As a young girl, I viewed abortion as the ultimate evil. From my perspective, people who performed or received abortions did not value human life. They were baby-hating monsters.
I remember the first time I felt Emily move. The sensation was surreal; the closest I’ve come to a spiritual experience. It also verified my views surrounding abortion. As she grew in my uterus, and my belly expanded, I would place my hand over her kicking feet and imagine what she looked like. My heart was full of happy anticipation as I envisioned what meeting her would be like. I would wonder how a person could abort such a precious gift.
My miscarriages enforced this notion. All I wanted was a baby, but my body refused to cooperate; instead, I underwent spontaneous abortions. Unlike women who had surgery to rid their body of an unwanted pregnancy, I had no choice in this decision.
All these thoughts left me feeling bitter. Rather than learning about the populations who had abortions, I harshly–and prematurely–judged their hearts and prided myself with exceptional moral thinking. Clearly these people were cold, unfeeling creatures with little regard for human life. Heck, they probably sanctioned atrocities like physician assisted suicide or the eugenics movement.
When I shed my false pretenses, around the same time I started questioning religion, I allowed myself to fully consider a woman whose desire to be a mother is juxtaposed with her wretched situation: no partner, no income, no resources. Rather than view these experiences from my very biased perspective, I pictured myself in their situation.
Ben and I might be below the poverty line but we are not impoverished. We also don’t consider ourselves to be low-income; we have bachelor’s degrees, are attending or considering attending graduate school, and grew up in stable homes. We are privileged. So to fully consider what it’s like to be a pregnant girl while living in the ghetto, I needed to look at things from her background.
This shift had a profound impact on my views regarding “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”
The problem with these stances are the dichotomy they represent: if you align yourself pro-choice, you don’t care about babies; if you are pro-life, you regard an infant’s life over a mother’s.
Each side villainizes the other while refusing to concede important concessions: health of a mother, consequences of having sex, the importance of birth control. And both sides marginalize the most affected populations: the low-income and undereducated woman.
With this in mind, I have a proposal: let’s kill the ideologies. I feel a person could be pro-life and pro-choice. My theory derives from this hypothesis: if we offer educational resources to the low-income and teenager populations, abortion rates will decline. I am not talking about sex education, something I feel is equally important (heck, I wrote about it two years ago), but classes on reproduction, child development, college preparation, career placement, and feminism.
How might these classes mend a broken system? By empowering women. I think a well known fact is, education equals power. Consider this, when you fully research all options available to you, a decision becomes much easier to make. It also feels good. If a girl knows more about her body, and about the future opportunities available to her, she will feel less inclined to (excuse my explicit description) open her legs to every man who comes along. She will know that her femininity is something to honor, not display.
I believe this is where feminism plays an important role. As a girl discovers the power within herself, the power of being a woman, she will recognize that her place in this patriarchal society is to let her femaleness out. To roar. Loudly.
Learning the history of how woman have been treated over the ages will give her the precedent to change the current system. She will recognize that she is not a second-class citizen; rather, she is as important as the man who attempts to exploit her sexuality. More importantly, she is in charge of her sexuality.
Yes, a person can be pro-choice and pro-life. We can recognize the beauty in child birth, and the special gift it is to woman, while also informing women of their choice to be powerful rather than submissive. Let’s be rid of harmful ideologies and move toward a more progressive and, ultimately, loving philosophy.
Babies and woman are important. But if a woman is not allowed to fully express her femininity, she cannot bear and rear children with a firm foundation. It’s more than about life, it’s about hope. And hope comes from opportunity and knowledge. I think we can all agree on that.