Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

Here's a happy thought for the day: This is the last Wednesday we have to think about this upcoming election. Or as Zelda likes to phrase it, "This time next week" we'll have a new president.

Now that you're in your happy place I'm going to talk about abortion. I am the Queen of the Bait & Switch.

If you'd asked me as little as a month ago what my top voting priorities were abortion would not have been among them. Being pro-choice is important to me and the removal of that choice has concerned me since I discovered it might be taken away but it seemed like a marginal issue when economic and foreign policy concerns felt so much pervasive and immediate. Then I participated in some political...discussions. I've probably participated in more of those this election cycle than in any one before and I worked in a freaking democratic battleground in 2004, routinely having my intelligence, patriotism and morality called into question. I noticed that I became heated when the subject of choice arose and had a really hard time keeping myself in check so I could continue to debate respectfully. I wondered a bit why I was so emotionally connected to something from which I am, for all practical purposes, completely removed. I'm almost 40, I'm not having of the sex these days (sigh), though I can see myself having a family it would be a family that was gathered together not born from me, I've never been pregnant so there's no evidence that I could be and the window for that, she is pretty narrow at this juncture.

Then, on a routine read through Feministing I came across this quote by Lynn Paltrow (emphasis mine):

In August, at the Saddleback Civil Forum, Pastor Rick Warren asked both presidential candidates: "At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?" Senator John McCain's answer, "at the moment of conception," immediately established his anti-abortion bona fides.

But the right answer, as a matter of international human rights principles and simple justice, is: human rights attach at birth, not at conception.This is the only position that ensures that upon becoming pregnant, women do not lose their human rights.

Political candidates of all persuasions should rest assured that to oppose the recognition of human rights before birth is not to deny the value of potential life as matter of religious belief, emotional conviction or personal experience. Rather, it is to recognize the value of the women who give that life.

To oppose a woman's right to choose, in whole or in part, is to oppose a woman's human right to be a full and participatory member of society. It is to forcibly turn her into a conduit for a portion of her life rather than the complete person she is. Audio Girl keeps talking to me about how she worries that sexism is both more pervasive and more accepted in our society than any other prejudice and I had been reluctant to agree with her until I read Ms. Paltrow's words.

Choice overall is not a black and white issue. You can tell me, "But what if Mother Theresa had been aborted?" and I can reply, "Well, what if the Columbine killers had?" You can believe that the potential for a person deserves a certain respect and I will too, though the sort of respect we seek may differ. All of your arguments are perfectly valid and useful when discussing your opposition to abortion within the full range of choices with an individual. However, when you legislate your beliefs onto my body you, with prejudice and disrespect, remove my right as a fully functioning human being to make the choice for myself.

So, as it turns out, abortion and its full spectrum of choices and responsibilities are right at the very top of the list of issues upon which I vote because if you do not respect my value as that fully functioning member of society then I will be barred from complete participation in the solution process of all these other issues. I will simply be a vessel, too stupid, too untrustworthy to make decisions about things as close as my own heart and therefore unworthy to make decisions about things larger than that and that is a level of disrespect I cannot abide. Ms. Paltrow didn't put this belief on me, she said something that allowed me to find it where it lay waiting to be discovered in myself and that is one of the many things for which I will be grateful to this election. I have already started to make this change of which we speak and while it has been hard it is equally good.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. This is such a hot button issue for me, and I am inflexible on it.

    Last night, as I was watching another round of pundits dissect the campaigns, someone said something about Obama being the most permissive you can be in terms of being pro-choice and how that was somehow scary. And I screamed, "And that's a GOOD thing." Because to me, it is. It really, really is.

  2. what you said.
    and what they said.

  3. Anonymous11:52 PM

    The thing that amazes me is how many staunch pro-life people are on oral contraceptives. If they believe life begins at conception then they shouldn't be on the pill because part of the mechanism of the pill is to shed any eggs that may have been fertilized. For all these people know they have killed (their choice of words) many potential babies.

    I agree that this is a women's rights issue and that gender prejudice is more serious than many people believe. For heaven sake, women have only been allowed to vote for 89 years while people of color have had the right to vote for 143 years. I think that says a lot.

  4. Wow. this is right on - you say it with such clarity.

    And I read this just as NPR was doing a story about Catholic voters and abortion, this morning.

    There are certainly methods to prevent abortion other than outlawing abortion - how about making it easier to prevent unwanted pregnancy, how about educating people and motivating them to avoid unwanted pregnancies, how about making the choice to carry a baby to term more attractive, more viable? In effect - making it easier to make you "choice" earlier in the process, or making the choice of "life" a more attractive choice?

    good for you for bringing this up.

  5. Well put, and I couldn't agree more. I still agree with that old maxim, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

  6. Not to pee all over the happy thought, but we won't actually have a new president at this time next week. We'll have a new president-ELECT. The Idiot still has over three months to gut environmental regulations and wildlife protection, send more troops into Iran and Syria, pardon all of his buddies for stuff we don't even know about yet, and generally make life even more difficult for the incoming prez. Apropos of this discussion, there may even be some "sanctity of life" regulations stuffed in there.


  7. Gypsy, the screaming at the TV thing has been really bad for me this season. TV, Internet, newspapers. Terrible.

    Wow Jules that's a really good stat. I didn't know that.

    g, hell yes, I remain puzzled by why we aren't willing to help people to make sound choices and to help these unaborted folks grow up healthy, wealthy and wise. It's a mystery this disconnect and it's fucking offensive.

    Kath, I had not heard that one before. You speak truth. "We'll pay for your viagra but you over there with the birth control? Fuck you!"

    MAB, in my short happy sentence I was actually trying to find a way not to say, "This time next week we will be embroiled in a ridiculous legal battle about voter fraud and vote tampering." Somehow that didn't have the ring of Hope and Change I was looking for. Yeah, to describe me even as cautiously optimistic is a stretch.

  8. I love the title.
    My life would not be the same today had I not be able to make the choices I've made.
    For better, all for the better.
    I made the best decision with what I had.
    And I am glad that I did.
    And I am glad that I didn't have to make that decision under the pretense that I was doing something illegal.

  9. PS
    I'm educated and really motivated to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
    I am also very fertile.

  10. Anonymous8:17 AM

    Compelling argument. I hadn't considered this issue from this perspective. Hmmm....

  11. Anonymous1:20 AM

    Great writing.

    Two more things to think about: when abortion was first regulated, it was because of the risk to the health of the mother. It was outlawed specifically at the point in the pregnancy where the risk to the mother's health to have the abortion was greater than the risk to her health to carry a pregnancy to term. The whole debate was about what was safe for the health of the woman. It was paternalistic and had a lot to do with an unregulated health system and the fact that women often performed these procedures, so there was sexism mixed in there, but even so, the issue of the life of the potential child was not a part of the argument.

    My second point is that young women are less likely to get pregnant when they have hopes, goals, and choices for their futures. Having these things makes them much less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. So, in other words, if women were more optimistic about their future in the world, which certainly has a lot to do with economics, but it also has to do with sexism and ingrained expectations, or lack thereof, abortion would be a lot less necessary.

    And, yes, sexism is so pervasive, that it's just missed much of the time. It's not noticed because it's so much a part of the mindset that people often don't even think about it.

  12. Anonymous8:50 PM

    Thank you for this post. I didn't comment when I first read this months ago, but I've been giving this a LOT of thought and actually blogged about it myself today. Thank you for helping me to see another side of the issue.