There is something I've been thinking about for quite a while but wasn't ready to blog about until I read, on The New York Times online, about the guy who murdered an abortion doctor and claimed in his defense that he was justified because he opposed abortion.
Over the years I've mostly stayed out of the pro-life/pro-choice hysteria and debates. I know from personal experience just how complicated and personal the whole thing is, because 27 years ago I chose life.
I was unmarried, and, in fact, uninterested in marriage, when I got pregnant at 19. The obvious choice would have been to have an abortion. I weighed my options. I searched my soul. My mother and sisters wanted me to have an abortion. Society at that time was still embarrassed by a young, white woman pregnant out of wedlock (this was before Murphy Brown!). But something inside of me made me shudder at the thought of ending a little life. My "religion" believes that everything happens for a reason and it's our challenge to face it. I am no longer a Christian. But I believe in God. I believe in a God who opposes ALL KILLING of people. I believe all people should have a choice, and in making the right personal choice, we take one more step closer to God--or evolutionary success--whatever you choose to call it. It's your choice!
I had my daughter. And together we stumbled through life. I never once regretted my choice because I made it myself, from my own heart. Together, she and I have explored our shared history as women (in our book, It's My Pleasure), and discovered just how the lack of choice for women over the centuries has bound us, KILLED us, and kept us from living full lives and reaching our maximum potential. The stories of men and their idiotic ideas about women--such as, oh, the wandering womb, and the belief that we're incapable of doing anything ourselves other than looking pretty and lifting our skirts for them...and breeding, and dying from giving birth. Women were disposable frigging and breeding machines for most of history.
The older I get and the more I watch the polarized debates, the more my thinking evolves, and here is where I stand today:
IF your belief is pro-life, then you MUST be opposed to all killing of humans. You must be antiwar. You must be against the death penalty. You must be against domestic violence. You must be against murder of any kind. You are either pro-life or you aren't, in my opinion. After all, how can you measure the value of an unborn child against that of a child, woman, or man? In this respect, I am pro-life.
IF your belief is pro-choice, then you must respect all choices, and work vigilantly toward respecting all life and helping woman and men HAVE choices, which in many countries around the world don't exist. In this respect, I am pro-choice.
I think of my view as a common ground. How about a Choose Life movement? I am pro-life in that I don't believe in killing, either in war or in reproduction. But I am so very, very grateful that I could make that choice myself, so therefore, I am also pro-choice. I am not a conservative. I am not a Republican. I am not a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim; I don't have a name for what I am.
Isn't the ultimate goal that we create a world where all people are educated and empowered and rewarded to make the choices that respect life? Even the early proabortionists were "against abortion," but they saw their sisters, daughters, friends, and neighbors die from back-alley abortions because they were ashamed, afraid, or too poor to bring a child into the world. Young girls who were impregnated by male relatives or worse, the clergy, were sent away and had their children wrenched from them. How is any of that good?
Shouldn't we be educating our daughters on the function of their sexuality so they are protected from unwanted pregnancy, but also from sexually transmitted diseases? Shouldn't we be reaching out and helping the women among us who need our assistance and help?
By polarizing the debate into uncompromising positions, we have lost another whole generation of girls to the ambiguous, unwinnable war of ideals that has no resolution. Fortunately, that guy who shot the doctor was found guilty. It didn't take the jury long to come to a decision.
I made my decision. I choose life. But I long for the day when all women around the world have the right to marry for love, the knowledge and empowerment to protect their bodies from unwanted conception, and the safety and wisdom to bring all children into the world with love and acceptance.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.