Justice For Women

In the Church. In the World.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog For Choice Day: Why I am Pro-Choice

I'd like to begin by telling you a few stories. I will only use a first initial to identify these women:

When I was 19, a good friend told me the story of her mother's abortion. D. was homeless, living on the streets of San Francisco. She managed to hustle enough to eat a Quarter Pounder with cheese once a week. D. was malnourished and sick. When she found out she was pregnant, she knew that her body was not healthy enough to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Anyway, where would she live? How would she care for a baby if she couldn't even care for herself? D. chose abortion. She went on to marry and have two daughters, including one of my best friends. When she came to visit on spring break, I gave her a bumper sticker that said "Pro-faith, Pro-family, Pro-Choice." She also happened to work for her Episcopal church.

The next year, another friend told me her mother's story. L. was fifteen, a church-going Lutheran, and a normal high school girl. She was raped by a boy she knew, and since this was before EC, she became pregnant. L. chose abortion. She went on to also marry and have two daughters, including one of my best friends. I learned this because her daughter and I wrote a column for our college paper defending the right to choose (an exciting thing to do at a Catholic college), there was a terrible backlash, and L. (an employee of the college) wrote a letter to the editor telling her story. She never sent it in, but she wanted us to know how much it meant to her that we would continue the fight.

During my volunteer year, I had the joy of meeting a K., a friend of one of my volunteer-sisters. K. had a precious little boy, and they were frequent welcome guests in out home. Little boy had been an unexpected pregnancy, but K. chose to give birth. She is an art student, working hard, and being an incredible mom. She depends on some assistance, such as child care assistance from the state and ample student aid. One night, as little boy slept on his mom's lap (after a long day of bear hunting in our attic and warning me about the scary parts in March of the Penguins), she quietly told me the story of a second unplanned pregnancy, a failing marriage, and the demands of being a good mom. K. chose abortion this time, with no regrets.

Working the crisis line one night, a woman called and told me she was pregnant, and her boyfriend told her that if he found her at home and still pregnant, he would kill her. She was against abortion and needed a safe place to go. I told her to come into the shelter and I put her name on a room. She arrived that night with her two children, stayed for a month, and moved into a new apartment with an OFP to keep him away.

I tell these stories because what really brought me into the pro-choice movement were women's stories. The anti-choice movement alternately portrays women as promiscuous baby-killing hussies who should "keep their legs shut" or "deal with the consequences," or as easily duped, victims of everyone's desires but their own. However, when you enter into conversation with women who have faced unplanned pregnancy, they are none of these. Good women make good choices - for themselves, their families, and their future. I believe that women deserve to (and, right now, have the right to) make their own choices about their reproductive lives with dignity. I believe it is necessary to defend this right for the well-being of women.

I also use these stories to illustrate what I believe the scope of being pro-choice includes. Being pro-choice does not just mean abortion. Pro-choice means access to abortion, access to resources to have healthy families, safety and freedom from coercion, and access to birth control and sex ed. As these stories illustrate, the pro-choice and feminist movements benefit women and facilitate their choices even if they do not want an abortion.

I'm also pro-choice because I recognize my position of privilege. I'm lucky enough to have health insurance that covers birth control, I have a good partner, and I know that if I became pregnant, it would be more of a cause for celebration than for dread. I hope that I will never need an abortion, but if I do, I live in a place where it is legal. I know that not everyone is so lucky. There are many countries where abortion is illegal, pregnancy and birth can be deadly, and contraception, even condoms, is hard to come by due to international pressure and the unfair influence of the Catholic hierarchy. I believe that the privilige I have in my life, thanks in large part to the pro-choice movement, should be extended to all women everywhere. Even if they make very different choices than I do, they should have the opportunity to make those choices for themselves in an environment where it won't cost them their life or freedom.

Finally, I am pro-choice because of religious freedom. It's not talked about much in the pro-choice movement (except in talking about freedom from religion), but different religious traditions have different teachings on the legality and morality of abortion. For instance, in the Jewish tradition, the fetus does not have the same legal status as the women, and when a woman's life or well-being is in danger, the woman's life is always put first. In Catholicism, abortion is never considered acceptable. Should I, as a Catholic, be able to force a Jewish woman to break the commandments of her own religion? No, never. (However, there is still room in Catholicism for pro-choicers, links at the end of the post.) Each woman should be able to make her own reproductive decisions in line with her faith, without the interference of the state.

For more on my post . . .
Abortion Stories:
I'm Not Sorry
Speak Out: I Had an Abortion

Global Women:
Harvard Global Reproductive Health Forum

Faith and Choice:
Catholics for a Free Choice
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice


  • At 11:59 AM, Blogger Rosie said…

    The personal stories are also what move me the most. Thanks.

  • At 1:45 PM, Blogger Trish said…

    Great post. Very interesting stories. Thanks for sharing.

  • At 3:16 PM, Blogger Becky said…

    Thanks, J. How important is it that we live in stories.

  • At 9:21 AM, Blogger jrav said…

    I'm so glad you brought up the religious freedom aspect. As a born and raised Catholic, that was the most difficult aspect of my decision to be pro choice. In fact, it's still not something I can discuss with my mother. I appreciate that you cover that aspect, and to reiterate, the women in those stories are exactly why I'm pro choice. Thanks.

    And - you said at feministing that no one read your blog. It seems to me to be doing well. Nice site.

  • At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    While I empathsize with the difficult choice the women must make in your stories, I take offense at your description of "pro-lifers calling women hussies....." Give me a break. Most, if not all, of the pro-life people I know simply believe that life begins at conception. I am very tired of the fingers pointing elswhere, and it always being someone elses fault. One must eventually take ownership of ones issues, problems, and decisions. .


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