I am pro-life… not anti-people-who-have-abortions.

Fetus week 9-10

Image by lunar caustic via Flickr

Before you were conceived I wanted you
Before you were born I loved you
Before you were here an hour I would die for you
This is the miracle of life.

– Maureen Hawkins

— — —

I am pro-life. This is a surprise to many people who know me (if the conversation goes that way, which it rarely does). They are caught off guard because I am, otherwise, a left-leaning liberal, (post-)feminist, crunchy, Eastern-religion loving, modern mama. I guess I don’t fit the profile…

Let me be very clear though, I am pro-life; I am not anti-abortion or anti-people-who-have-abortions. That is a very different thing, in my view. And I don’t want to align myself with Republicans or Christian Fundamentalists on this, either – that is NOT where I am coming from. I do not think those who have abortions are evil, sinful or otherwise shameful. I would NOT picket clinics or criminalise abortions. I think abortions should remain legal, people should have free choice… but alongside I would work to increase education and raise awareness not just of the fact that a fetus is a person but also of the emotional effects abortions can have on women. So, I hope more and more people would make what I see as the higher choice – but it is their choice to make.

See, I do want to help change to the world, where I can, but I want to do it with love, not hate, shame or violence. Quite the opposite, I am for less hate, shame and violence and my belief is that the only way to go about that is to raise consciousness. 

I am ‘pro-life’ because I believe the spark of life starts in the womb, most likely at conception. If you are a mom and you are reading this you probably know what I am talking about. I am not saying you have to be anti-abortion just because you are a mother, I am just saying that many if not most of us felt a connection with our child from the start – sometimes even before you have taken the test or had the pregnancy ‘confirmed’ you already know, there is life growing inside you. You feel it. You love it – and yes it is alive. Yes, it is already your child.

To be honest, I was talking to my child’s spirit way before she was even born, telling her I was getting the conditions for her to come to Earth ready, before she could come. It may sound querky but I am not alone in this. Many mothers feel a strong bond to their child from the moment there is life in their womb and sometimes before then, too. And how many times have I heard mothers say that they knew, knew the gender of their child weeks before the scan – and certainly many months before the legal point at which you can still abort. The connection was there, already.

But I wouldn’t stop women from having abortions. As I said, guilt and aggression are not my tools of choice.

I would love abortion clinics to become obsolete – [maybe I should say I would love mothers into making abortions obsolete… if I could]. Certainly I would prefer (if I had world dominion – hah) for no healthy fetus to be aborted from a healthy mom (and I even have some questions about abortions for ‘imperfect baby’ reasons… but that is for another time, I think). But what I personally have the most difficulty with is abortion as a kind of post-hoc contraceptive, for people who just didn’t think through the consequence of their actions – or the act of sex. Sex can lead to having babies – end of… If you are not in a place to have a baby or you do not want a baby with this person you shouldn’t be having sex with them. Hahahaha. Okay, I know how naive and idealistic that sounded but still, there is some truth to it, no? I mean sure okay, sometimes sex happens. I get that. But it is about being responsible for our actions. Use protection and if that fails step up to the consequences, the challenges life is bringing you, NOW. It was not what you planned but how can you deal with this gracefully or, to put it another way: ‘what would Love do?’

And yes, my wish would be for people to treat the baby in the womb as a person, with full rights – ‘cos to me, intuitively that is what they are, already. This is a very complex issue, of course. Rape victims often feel unable to go through with the pregnancy. I can’t even imagine what that is like and my heart goes out to them… Again, I would not presume to tell them what to do. That is not my line… but while I do think these women (children in some cases, frankly) should be protected, I think the child within them is now alive (for no fault of their own, either) and should have rights, too. I would not force them to keep the baby – my personal utopian society would be carved of learning, light and love; not coercion. And with that I know it will probably never come to pass… not in my life time, at least. I mean killing other people has been outlawed and is no longer socially acceptable – as it was, say, in the Wild West – as a means of retribution, for example but it still happens. So it is that even if society as a whole came to view abortion as a lower choice, it does not mean it would no longer happen, does it?

At the same time, the ‘my body, my choice’ argument always sounded so lopsided to me, too – what about the baby’s choice about their body? Again, this is tricky, I know. Pregnancy is hard and even if people chose to keep the baby and then give it to adoption (and goodness knows there are so many waiting, longing to adopt!) if the pregnancy makes them miserable, ill (physically, emotionally, mentally) or otherwise severely disrupts their life – like affecting their job, etc. – what then? And how could having a baby growing inside you (one you did not wish to keep, to boot) not seriously affect your life?

I am not saying, then, that if you had an abortion you are wrong or bad. Many good friends of mine have had abortions. I do not judge them. I do not feel they are evil-doers… to be honest I don’t usually dwell on it at all. But I will say they are all sad, in some way. This is something they carry with them, often for life. Maybe you were not affected like this. Maybe you know people for whom it was a light and breezy experience from which they bounced back, barely touched – but that has not been the experience I have encountered among those I know personally.

Still, I am also not saying that these ‘procedures’ should be banned. But I do wish there was equal consideration for the life of the baby as there is for the life of the mother. I wish there was more love, information and respect for the life within going around at the time of decision-making – as well as love and respect for the needs and desires of the woman.

So, my call here is for more respect, more understanding, more compassion and forgiveness – for mothers AND unborn babies. This is my middle ground. Can love forge a pathway through this bitter divide?

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17 thoughts on “I am pro-life… not anti-people-who-have-abortions.

  1. Pingback: Abortion and The Health of the Mother « mindfulconsideration

  2. Thank you for the compassion which so clearly comes out from your post. Compassion with steadfastness in values.

    Conceptually it is easy to fall into the category of liberal/pro-abortion/rights for women, but I trust your experience of child-birthing/rearing over any concept that may arise in my mind as a man.

    You say if you are not in a place to have a baby or do not want a baby with this person you shouldn’t be having sex with them. I personally have had sex without any thought at all about there being the possibility of a baby being born out of that act. The act was one based entirely on creating a relationship between myself and my partner.

    Society has been freed from the overly prudish restrictions of the Victorian era but I agree it has become far too imbalanced the other way and there is a sad lack of awareness of what sex should actually mean (love between 2 individuals, love of creation, desire to reach the divine).

    Because sex can also be for these other reasons (love between 2 people, desire to reach the divine) I am not sure that not wanting to have a baby should mean that one should not have sex.

    There is also another story perhaps going on too, in that a 19 year old who has sex and conceives may not have the maturity to be able to deal with a baby and needs to go through the suffering caused by the abortion to actually learn the lesson of what maturity means. I am not sure how learning that lesson balances against the life lost, but I just wanted to raise this as an alternative perspective of the story being told.

    • Dear ‘Occupy Meditation’,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post on such a difficult and complex subject. It is hard to bare one’s soul electronically; a small e-chunk on such a deep-rooted issue. I know. Really, I know… I mentioned on my facebook page, I think, that I wrote this post weeks ago and was sitting on it, wondering if there was any point in publishing it, if it would attract too much negative attention (just because of the very subject matter) and whether, ultimately, anybody cared what I had to say about this issue that has been debated ad-infinitum in so many media. Are there too many voices out there on this already? So: thank you for reading and thank you for stepping out and replying.

      I have got to say that, one of my first thoughts, as I read your comment is that it is easier for men to have sex ‘without any thought at all’ about the potential consequences, than it is for a woman. Sorry. That is exactly why – by and large – it is more common for men to regularly want to engage in casual sex. Most women, it seems to me, even if they sleep with somebody early on in a relationship are secretely hoping it will turn into a long term thing. I said ‘most’, I know I am generalising… but it is not too out of kilter with most people’s experiences, I think.

      I do think the (re-) education process has to target men… boys almost as much as it does women. Understanding the ramifications of our actions, the potential to change your whole life for a moment’s pleasure, it is important that men see this, too. I know men who were profoundly affected by an abortion of a child of theirs, too. It is not only women it can affect.

      You do have a point about un-coupling (so to speak) the act of sex from the act of pro-creation. That was the great ‘advance’ that contraception brought us. I am not seeking here to push women’s lib back into the dark ages. Nor am I, as I have said, a religious fanatic… And I totally agree that sex has many other sides to it, including a spiritual connection between two souls… but again, that really only happens when there is love and trust there, from my experience. One night stands are not conducive to a deep connection at the level of the soul – or so I am told (as I literally have never had one, though I have had short relationships – so that is not much better/higher and I am definitely NOT trying to say I am better…)

      Still, your question stands: if you don’t want a baby, should you not be allowed to have sex? For me the answer is, you can say ‘you don’t want’ one but that doesn’t mean you won’t make one. Even the best birth control is only 99% effective. That means that if 100,000 couples are having protected sex tonight in your part of the country – 1,000 of them will result in a pregnancy. 1000. So, unless you are saying up-front that you will abort any baby that may come, you are essentially living on wishes, hope and a gamble. That is ‘okay’ as long as you BOTH are doing it with your eyes open… or even if they are shut that you are the kind of person that can deal with it if the gamble doesn’t pay off.

      I am not seeking to have a go at people here or to scare you into going celibate. I am just stating facts: sex can lead to pregnancy (and often does). You can cover your ears and say you only want the fun, spiritual, sensual experience but – even with contraception – there is a chance you could help conceive a life. That is a beautiful, blessed thing and personally I think it should be rejoiced in even when unplanned… (exceptions amply written into text above). And, incidentally contraception, which seems such a gift to you (as it allows you largely to disconnect the act of sex from the act of making a baby) can cause a whole other host of problems – again usually borne by the female – from lasting hormone imbalances, to allergies or ectopic pregnancies (depending on the type of contraception). But again: I am REALLY not against contraception, either. I certainly think it has a place but it is not a ‘cure all’ and certainly, thus far, has not been able to magically allow people to have sex only for the ‘good bits’ and completely disregard any potential consequences.

      Also, I do get your point about the fact that any ‘mis-haps’ have the potential to wake somebody up, to help them mature. Personally, I believe that every moment contains the seed of our potential awakening. In any case, the trouble here is that: first, I would consider that even IF they did learn this, it would most certainly be considered learning ‘the hard way’ and I am not sure I would ever recommend that. So in terms of my recommendations or my design for a utopian society, I would prefer people start by getting responsible BEFORE sex, rather than after pregnancy, if at all possible. Secondly, as Corinne’s story poignantly illustrates, it doesn’t always work, sometimes, though the ‘silver lining’ of learning may be there it is far over-shadowed by the dark, dark cloud of regret, remorse, self-blame and recrimination…

      I feel your answer, it was sincere, open, even hope-filled. I appreciate the obvious joie-de-vivre that comes through, too and hope you will not be put off by the fact that your lone, male voice for ‘pro-choice’ in a stream of loosely pro-life comments is, well, a little surrounded… and I thank you for coming forward, once more. Loving hugs, my old friend, xx

      • PS I wrote that late at night… so let me just add: I do think you were just speaking the truth as lived by sooooo many people. So, thank you, again for your honesty :)

  3. Beautifully written and I can feel where your heart is at. More people should speak out the way you have.
    In reply to occupymeditation, unless you’ve walked in that 19 year old’s shoes, don’t judge what you don’t understand. I was there at that age and that experience by no means lead to any form of maturity, in fact, it made me want to die, wracked with guilt and shame, plagued with nightmares for four years following. The effects are for life but I found such profound healing in my relationship with God and by having my son.
    Once you’re pregnant, your life is forever changed no matter the choice to carry to term or abort – its that big of a deal!

    • Dear Corinne

      Thank you for sharing. I am glad you found healing from your relationship with God. Did you already have a relationship with God before the event which led you into the darkness, or was it something that grew as a consequence?

      I ask because, for the last 3 years or so of my life, I have been living in darkness and not knowing how to find the will to continue and, for me, it was only the desperate search for light which led me to a sense of the divine.

      I would not wish the suffering I went through on my worst enemy. However, I also bless it as I would never otherwise have had the will to surrender and thereby open myself to the divine that was waiting there to support me all along.

  4. A wonderful write filled with compassion, on such a touchy subject. I too am pro life and yet, not anti-abortion. Sadly too many people, such as the male reader above, have sex without regard to the consequences. These consequences go well beyond pregnancy in today’s world, and still little thought is given to one’s life, or the life which may be created in the heat of passion.

  5. So much of the demand for abortion is driven by poverty, lack of support from partners and family, a society that was built by and for people who don’t bear children, forced or coerced sex, and other unjust forces arrayed against women. To just focus on outlawing abortion and not address those forces is not a sustainable or just approach, imo.

    • @Jen: I couldn’t agree more. That is exactly why I say I am pro-life but not ‘against women who have abortions’ and why I am in favour of education, information and consciousness raising – to address the root of the problem, rather than blaming or shaming.

      • You sound just like Marysia, my partner in All Our Lives. One of her big issues is how women are blamed and shamed for being sexually active, for not preventing pregnancy (even if they don’t have the resources), for being poor, for having babies, for having abortions…. women can’t win, with some people.

  6. Pingback: A Story of a Crisis Pregnancy | The Theological Arsenal

  7. Dear Gauri

    I realise that, though I thanked you for your open hearted response privately, I never did so here. So, thank you for a beautifully poised, compassionate response. There is too much to say, too much I am feeling right now to sum up simply in an email response.

    I will simply say you are right, a man going into the act of sex should know that the act may create a baby. That is not to say that I have now become “pro-life” against “pro-choice”… personally I think such divisions are artificial and just create barriers between real discussion (i.e. the very act of defining which camp you are in already creates an “other” to be in conflict with).

    When I say a man should go into the act knowing he may create a baby, what I mean is that he should be mature enough to be self-responsible for his actions, whatever the outcome of those actions are. I don’t mean just in sex, but in whatever sphere of life.

    He may find it difficult to take responsibility if he didn’t want a baby, took all precautions himself like wearing a condom, but still a baby is conceived. I say he may find it difficult, not because it is inherently difficult, but because our current awareness of “what is” was conceived in the womb of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, when Cartesian Duality promoted the sense of a separate “I” and gave birth to what has now grown up, in its teenage years, into current rampant individualism.

    Therefore, it is partly the fault of our current philosophical awareness of reality which is causing men to fail to understand their place in the scheme of the Universe. If this is all sounding a bit pompous its because its 6am in the morning, I haven’t slept and I’m too tired to try to smooth the edges, but I hope you get the essence of what I’m saying:)

    And on a personal note, I want to say thank you for being a True Friend, in the deep sense that, when I was in a dark dark place and desperately in need of someone to lean on, you remained steadfast and true to yourself first and, in doing so, opened me up to the larger Truth behind every one of us.

  8. I am pro-life because I believe life starts at conception. I was leaning towards “pro-choice” until I got pregnant with my son. I didn’t have a bump yet, I didn’t feel any movements in my belly, heck I just found out I was pregnant, yet when we went to that first doctor’s visit, my husband and I heard his heart beating. I vividly remember my OBGYN telling us “there’s something in there!”. When I heard that there are abortions that are performed at 24 weeks, I had tears in my eyes. I remember when I was at 24 weeks and how I felt my son moving inside me. I also remember how my friend gave had to be induced at 24 weeks and she now has a healthy baby boy. I am pro-choice in the sense that as a woman, you have the choice to have sex when you want to, with anybody you want, how often you want…. but just like everything else we choose on this earth, there are consequences. I now call myself “pro-choice of life” cause I made a decision that I am protecting the baby’s life who cannot make a choice yet.

    Why is it wrong for Casey Anthony to kill her 2-year old daughter cause she was an inconvenient in her life but why is it right for X to kill her unborn daughter because she MAY become an inconvenient? I hear all the arguments that pro-choice people throw out there “rape-victim”, “disease to save the mother”, etc… but really, let’s be honest here, most people who have an abortion are not rape victims or dangerously pregnant people.

  9. Very interesting insight. I guess I am pro choice, because we are all different, and all process circumstances differently. I don’t know what I would do if I had an unwanted pregnancy – but I would like to have the choice. I can imagine how a baby concieved from rape might cause anxiety to the mother. So I guess I am pro-choice, but unlikely to use the option of abortion. Same thing – different angle?

    I wonder though, with pro life (with or without the escape clause for others), does this mean anti-contraception, anti-ivf, because all those unwanted babies can be adopted out? or are these different issues? I would not choose ivf (I expect I would consider adoption first), but it seems that most people prefer ivf over adoption? Is this because adoption is harder, takes along time and is very expensive (perhaps more so than ivf?) or is it the biological need to have a biological child? It would differ from person to person of course.

    It is such a complex issue, one I am unlikely to personally experience, but this post gives food for thought (thank you).

    • There’s no reason pro-life has to mean anti-contraception, though there is a subset of pro-lifers who think it does (I am not in that subset). I wouldn’t say it has to be anti-IVF either, though it would be anti-destroying “spare” embryos. There are a number of reasons why people choose IVF over adoption. Part of it is the hurdles you’ve mentioned, including time and expense and having to open one’s home life to strangers for inspection. Part of it is the desire for one’s own biological child. Part is that sometimes insurance will cover IVF.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response. Yes, this kind of topic tends to open up more questions than it answers. I know the feeling. I don’t have answers for you, that is for sure. Personally I am definitely pro-choice when it comes to the rest of this – contraception and IVF. It does not involve terminating another’s life against their will. I would go to adoption, first, as a thought, too, rather than IVF. I think, though I have not read anything about this, so it is a very uninformed opinion, based only on talking to friends, that most people who opt for IVF are driven by the biological imperative of procreating and the desire to have a kid that is ‘just like them’ to some extent. Interestingly, I particularly hear this argument from men. Women more often say something like ‘I just want a baby I can love’ but I am sure there are as many answers as there are people.

      Thank you again for adding your voice to this stream of loving consciousness. Cheers,
      Gauri
      xx

  10. Thanks for sharing this post. I think you very eloquently spoke for many people who don’t otherwise fall on either end of the spectrum. As far as I’m concerned, it is a biological fact that life begins at conception; this is not a religious or spiritual argument. We should foster a society that treasures and respects life at its most early and vulnerable point.

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