Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Should Unite on a More Ambitious Goal

Both the pro-life and pro-choice are idealistic movements fighting for goals that are far too small, and it makes me sad.   As idealists, we should be fighting for the highest possible goal.   Let me explain why their goals are too small:

Pro-life goal:  Make sure the baby gets born no matter what.

Many of the babies are born into a fairly hostile world (which was why the mom didn’t want them to get born in the first place.)  I can’t think of anything worse than bringing a small life into the world only to watch it suffer.

When I worked for Americorps, I saw lots of examples of what happens to babies whose moms weren’t ready for them when they arrived.  A kid who’s failing in school because her mom can’t figure out how to afford glasses so she can see the board.  A toddler thrown into the arms of a 12 year old cousin who didn’t agree to babysit, resents the responsibility, and just lets the kid bawl off to one side while she checks Facebook at the library.

These minor cruelties I’ve seen are probably fairly trivial in comparison with the major cruelties I haven’t witnessed.   Imagine growing up as a little kid knowing that your mother didn’t want you, that your mother is continually stressed out by the burden of caring for you.   Imagine how it would feel to grow up knowing that.

I think we can and should do better.  I think we should have a higher goal than merely making sure the baby gets born.

Pro-choice goal:  Allow women access to abortion.

People don’t want you to say “abortion is emotionally traumatic,” because they think that hurts the fight to make it legal.   However, without generalizing to all women, I think I can safely say that a large number of women do find it an emotionally traumatic event.   Having an abortion hurts them, but they embrace it as the lesser of two evils.

Why do women get abortions?  Well, every women is different.   But I think these are three common reasons:

  1. The woman is scared the world (family, father, society, etc) won’t help her take care of her baby.
  2. The woman is scared she won’t be a good enough mother (due to age, financial status, self-confidence, etc.)
  3. The woman is terrified, because of reasons 1) and 2) that her baby won’t have a good life.

There are plenty of other reasons, (e.g, was raped, health risks for self or baby, etc) but these reasons are the ones I’m going to focus on because they provide the best leverage for an idealist to come in and solve some of this mess.

If a woman has an abortion because she feels she can’t provide for her child, she doesn’t really have a choice.  Yet the pro-choice movement presents that as giving women a “choice.”   The pro-choice movement is focused almost entirely on the SMALL goal of giving women the choice between two painful choices.  We need a bigger goal.  We need to actually offer women access to some less painful choices.

So there you have it- both movements too unambitious.   Both movements focusing on small goals, on achieving the lesser of two evils. So worn out and exhausted from bickering with one another, they have forgotten that a higher goal, that broader change, is even possible.

The worst thing about all this is we turn the pregnant women into scapegoats.  They refuse to bring babies into a hostile world, and we put the blood-guilt on them.    Or they bring the babies into the world, and then we blame them for being bad mothers.  It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t, situation.

The blood guilt shouldn’t be on them alone.   The blood guilt should be shared among all the people who make this world the kind of place it is, for unexpected babies.

What about prevention? At this point in the discussion, the pro-lifers usually bring up chastity and the pro-choicers generally bring up birth control.   However, even the most determined chastity vow can crack under pressure, and even the most responsibly used birth control can malfunction.  And let’s be real, here.  A lot of guys don’t like the feel of condoms, so they pressure women not to use them.   And the girl gives in because she wants to be liked, or loved, or whatever.    This isn’t a clinical issue.  It’s a deeply emotional thing.

Birth control and chastity can certainly reduce the size of the problem, but they cannot make the debate vanish.   And given human nature, both male and female, I am actually fairly skeptical about how many pregnancies can actually be prevented using these methods.  If you’re convinced someone is Prince Charming, and you think you’re going to lose him if you insist on responsibility in the heat of the moment….. well, what choice are you going to make?   Don’t underestimate what deep insecurity and/or genuine love can drive a person to do.  And don’t forget what the false Christians are constantly forgetting, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

So now that we’ve established “birth control” “chastity” and “sex education” are not magic wands which magically solve everything, let’s get into the meat of this article.  What SHOULD the greater goal be.   If pro-lifers and pro-choicers are pursing goals which are too small, what IS the big goal they should be pursuing?

Goal: Make the world a welcoming place for babies.

How?

Citizens Can Influence Social Services:

  1. Ensure that the people you vote for, have social services for mothers and babies at the top of their priority list.   If the people elected don’t have this priority, call their offices.
  2. Donate to charities and community centers which help mothers and babies.

Workers & Employers Can Influence Workplace Policy:

  1. If you’re an employer, allow for generous maternity AND paternity leave and allow parents of both genders the flex hours they need to be there for their children.   If you’re an employee, lobby your employer to institute these policies.
  2. Likewise, employers should provide financial benefits for people with children, particularly single parents who are their children’s sole support.

Most of All, Personal Choices Can Influence Culture:

  1. Fight “slut-shaming” in our culture wherever you see it.   The slut-shamers are the ones who should feel ashamed, particularly the Christian ones.  (Think about how Jesus treated Mary Magdalene.) People are just more likely to have abortions if they’re scared of slut-shaming.
  2. Foster a culture of male responsibility.   If you’re a parent or a teacher, educate the male teens on responsibility as vigorously as you lecture the females.
  3. Increase the stigma around fathers who leave women to cope alone with unexpected babies.
  4. Treat pregnant women with reverence & respect; give them your seat on the bus, etc.  It’s not easy to be pregnant.
  5. Never shame someone for breast-feeding in public.  Just think about it.  You want a baby to go HUNGRY, just so you can feel a little more comfortable?  Talk about selfish!
  6. Call out people who you see judging single mothers, or treating them differently.
  7. If you know a single mother, volunteer to help her out, with baby-sitting, bring her a casserole, etc.
  8. Celebrate fathers who wear baby-backpacks or spend time with their children.

Even if a pregnancy is unexpected, celebrate the mother and the child.   A new life coming into the world should always be an occasion for excessive celebration (See Dr. Suess’s book, Happy Birthday to You!) and NEVER an occasion for grieving.

Imagine if all the energy we spent arguing about whether “life begins at conception” went into doing these simple things.  These are things that everyone can do, but most of us don’t, because it’s too much trouble or too socially awkward.  But these are the things you should be doing, if you care.

This is the crazy idealist’s viewpoint on abortion.  

8 thoughts on “Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Should Unite on a More Ambitious Goal

  1. Wonderful post, Charlotte! I feel much the same as you do on the problem in many ways. My feeling has always been that I didn’t have the right to impose my choices and my biases on someone else: I can’t know the prospective mother’s situation and I don’t feel able to tell her what options she should be allowed to consider.
    Good for you!

  2. I like all of your ideas on how to actually impact the situation. I agree that both sides are lost on the small things and are very short sited.
    I am pro-life (hopefully *I* don’t loose fb friends) in the fact that I believe that a fetus is a baby and is therefore governed by the same laws as those outside the womb. BUT I would never judge. I’ve been there. I’ve had a very unplanned pregnancy with an undesirable person. I know what it’s like to feel like “Crap. Now what? All of my plans are up in smoke.” However, I am grateful that I had supportive friends, family and a job.
    I knew one woman who had an abortion because she could barely afford to take care of her first child and her apartment wasn’t safe and was crawling with cockroaches.
    I don’t think any of us can pretend to know what “choice” they would make. Let’s focus on giving people a real choice by supporting them every way possible and giving the baby a chance at a good life.

  3. I think I just thought of the perfect compromise. What if we required 13 year old girls to either choose (1) temporary sterilization until she chooses option 2 or (2) a promise to keep the baby unlesss she got inpregnated by rape or against their will or her life was in danger, or until she decided to accept option 1.
    This is pro-choice because it gives the girl a choice, and it is pro-life in that she makes the choice before she gets gregnant.

    Th

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