Choosing life – and choice

Friday’s pro-life rally contrasted with Saturday’s Women’s March, at which some women spoke about reclaiming their bodies. At some rallies, a bit of both.

Friday’s pro-life rally contrasted with Saturday’s Women’s March, at which some women spoke about reclaiming their bodies. At some rallies, a bit of both.

With the anti-abortion rally this past Friday and Women’s March Saturday, I thought it was time I address a subject that I have avoided writing about for most of my life – choice.

I have always been pro-life, though not in the way the pro-life movement might think. I’m not only personally anti-abortion but I’m also against the death penalty. Heck, I don’t even like to kill bugs. I feel bad when buildings are taken down, and don’t even get me started on historic buildings. When moviemakers blow up stuff onscreen, I think, “What a waste.” Recently, my local Roman Catholic church announced after Mass that we could take the poinsettias home that were decorating the altar for the Christmas season. Otherwise, they’d be thrown away. Horrified, I grabbed two.

I believe in the admonition from the Book of Deuteronomy (30:19): “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live.”

And yet….You knew there was an “and yet,” didn’t you, with such a buildup? I find myself unable to reconcile my conflicting feelings about these “mighty opposites” – pro-life and pro-choice. I never wanted to be a mother and made damn sure that would never be even a remote possibility. I’m a passionate believer in birth control, condoms and safe sex. Still, life happens. I don’t judge women who get pregnant and the choices they make thereafter. Nor, anti-abortionists will tell you, do they.

Except they do. The lurid images of aborted fetuses, the talk of women who’ve had abortions unburdening themselves of their “sin,” the very real murders of abortion providers – what a horrific irony – all suggest a movement at odds with what it really believes and feels: Abortion is murder, and the women and their doctors are murderers who should be treated accordingly. Remember the campaign remarks of candidate Donald Trump, Mr. Tell It Like It is, who said women who seek abortions should be punished. Later that day, he had to walk back his remarks, but the damage was done – to say nothing of the irony of having the P---- Grabber in Chief serving as the poster boy for the pro-life movement.

And therein has always been my problem with the pro-life movement. Along with its hypocrisy (pro-life Congressman Tim Murphy wanting his mistress to have an abortion during a pregnancy scare) and unending sentimentality about children and motherhood (sentiment is one thing, sentimentality, never), the pro-life movement is inextricably bound to a patriarchal desire to control women. Help them, not so much.

The Guttmacher Institute, which conducted a 2017 study in 14 countries of women who have had abortions, found they did so primarily for a variety of socioeconomic reasons – they were single; they were poor; they had other dependents. So, question: Where are the men? Where are the men who got them pregnant? If it’s so important to choose life, why aren’t the women’s partners, casual or otherwise, rushing to support them financially and emotionally? (Remember: President Pro-Life is on record as saying he never raised his five children. And while his wife Melania was caring for newborn Barron, Daddy was “taking care” of porn star Stormy Daniels.)

Why has funding lapsed for the American Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which serves poor children? Why doesn’t the Roman Catholic Church’s all-male clergy offer to take in all the children of the women who are contemplating abortion?

The answer is that they’re all too busy trying to make it difficult for women to control their reproductive rights, which – many men figure perhaps not so consciously – will have the added benefit of corralling the female sexuality they fear. It’s easy, isn’t it, to pass judgment and legislation when it will never affect your own body. But we can’t have it both ways. Only women can have children. Women are the primary caregivers. So unless men are willing to step up and take 50 percent of the responsibility in all instances of conception, unless male-dominated institutions are willing to provide greater support, without the guilt, then I think they should stay out of what must be a searing decision.

As I’ve said, I myself don’t judge women who have abortions. I just say I’m grateful to have never walked in their shoes.