Thursday, September 11, 2008

Real World Wednesday

The Problem with "Choice."

Yes, I'm going to talk about abortion.

If you don't want to read about it, then feel free to turn away, but let me warn you that this isn't a glorious song about how one side is right and the other is wrong. This is actually about how both sides have a little bit in the right column and quite a bit in the wrong.

This is about the fact that Barack Obama said of his daughters, "But, if they make a mistake I don't want them punished with a baby."

This is about the fact that this week's Newsweek includes an article with the following statement: If you do not allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding that they either raise their children as single mothers or that they marry in shotgun weddings.

Something is wrong, people. Something is very, very wrong.

I became a member of Feminists for Life after years, and I mean more than a decade, of volunteering with a pro-life non-profit organization.

When I volunteered only at annual events or participated in a prayer group, I didn't see the gaping holes in what this local non-profit could provide to women facing unexpected pregnancies. This particular non-profit could provide pregnancy tests and counseling and offered support for the needs of children up to two years old (clothes, food, etc.). What they couldn't do was encourage the mothers to move forward with their lives and finish high school or college or find a way to rejoin the work force. These women were, if not punished, at the least saddled with raising a child. Obama got that right.

But the reason Obama got that right is not because of non-profits that encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term. Instead, Obama got this right because both liberals and conservatives alike have failed women.

Many women are left without the community and institutional support required to raise a child. Whether they're in a stable relationship or facing a pregnancy as the result of a one-night stand, women who have not planned on a particular pregnancy are left with few options.

Not enough has changed since the Women's Rights Movement.

In fact, I would venture to say that although contraception and abortion rights have shed light on the shady business of back alley abortions, the legalization of abortion prevented any progress towards society offering emotional, financial and/or physical support to women unprepared to raise a child.

Instead, the general attitude in the US, and in other parts of the world, is that if a woman doesn't want a child, she should have an abortion. If the woman "chooses" to have the child, well, then, she must face the consequences of their decision.

Liberals preach "choice," as though the option to end an innocent life solves our problems. What about women who choose to not have an abortion? What measures have liberals put into place to protect them?

A woman's right to choose is a politically spun term. We all know that, for many politicians, "choice" means the right to an abortion, and those abortions will be provided at tax payer cost.

Why do we offer so little support to the woman who chooses to have and raise the child?

Another question: Why do women who choose to give up their children for adoption face a stigma?

Surrogate mothers will tell a willing audience about their decision to carry a child for a fertility-challenged couple, but women carrying a child to term so that a (possibly) unknown couple can benefit rarely have the same courage to stand and speak. Giving up a child of one's own is stigmatized.

Women may stand by a friend when she chooses abortion but will scoff at a decision to carry through a pregnancy and then hand over a child. Why is the decision to give a child up for adoption so much harder to accept than the decision to abort a child?

I encourage proponents of choice to offer adoption as an option in place of abortion. Yes, a woman would need to put her body through the physical strain of pregnancy, but think of the joy that strain would bring to parents who are ready and willing to provide for the well-being of a child.

I not only stand on my soap box. I carry it around with me and actually do soemthing about the injustice of society treating pregnancy as a punishment.

I have done my own small part to make a change. Well, I have done two small things.

The smallest is that I pay for my membership in Feminists for Life. I support an organization that wants to get affordable day cares on college campuses. Feminists for Life is a non-partisan group, and they're trying very hard to fill a gap in service that has existed since long before abortion was legalized.

The larger of my two contributions is an outreach program I coordinate with the teen mothers program at a local continuation high school. Each month, I do a storytime session for both pregnant and parenting teens. Following the story time, I talk to the moms about topics including interview skills, going to college, paying for college and remembering to take personal time for themselves.

I don't want scared and confused women to abort their children. I won't insist that they raise them on their own, but if they do decide to raise their children, then I want to be part of a system that that saves them from dropping out of society. I want to keep mothers in high school, in college, in graduate school and in the work force. I don't want anyone to ever feel punished by pregnancy.

I wish that more of our leaders felt the same way.

In closing, I urge Barack Obama to consider strengthening the rights of women not through guaranteeing that abortion will remain easy and legal but by offering free, state-sponsored daycare and pre-school. I urge John McCain to propose a career program that assists young and/or single mothers in getting into meaningful jobs, rather than low-paying jobs that offer survival as the only benefit.

And I encourage all women to support the rights of all women and to truly embrace the choices women have.


Ami said...

This is an excellent post. I appreciate your opinion. You've brought up some very interesting points. I completely agree that being "pro-choice" or "pro-life" should be about so much more than whether or not women are allowed to have abortions. It comes down to the support they have on either side of that choice. Thanks for reminding me that being pro-choice won't ensure women have the resources they need to survive, whether they choose to have a child or not.

rachel shea said...

This is a great post, but I'd be interested in hearing your views on adoption as a choice for women facing an unplanned pregnancy.