I am pro-choice. I cannot convince you to share my convictions if you do not, however I can explain to you why I hold this belief.
I offer my perspective not as an invitation for anyone to attempt to change my mind - you will not succeed - but in hope that, along with Shannon's post explaining why she is pro-life, we can have a civil discussion that moves us to a point at which we can find some common ground.
I am personally pro-choice because I am Christian. Yes, I'm outing myself as a believer. Those of us who are Christian but do not hold the what have become caricatured views of the so-called religious right often hesitate to share our faith. But I think it is important to share that being a Christian does not automatically mean that you oppose the right to abortion. In fact, the church into which I was baptized affirms that "it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion."
I believe deeply that I have no authority whatsoever to judge the sin of any other person and to believe that I did would be blasphemous. Only God can judge our sins or innocence. The concept that a fetus is innocent is a moral one and not a legal one. I fully respect those who hold this view of life but my personal perspective tells me that it is not my place to judge relative moral innocence before or after birth. I also do not believe I am capable of divining God's will let alone creating laws that would seek to enforce that will.
When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was an idealistic young punk rocker who investigated theories of utopias and anarchy while also working in politics and studying government. As much as I love the idea that we could all just get along, I have come to believe that we as humans are not capable of existing without government and laws.
The laws of civil society do not exist to enforce morality and certainly not Biblical morality. Murder and abortion existed before the Bible as did laws prohibiting murder. Laws exist to regulate behavior in a way that allows societies to function. If there were no prohibition against murder society could not function if anyone could kill you for any reason without consequence. One need only look at nations which engage in and permit genocide to see that this is the case. Whether or not there is a God or what religion if any is the right one, if murder were unregulated, civil society could not exist.
Abortion does not disrupt civil society in the same way as murder. To believe that abortion must be regulated relies on a belief that a fetus is a person with all the rights and responsibilities of someone born. To grant a fetus that cannot exist outside the womb greater rights than the woman carrying the fetus is, in my estimation, fundamentally incompatible with the function of civil society.
Most importantly, making abortion illegal will not stop abortions. The disruption to society from criminalizing abortion I believe is much greater than protecting safe and legal abortion. If I were to choose to have an abortion it would not infringe upon your liberty or the function of society at all. If you were to deny me the right to choose an abortion it impinges upon my liberty and the society at large in a myriad of ways.
And to the argument that people should not be forced to be governed by laws which are in opposition to their moral and/or religious beliefs I would point out that we are all governed by some laws which do not comport with our personal moral beliefs. I am morally opposed to war and yet I voluntarily participate in a system of government to which I give my authority to decide to wage war and to which I pay taxes which support the waging of those wars. However, I also recognize that all societies, however small, develop methods to protect themselves from attack and I understand that there is common agreement therefore that a military should necessarily exist. Society cannot function if everyone is allowed to opt out of living under common laws based on individual beliefs.
My reasons for supporting choice are as personal, deeply held and, I believe correct, as believe those who feel the opposite. I respect the intelligent, compassionate women who have arrived at a different conclusion than I, and as I hope they will respect me. Any debates premised on what our intractable moral or political beliefs are will not move the discussion forward and will only result in each side digging their trenches deeper.
However, I believe there is common ground which we can all reach that will help us move forward towards a shared goal. Regardless of what anyone believes is the moral or legal right to abortion, I think most of us recognize that it is a choice that no woman wishes to be in a position to make.
What I would love to see is that we focus our energy towards loving women.
Loving them enough to ensure that every woman has sex only when they are fully capable of choosing to do so and fully capable of making choices regarding pregnancy. That no woman has sex because she lacks self esteem, because she thinks it is the only way she will be loved, because she was physically and emotionally abused and is acting out, because she is forced in any way.
That no woman does not use birth control because she cannot buy it, because she cannot afford it, because her partner is controlling and will not allow her to use it or refuses to use it himself. That no woman be forced to give birth when it would risk her life or prevent her from having wanted children in the future. That no woman be faced with the fear that raising a child when she is not equipped with the resources or support to do so will destroy her.
That we try our best to ensure that children are not brought unwanted into a life of poverty, neglect and abuse. That we recognize that most forms of birth control are not 100% perfect and that we support further development of safe, reliable, reversible forms of contraception. That we do not fool ourselves into believing that children born when they are desperately not wanted and because contraception fails are somehow likely to magically grow up healthy, happy and whole and be President someday when they are raised by a parent who tried to prevent their conception because they are aware that they were inadequately equipped to raise them. It could happen but realistically, probably will not.
That we recognize that our systems for adoption and foster care are not adequate and if we truly want to ensure that even those women who do not choose abortion and offer their children the hope of a better life through adoption we must work to fix those institutions.
The law will not stop abortions. Making abortion against the law merely changes the choice to whether or not a woman will risk her life and break the law. The law will never convince anyone of the morality of abortion but rather merely gives permission to us to collectively judge and punish a woman for making that choice and to make it more difficult and more risky to have an abortion.
Instead, let's face the realities of unwanted and non-viable pregnancy and work to prevent that rather than working to turn pregnant women into criminals. Let's work together to the best of our ability to eliminate poverty, to create opportunities for education and to support all women so they can choose to give birth from a place of being truly healthy, happy and free. We can work together in love towards the goal of not making abortion an issue and not demonizing, judging and lecturing either women faced with the choice or anyone on the other side of the divide from where we stand.
Additional Reading and Resources:
These jurisdictions also help women avoid unintended pregnancies by making contraception widely available.
The lesson: prevention works. Restrictions on abortion serve mainly to hurt poor women by postponing abortions until later in pregnancy. While shifting social mores may change some people’s behavior, the best practical strategy for reducing abortions is to focus on helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Sojurners a community led by Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
"Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love" by Nicholas D. Kristof - including some thoughts on reaching common ground
LiberalLucy posted here at BlogHer explaining why she is "Grateful For The Choice."
Two articles from AlterNet on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
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