Sunday, October 5, 2014

On the New Women's Health Clinic

My new heroes – heroines, rather – are two high school girls who were sitting in a pizza place on Lohman, saw the folks protesting the not-yet-opened women's health clinic, and quickly made pro-choice signs and stood outside for hours countering the protest.

The women's health clinic should be welcomed. I'd defend to the death the rights of those who protest it; but I disagree. 

We should not refer to it as “an abortion clinic” because abortions represent a small portion of the services it will offer women who need them. But neither should anyone be ashamed to say that the place provides abortions, safely and legally. 

In part, I feel so strongly because the laws against abortion were a vestige of times and places where women were not full citizens. Key decisions about their lives were made by fathers, husbands, and even brothers – or by the State.

In larger part, I feel so strongly because I'm old enough to recall a time and place when abortions were illegal and some very ugly things happened to women and girls who needed or felt they needed abortions and could only get them on the black market.

Normally, an abortion in a hospital or clinic is medically simple and safe; and if there's some complication, it's quickly dealt with. 

Outlawing abortions means girls and women die in backrooms because they aren't prepared to raise a child. Carelessness, particularly during the hormonal madness that is youth for most of us, should not be a capital crime. (It isn't for men!)

As a white male, I'm privileged. Black youths as rebellious as I was tended to end up dead or in jail during my youth. I could experiment sexually, as is natural, with some potential consequences but none as devastating as what girls my age faced. I'm grateful – but without closing my eyes to others' realities.

I understand the repugnance some folks feel toward abortion. It's a heavy subject, deciding whether or not a potential human being shall come into existence. But it's not society's decision, legally or as a matter of fairness. Or if we apply the ideal of freedom we espouse so freely in this country.

I'd understand the anti-choice folks better if many of them didn't oppose birth control information and access to birth control, thus funneling so many lives into the abortion decision path at the same time they're trying to remove the “decision.” 

I'd understand their reverence for life better if many of them weren't loudly pro-death-penalty, and if others weren't displaying their lack of reverence for life by denying current climatological and environmental threats to life as we know it.

I'd understand their opposition to choice for women if the issue hadn't gotten sucked into a larger social controversy over the 1960's and society's role in individual morality. Some say “life is sacred!” and mean it; but others secretly mean “girls shouldn't fornicate, so let them be punished!”

All this is true even without listing the horribles: that anti-choice folks would make a girl bear and raise a child resulting from rape or incest, or a child with little chance at a rewarding life, or where childbirth poses special dangers to the woman's health. 

Having a child should be beautiful. The child should be wanted, and loved. Sadly, that's not always what happens. The advocates of outlawing abortion cannot or will not care for all the unwanted children, financially or emotionally. Even if they could, they shouldn't get to decide the fate of a mother's body.

Religions should not make our political decisions. Catholicism, Islam, and Buddhism offer much to believers, but shouldn't legislate for non-believers.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 5 October. 
The first version was an account of a young relative's abortion back in the days when abortions were illegal.  That incident isn't why I think as I do on this issue, but it deepens my feelings on the subject.
I don't know that the column adds anything new to the debate, but since some folks in our community seem determined to make it an issue again, it seems worth reiterating that the law permits abortions, that there are good reasons it does so, and that as a matter of common sense and constitutional law, such matters should be up to a woman and her physician.  The freedom ideal we all cherish, whatever our day-today-political views, should protect women, particularly with regard to such an intimate subject as their own bodies.]

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Peter! Thank you for concisely stating everything that I think and feel about the Pro Choice vs. Pro Life movements. Simple oppression is the reason why the government or other people have ever been given the right to determine what women do with their bodies in terms of the abortion law, and in my mind, it is time for the Pro-Lifers to go home and mind their own damn business! If they were actually good Christians, they would not be on this mission to oppress through the hegemony of religion and government.