When I was younger, I was an advocate of so-called ‘pro-life’ policies. After talking to many women (and men) about abortion, though, I’ve decided that I’m both ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life.’ Rather than continuing with the false dichotomy between life and choice, I’ve come to see this debate in terms of the overarching concept of ‘reproductive justice.’
What changed my mind on this subject, and what are the implications for policy and society?
For me, the turning point in this debate was a series of conversations with a handful of women who had obtained abortions. Since I was advocating restrictions on abortions, it took a great deal of patience and courage on their part to make their points clear to me. In the end, however, I listened, and I learned to view the issue in an entirely new light.
The most heart-wrenching story that I can remember was the story of a woman who had been molested by her father as a teenager. To make matters worse, she had become pregnant by him. At first, I didn’t think that this changed my position because I already believed in allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest. Her point, however, was that at that time in her life, she would have rather taken her own life than tell anyone who the real father of her child was. Therefore, even an abortion law which made exceptions for rape or incest would not have been enough to protect her, and she would have probably died by her own hand, along with her unborn child. Luckily, she was able to obtain an abortion, and eventually escaped the abuse to become a strong, independent survivor.
This woman, along with others, helped me to understand the inherent flaw in letting the government make reproductive decisions for women. That, however, left me with a dilemma. For both scientific and spiritual reasons, I still believed quite firmly that the child was indeed a unique individual human being from the moment of conception. How could I reconcile this belief with the knowledge that the government shouldn’t be controlling women’s reproductive systems?
Ultimately, it came down to a matter of trust. When a crisis pregnancy arises, who do I trust more to make a sound decision on the subject – a woman and her doctor, or the politicians who run the government? Since I have no great love of politicians or centralized government, I’ve decided to trust the woman and her doctor.
Of course, since I believe quite firmly that the child is a child from the moment of conception, I feel that many women are making their reproductive choices based on faulty information provided to them by abortionists and activists. Even so, I’d much rather run the risk of having too many abortions in the clinics than to see us return to the terrible days of botched back alley abortions. In the former case, only the child is lost, while in the latter case, the mother and child may both be lost.
By embracing both pro-life and pro-choice perspectives, my views on abortion become more complex than the average person who weighs in on the debate. The good news, however, is that this puts me in a good position to serve as a mediator between these supposedly opposing viewpoints and pull the followers of both movements together into a comprehensive movement for reproductive justice.
What is reproductive justice? Reproductive justice is an emerging movement to ensure that the social justice issues underlying the abortion debate are brought to public attention and resolved to the benefit of everyone involved. For example, both pro-life and pro-choice people can agree that women who are interested in carrying their child to term and offering it up for adoption should be offered the support necessary to do so. They can also agree that low-income women who want a child, but fear that they won’t be able to provide for it financially, should not be forced into abortion because of their economic circumstances. On top of these issues, they may also find common ground on reproductive issues not directly related to abortion, such as the effort to end abominable practices such as forced sterilization, genital mutilation, and the trafficking of human sex slaves. Working together on these other crucial reproductive issues may help to build trust between the two sides and lead to more sincere and respectful dialog on the abortion issue.
There are many details of reproductive justice that are still being explored by the diverse array of people involved in the movement. The underlying theme, however, is that by empowering women economically, socially, and politically, we can serve the goals of honoring life and honoring choice simultaneously. This is a theme that I certainly embrace, and I hope that you can do the same. Together, we can work on what we all agree on and make the world a better place in the process.