While driving along today I saw a bumper sticker that read, "I am a child, not a choice." This is not the first time I have seen a bumper sticker saying this, but this one also featured a striking picture of a new born. It was very effective marketing. Even I, a dyed in the wool Pro-Choice advocate, was given pause.
I understand people who are against abortion on religious basis. If their faith leads them to believe that life is created at conception, then murder is not acceptable. Faith is one of those mysterious things that is beyond influence- for all of us, yours and mine.
My faith guides me to believe that life does not begin at conception. It seems to me that I am far from the only one who believes this; if we as a collective society believed that life began at conception then miscarriages would be addressed differently. We don’t have funeral rituals around this tragic loss; instead a miscarriage is surrounded by shame. This does not indicate to me an honoring of a life lost; instead it is treated as the loss of a potential life.
I struggle with pinpointing when life actually begins. Is it the magical moment when the heart begins beating (quickening) or when the infant takes its first breath of life? I read an excellent article in UU World by Scotty McLennan, the Dean of Religious Life at Stanford University, which provided me with concrete religious textual support for my inner convictions. I will not restate what he has already written so eloquently. I encourage you to read his article which provides Biblical scripture and Talmudic tradition to support life beginning at birth with the first breath.
With that being said, I still grapple with the issue of when life begins. I have placed my hand on the bellies of pregnant girlfriends and I knew that was a life in there- not just potential life. But would I have changed my mind had their fetus been stillborn? Would it have reverted back to “potential life” in my mind? These are questions I don’t know the answer to.
From a sociological standpoint I am very clear on where I stand on the abortion issue. I firmly believe that every child should be a wanted child. Imagine how our society would improve if everyone came into this world loved and wanted.
Pro Choice advocates love to parade out all the tragic examples of rape and incest or when the mother’s health/ life are endangered by the pregnancy. These are tragedies and I pray with all my heart that our country will never become so barbaric and backwards as to prevent a woman access to termination in these instances.
The Pro Life camp points to all the abortions that occur as an issue of convenience, because girls (or even women) who got pregnant because of improper contraception. Yes, this happens far more frequently than it should but this can be easily changed through appropriate sex education.
There seems to be a strong correlation to those who are self labeled as Pro Life and those who are against Federal social service programs and sexual education that includes the use of contraception. This strikes me as setting our young women up for failure. They are sent out into the world, unprepared to protect themselves from pregnancy (no, abstinence does not work) and then judged for a difficult choice they have to make.
Yet should they choose to not abort, once the child is born, there is no social service support for mother or child. If you are Pro Life then be pro-life. The current structure paints women into a corner and then the Religious Right complains they are there. We have to teach about contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Conservatives complain about moms on welfare, but these moms are in a situation where they don’t have access to health care, child care, or family leave because they were shamed into thinking their other choice was murder.
All this cannot be easily summed up in a bumper sticker, nor do I think it should be. I believe that we trivialize this complicated issue by limiting it to either a child or a choice. I end this post with a request: please consider all life not just the one in the womb.