majority, nor are they the ones leading the pro-life movement). I can no longer accept a movement that fails to do anything about pregnancy prevention (again, there are the pro-life organizations that work on that but, once again, think of who's LEADING).

I will admit, there are good pro-life organizations that do awesome work with regards to addressing needs for policy and comprehensive sex education. There are conservative pro-life organizations that do not work to deceive people but are up front about the services they offer and referrals they provide (in fact, abortion clinic counselors will refer patients to some of these honest ones, if she decides after all that she wants to keep the baby). There are those who live it with their lives, who take in women with no place to go, adopt children no one else will adopt (older children, children of color, children with disabilities), and give time and effort to fighting hunger and other wonderful causes. I have utmost respect for these people and hope that we can all work together on gaining rights for women and children.

At the same time, I cannot believe that making abortion illegal will solve problems. It will not solve the problem for a girl so desperate, she turns to a coat hanger or harsh chemicals. It will not solve the problem for a woman who has health problems and could die in childbirth (not to mention that usually, there are also health risks for the baby). It will not solve the problem for women who will lose their jobs, be trapped with an abusive partner, or be put out of streets (I understand that there are larger issues involved, but a baby may mean she can't buy time). It will not solve the problem for a woman and her husband struggling to provide for kids they have already and spending sleepless nights wondering how they will keep their house or provide groceries.

Do I like abortion? No. I will still work for policies to reduce the need for abortion. I will still work for policies to allow for maternity leave, access to health care, harsher punishment for rapists and abusers (as well as a greater involvement of good men to support women in all of their choices and stand up for equal treatment), access to education and job training and comprehensive sex education (as well as access to birth control). I will still support the good organizations that offer a helping, non-coercive hand to women, whether pro-choice or pro-life. At the same time, I cannot consign the women in my life to coat hangers and back streets. After living in Kenya, where the results are more painful, I can no longer say abortion should be considered criminal homicide.

Regardless of what anyone says, I still hold true to my faith and beliefs. These include a just, forgiving, merciful God who understands more than all of us what suffering is like (as I do hold belief in Jesus Christ). I hold true to a belief that God hears the cries of desperation in mothers and that even He Himself has fought with the desire to create (Noah's Ark, anyone?). I hold to a belief that, as the Holy Mother said, God will cast down the proud and lift up the lowly. For centuries and across cultures, women have been treated as the lowly ones, unable to make decisions. It's about time that this changes.

Will abortion necessarily solve all of this? No. But a woman needs to consider ALL of her options when faced with a crisis and be able to exercise her rights to make the best decision for herself and for her family. God gave women the unique power, yes, power and blessing, of bearing life. With that power comes an enormous amount of responsibility. A woman needs to decide whether or not she can accept it.

For all those working for a better world, regardless of which side you've chosen, I salute you. I sincerely hope people will use their fire, their passion for these issues in a creative, controlled manner rather than in a destructive, oppressive one. I hope we can all look at ourselves, in the hope of changing, to ensure we're doing more good than harm.

I don't have all the answers. I just know I am sick of reading of desperate deaths in the news.

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