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The Tally Ho

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blogging for Choice

NARAL has declared, on their Bush v. Choice blog, that this is "Blogging for Choice" month. That's well and good; we blog about choice over here quite a bit. Today is the 33rd anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade, and so lots of people are amped up and putting in their two cents.

I am a little amused by the "Blogging for Choice" label. If all we're meant to talk about today is abortion rights, shouldn't we be declaring it "Blogging on Abortion" month? Perhaps that's too direct, or the choicers might feel that it appears they are pressuring folks to get abortions. That's laughable, but abortion-rights advocates and opponents accuse one another of some pretty insane things. I often ask my students what peer pressure is, and whether or not there's a kid in the lunchroom pointing his finger in everyone's face and saying, "Go buy sneakers just like mine. Then go have casual sex and spend your lunch money on pot." They laugh and say no, but then they usually give an intelligent description of all the subtle ways kids pressure one another in middle school. Similarly, I do believe that there's a lot of pressure on some women to get abortions, and we need to address that honestly before we can delve into the deeper moral and cultural implications of abortion. Everyone in this country can agree that it's wrong to force a woman to have an abortion when she doesn't want one--this means that we should look carefully at what cultural forces are coercing women into having abortions about which they feel deeply ambivalent. (Hint: it's not the abortion clinic workers.)

I work in several middle schools over the course of any given year, and I was in the teachers' lounge of a new school a while back when I met Mr. R. He didn't ask me anything about who I was or what classroom I was working in (I think he assumed that I was a substitute teacher), but we traded names and started to make some light conversation. I remarked that the students seemed to be getting rebellious with the warmer weather, and he jumped into a diatribe about how students today are so much worse than students of twenty years ago: disrespectful, irresponsible, no sense of community, etc. Then he leveled a finger at me and said, "You know why they're like this? It's because of abortion." He explained that millions of babies were being killed each year (actually, according to the CDC, the number of abortions is much less than he presumed) and that these kids instinctively knew that adults were "murdering" their siblings, that it was a war on children, and that his students were angry and getting revenge because of it. I raised my eyebrows and asked if any of his students had brought this up with him. He said, "They KNOW! They just know!" and continued to rant a little bit more. Then, abruptly, he looked at his watch and noticed it was time to pick up his class in the cafeteria. He stuck out his hand and told me how nice it was to have met me, and left. Another teacher had told me, just that morning, that she was having an abortion for medical reasons that week and that we'd have to change our schedule. She grieved deeply about it, and I was grateful that she was not in the room for Mr. R's pronouncement. I can hope that it's not a frequent topic of conversation with him, but I suspect it is.

But wait! We're blogging about choice, not abortion! (I got distracted, sorry.) As a post-Roe baby, I've never felt any suppressed rage towards adults my parents' age. I remember my mother telling about the friend who stayed on their couch for a few weeks during the first year of my parents' marriage, because she needed to get money to travel to New York for an abortion. It never occurred to me to be upset that she didn't have a baby who would then grow up to be my colleague. I never felt sad to think that there weren't more kids in my kindergarten class because some women the year before I was born had chosen to have an abortion. When I was nine or ten, I decided for a while that I wanted an older sibling, but I never quizzed my parents on their use of birth control or chastised them for not trying harder to first have a baby that wasn't me. (My desire for an older sibling didn't resurface until I was 23, and it still didn't occur to me to question any of those things.) When I force myself to consider that women were having abortions at the same time my mother was pregnant with me, I can't feel any grief for the loss of those pregnancies. Entirely the opposite: I feel comforted and reassured that my parents wanted me before I was even born. I've never asked how hard my particular parents wished or hoped for a baby when they made me, but I know that at the very least when my mother was pregnant she chose to bear me. I wasn't forced upon anyone, or cursed as a burden, or wished dead. That's a pretty good minimum standard to give our children, I think.

Many of my friends are just beginning their childbearing years. Some of their pregnancies are planned well in advance and devoutly wished for. Others arrived unexpectedly but by the time the baby was born, the woman was able to meet her child with joy and enthusiasm. I watch my friends raise their kids and I'm amazed when I see all the patience and love and time they are able to give. I'm privileged to spend time with these kids occasionally. And it gives me peace to know that all these parents made the choice to have this particular child. Sometimes reproductive endocrinologists and birth families played a role in making that choice. Sometimes birth control and abortion play a role, as well. Let me say this: It makes me thrilled to see a parent dote on his two kids, instead of trying to corral or ignore a pack of six. It makes me thrilled that the pregnant woman who feels angry, resentful and powerless is able to have an abortion instead of bearing children and directing that hate towards them every day. I also see some parents, and some women who have abortions, whom I suspect have made the wrong choice. I can't control that; it's not my choice to make. I hope and pray that every woman choosing abortion has made the decision in peace with her God or her own code of ethics, and that every woman bearing a child has been somewhat thoughtful about whether she's able to handle the responsibility of parenthood. I wish that every man impregnating a woman was committed enough to her that he could join her in these decisions. At the end of the day, every child deserves to have parents who say, "Welcome. We're so glad you're part of our family." I choose to live in a world like that. And even though it makes me tired occasionally, I choose to continue working for abortion rights and continue supporting parents until we get a world like that.

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