I’m pro-life. So is virtually everyone. I don’t kill bugs in my house when I don’t have to. I leave spiders alone. I rescue catchable bugs and put them outside. The problem with taking a Pro-Life stance and being against abortion is that you are also arguing that a woman who gets pregnant should be obligated by society to carry that pregnancy to full term and have that baby. This is an enormous infringement on that woman’s rights. That fetus can exist only in her womb for the first six months of development. If we become a society that mandates women who become pregnant carry their fetuses to full term, women’s, and only women’s, rights have been stripped from them.
I’m aware of the element religious beliefs play in this debate because I was raised Catholic. I was raised to believe abortion was wrong. I was raised to be Pro-Life, and I was Pro-Life even into my adulthood. Never was it pointed out to me, as I was being taught abortion was wrong, that making abortion illegal meant this enormous gouge in the rights of women. Right to Choose was just the label the other side used to indicate they weren’t on my side.
We’re a country where separation of church and state is one of our principles. That doesn’t mean people’s religious beliefs aren’t allowed to inform their opinions on issues. That would be impossible. It is a problem when religious beliefs shut people out to the opposing side of an issue. It is a problem when Mike Pence is angling to make abortion illegal because it’s against his religion, despite public opinion being against that policy. He doesn’t care because he’s certain he’s right and he’s certain he’s right because his religion is telling him he is. He thinks God is telling him he is. That’s not an opinion informed by religious beliefs, that’s dogma.
It is even more absurd that Donald Trump is pushing for this, a guy who has proven he is incapable of viewing any issue as nuanced. He aims to reward small pockets of people who voted for him to repay their loyalty to him. He isn’t the president of everyone, only those who never object to what he does.
The Pro-Life movement pushing to make abortion illegal couldn’t exist without religion. It puts religious rules above the natural order of life. Human beings have sex and sex results in pregnancy. Preaching abstinence only works for religious people who believe their religious rules should be followed. (It doesn’t work with many of them, too, but that’s not part of my point.) People aren’t going to abstain from sex. A Pro-Life stance argues that women who don’t abstain from sex and get pregnant should have to “deal with the consequences,” but having a baby are only the consequences of getting pregnant when religion creates a rule that commands people who don’t abstain from sex and get pregnant should have to “deal with the consequences.” That religious rule isn’t law because our separation of church and state elevates the freedom of women to choose above the right to life of a fetus that is utterly dependent on an individual woman. That so many religious people, like me, were raised to believe abortion is a sin without ever having that counterpart infringement of the rights of women to choose not to carry a fetus, conceived by an act entirely natural to human behavior, to the point of delivery makes holding that position sanctimonious.
That’s the only argument against abortion. It is an infringement of women’s most essential rights, probably between their right to live and vote. Listed below are simply problems with the GOP position that abortion should be illegal.
We would return to the days of women getting risky procedures from unqualified doctors in horrid conditions. Some of them would die. We’d have an increase of babies from women whose own judgment was that they weren’t prepared to have a child and care for it. In many cases, this would be financial, and we would simultaneously have a hypocritical extremist GOP government pulling back on programs to help the poor, a reduction in the SNAPs program, cuts to Medicaid, fewer opportunities for aid in childcare. Suicide rates among women would go up.
Sanctimoniously, some on the far right, Mike Pence, and others, would blame these problems on the women, falling back on their dogma that they shouldn’t have been having sex. What about rape? We couldn’t make an exception for rape cases, at least not one that would mean much, because rape statistics are clear. Rape is rarely proven in a court of law, not because it doesn’t occur, it’s just difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the legal standard. Would we create a lower standard of proof that would allow for rape exceptions? Where would we draw THAT line to prevent women from abusing the new system of law that is abusing them?
An article pointed out that the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade will be unlikely no matter who Trump puts in. Public opinion is too powerfully against a complete overturn, but what is more likely to happen is that they’ll eat away at the law as it is to make various services for women harder to get, not just abortions but the many other services Planned Parenthood offers, which will satisfy public opinion enough to keep us from rioting in the streets, but still ruin lives. Standard operating procedure for our extremist GOP-dominated government, sanctimoniously ruining the lives of the poor. Vote blue in November whether you’re Democrat or Republican, it’s the only way to return our government to something resembling an organization that represents well the people.
For further reading I recommend “Authority and American Usage” where David Foster Wallace makes the point that being American requires us to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice: Exceprt: “Given our best present medical and philosophical understandings of what makes something not just a living organism but a person, there is no way to establish at just what point during gestation a fertilized ovum becomes a human being. This conundrum, together with the basically inarguable soundness of the principle ‘When in irresolvable doubt about whether something is a human being or not, it is better not to kill it,’ appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Life. At the same time, however, the principle “When in irresolvable doubt about something, I have neither the legal nor the moral right to tell another person what to do about it, especially if that person feels that s/he is not in doubt’ is an unassailable part of the Democratic pact we Americans all make with one another, a pact in which each adult citizen gets to be an autonomous moral agent; and this principle appears to me to require any reasonable American to be Pro-Choice.”
Greg Metcalf is the author of Flowers on Concrete, a novel, Letters Home: A WWII Pilot’s Letters to His Wife and Baby from the Pacific, a memoir, and Hibernation, a YA thriller: all are available in print and Ebook from Amazon.
Links below from wordpress.