I’m not a political girl… Yes, I have opinions. Yes I’m a registered voter… and Yes… I’m excited to exercise my duty (did you notice I didn’t say ‘right?’) to vote… But I’m not a soapbox preacher – and have been unusually plagued with the desire to see both sides of the issue – which often leaves me confused…
Recently, I read a post on Dooce.com
– where she expressed her disgust at John McCain’s stance on abortion. She says he’s not pro-life, he’s anti-choice. In the last debate, McCain commented that he thought the issue of the mother’s health/danger was overstated. Dooce then cited two other blogs, both insightful and worth a look. Alexa at Flotsam
said: “I was angry at his use of the term “pro-abortion,” a term that could only be coined by someone who has never had to contemplate such a procedure, or watched a loved one do the same. But what I wasn’t expecting last night was to feel my eyes suddenly hot and teary, to feel so profoundly hurt.
Ames died at 22 weeks. I was lucky—if anyone can be said to be lucky in these circumstances—that his water did not break for another two weeks, and lucky that IV antibiotics and hospital bed rest kept the infection in his amniotic fluid more-or-less contained for twelve days after that. But his water could just as easily have broken two days rather than two weeks after his death, and the infection could have been more virulent, spread faster, and reached critical mass much sooner—say when Simone was pre-viability, or on the very cusp of viability. Say 23 weeks instead of 25.”
My heart went out to Alexa – because I had an experience about 15 years ago that opened my eyes – and very much formed the opinions on the subject I hold today.
I was an ignorant college student who produced a television talk show on religion and ethics for my college… It was 1993, and the abortion issue was as hot a button as it is today. NOTE: My college is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed Church (I’ve never been CRC – but this is another story for another day). Their general viewpoint is that life is sacred, and abortion should not be the norm, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life or health.
One of the things that I’ve always respected about the CRC is that – far above other church groups that I’d encountered to that point – they really exercised careful study and discussion about issues – like women’s rights… and abortion. To that point, I’d grown up in a very narrow-minded church environment that preached “Do as you’re told – don’t make waves…” So – needless to say, from a faith standpoint, I was learning for the first time to weigh issues and form my own opinions.
Back to the show I produced… I wanted to weigh in on the abortion issue – so I poked around, and found the name and number for a pediatric neurologist who was an alum of my college
I can’t remember his name, but if I did, I’d make sure he got a copy of this post – as well as a huge “THANK YOU”
When I first got the doctor on the phone, we chatted for a moment or two before I asked him to be a guest on the program. He immediately turned me down. To this point, I think he was the first person to ever say no to an invitation to appear on my show, and I’d invited all KINDS of people, from Think Tank managers to TV commentators, Artists, Politicians, Priests, Rabbis, Unitarians, Agnostics… Everyone.
The point? I was just getting a taste of exploration… To boot, I was getting paid to do it. What could be better?
I asked the pediatric neurologist why he turned me down. He said, “Because I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear! I don’t consider myself pro-life or pro-choice.” He sighed, and explained to me some of his history with my college. In those days as a student, three things were banned from the CRC: Dancing, Card playing, and Movies… (All these rules have changed, as it is the Reformed philosophy that Christians should be actively engaged in culture. Instead of criticizing film, for example, we should take part in discussions about film – and gasp! Even MAKE film… Again, another story for another day – but I think it’s important to get into the mind of this doctor’s experience – just as important as it is to hear Alexa's.)
He went on to explain that he’d been kicked out of college for playing cards… And wasn’t a fan of his ‘ex-alma mater.’
“All the more reason to come on the show!” I exclaimed… “Things have changed here – and I believe your opinion is very valid and should be considered…”
He then explained to me that as a pediatric neurologist, he’d seen exactly what “Danger to the mother” meant (re-read Flotsam’s quote if you don’t get where I’m coming from) – As well as this scenario: “Kelly, being pro-life means a little more than giving birth to a baby – regardless of the mother’s health. At one point, I had to tell a mother that her baby was going to be born with no skull. I suggested an abortion because the baby had zero chance of surviving outside of the womb, and would have been in incredible pain between his birth and death - mere moments of life… It was difficult, but any other decision would have been cruel and unimaginable.” (I’m paraphrasing, – but you get the idea).
Okay. After talking for awhile, he finally consented to coming on my show. It was a personal triumph for me – and I hope a little redemption for the Doctor. I think he was able to lose some of his hostility towards archaic policies of my college in the ‘60’s.
His interview – and our conversation really made me think. Alexa at Flotsam’s blog reminded me of him – because more than anything I’ve read – more than the 777 comments on Dooce’s blog – more than the presidential debates – both seem to get at the real heart of the issue. What I mean is – Flotsam actually connected the fact that abortion concerns about people – babies – mothers – families… It’s not a policy. It’s humanity.
Okay – so just so I can enter into the debate –for whatever it’s worth, here’s what I think:
I shudder to call myself Pro-Life, although I respect life greatly. I do believe that life begins at conception. (Look at it this way – no one who’s not pregnant needs an abortion – so to me, it doesn’t matter when you think life starts – as much as whether or not you’re pregnant…) I personally believe life is growth (please don’t email me about fungus and bacteria and about fetus as parasite. If you believe that, you’re entitled – but you won't change my mind.)
I also believe that life should get a fair shake... As one who lost a nephew far before he should have died, I know how hard my family fought for life... And life is precious beyond all reason - SO, regarding abortion, I've got to tell you, part of me just doesn't get it... So - to prevent those (insert adjective: panicked, carefully weighted, sad, inevitable) decisions after conception, I will tell you I’m more pro-responsibility, pro-education, and when it comes down to it – I’m pro-adoption – but I’ll get to that in a moment. From my viewpoint, I think abortion as birth control is sad, but agree that there are times when it’s viable – Just like the doctor said.
I think republicans and democrats can agree that the number of unwanted pregnancies is too high. I’m speaking directly about younger kids – because mature women should know and understand life circumstances better - and I will leave their uterus to their attention… I would hope that we as a nation would agree to treat the symptoms of unwanted pregnancies – and not try to mop up a complicated mess afterward.
Instead of putting energies into attempting the impossible (aka overturning Roe v. Wade), we should be concentrating on educating – particularly young girls on all issues surrounding sex, pregnancy, protection – and the ridiculous stigma that abstinence is un-cool. I say this to affirm those who believe that their uterus is their business. If this is true, then who can possibly judge a girl for the things she does – or chooses not to do with her very own uterus?
If she chooses sex, then let’s teach her how to be safe. If she chooses to wait, let’s teach her that it’s an excellent, if not merely safe choice. In any case, let’s teach everyone about actions and consequences, prevention and resources… Let's teach them to think ahead about what's important - and make a few plans.
Were I in the difficult position of counseling a pregnant teenager, I would honestly hope that she respects the living, growing child inside her. There are thousands of people who (if the teen didn’t want the responsibility of raising the child, or didn’t have the necessary family support) can’t have kids of their own – and would love the opportunity to adopt… I know I’ve never been in a pregnant teen’s shoes – and I know it would be difficult, but since I’m spouting my opinion – at the end of the day, I think a healthy baby deserves a chance at life – if
that life doesn’t put the mother at risk.
Can I make judgments for those who are old enough to make up their own minds? No. Do I believe that these women are in charge of their own uterus? Yes… But I look at this perhaps a little differently than most – I think her choice includes decisions she makes BEFORE conception – as well as after. I just think it’s a little broader than arguments I’ve heard since I learned the term ‘abortion…’ I don’t say this to be judgmental – and I’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes in my life (I’m not casting stones, honest!) – But this is a big deal.
I see a lot of people commenting on the forest of policy – just not the trees of humanity, emotion, and responsibility. If I ever found a politician who could address the issues and who I believed understood the issues like I've learned to - and I’ve talked about here, she or he would have my vote in a heartbeat.