Abortion is a highly volatile subject. I refuse to believe that there are any easy answers and I really don’t appreciate black and white thinking when it comes to reproductive choices. I have to say, I’m am extremely concerned about the Republican platform’s new stance on abortion that they just adopted at the Republican National Convention last week.
I want to make it clear that I’m not pro-abortion. I would like to see less abortions performed and less unwanted pregnancies. The Republican platform says that abortion should be outlawed in all cases without exception. I find this to be extreme, especially since my own church (which Republican nominee, Mitt Romney belongs to) discourages abortion but makes exceptions for rape, incest, the health of the mother, or viability of life of the baby outside of the womb. You can find the LDS’s official stance on abortion here.
And yet, Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan believes that rape is just another means of conception. That a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant should regard that pregnancy as a gift. Although I’m sure there are some women who do, who is he to decide how an individual woman should feel about her own sexual assault and resulting conception? Senator hopeful Todd Akin even has gone so far as to say that women can’t get pregnant from rape. What astounds me about all these men talking about and trying to out-law abortion in all cases is that they will never experience becoming pregnant from a sexual assault. (Yes, I recognize men can be raped. The statistic is 1 in 7 boys/men are raped/molested/sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. The point is they can never become pregnant through rape). Unless they have a personal understanding of how it feels to become pregnant after a sexual assault they have no business telling women who have how they should feel, what they should do, and that they are protecting these women from their bad choices because they know better. And I find it extremely ironic these extreme abortion policies come from a party that espouses wanting a small government and one that stays out of an individual’s freedoms and choices.
Another thing that bothers me about the Republican platform’s stance on abortions is they think that outlawing abortion is going to magically protect life. Roe v. Wade wasn’t the beginning of women having abortions; it was the end of women dying from abortions. Women will have abortions whether they are legal or not because they have been doing that since the beginning of time. Does Paul Ryan really want to see the re-emergence of back alley abortions? Women who use hangers or go to shady doctors with little to no medical training who use a dirty knife and a folding table? Who’s life is Paul Ryan interested in protecting? Certainly not desperate women who make desperate decisions in desperate times.
This is why I am so annoyed by the pro-life versus pro-choice labels. They aren’t nearly nuanced enough or accurately describe the complexity of abortion. First of all, no one who is truly “for life” can also be for war, for the death penalty, or for abortion doctors being killed. Once these legislators start caring about these babies once they’re born by not cutting funding to programs like WIC, Medicaid, TANF, subsidies for daycare and housing, food stamps, etc., then I’ll actually believe they care about the life of these children they’re so desperate to see born. Not caring about the quality of these children lives and not supporting the parents you’re forcing to bare these children is not “pro-life.” People who feel this way need to change the name of their stance to “pro-birth.”
And I hate the way the women who seek abortions are characterized. It is estimated that one in three women have sought an abortion in her lifetime. That means very likely someone you know has had an abortion. The fact that women who seek abortions are villainized as these evil sluts who have sex with no conscience and use abortion as a form of birth control is disingenuous at best. I’m not disputing that women like these exist, I just don’t believe they are accurate representation of all women who seek abortions. She is the scared teenager who is not ready to be a mother and cannot emotionally handle a pregnancy; she is the girl who has been raped repeatedly by her father/step-father/grandfather/uncle/cousin over the course of her life; she is the woman in an abusive relationship who does not want to be tied to her abuser or get in a custody battle with him; she is the woman who desperately wants her baby but it has died in her womb and the medical term for extracting the dead fetus is called an abortion. Banning abortions in all cases means this last woman would have to carry the fetus in her womb until it expels itself on it’s own risking infection and her life. Senator Ryan, why aren’t you pro the life of this mother?
There are alternatives to abortion, and I believe that we as a society, if we truly want to see the rates of abortion decreased, should embrace them over extreme legislation. It has been proven that comprehensive sex education and access to birth control reduce the rates of abortion (as well as delays the age at which teenagers begin to have sex and reduces the rates of STDs among teenagers). And yet, most of these “pro-life” legislators also want to ban sex education except if it is “abstinence only,” outlaw some forms of birth control they don’t believe in (IUDs, the birth control pill), and defund programs like Planned Parenthood, which prevents more abortions than they’ll ever perform. These legislators need to get real about their stance. If they’re anti-abortion and anti-anything that has actually been proven to prevent abortions, what they’re really interested in legislating is the sexual activity of unmarried people (it needs to be said, married people have abortions, use birth control, and seek health services from Planned Parenthood) and they want to be the morality police of this country’s citizens. I’m sorry, but this is a free country and you can’t legislate the morality or moral conscience of the public, nor it is your right to choose the morals and values of people you don’t know.
Often when the subject of abortion comes up I hear from pro-lifers, “well if she doesn’t want the baby she should just give it up for adoption.” I have never seen in all my years of working with expectant mothers a women decide to place her baby for adoption because she couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want the baby. Yes, I know women like this exist who are chronically pregnant and have placed numerous babies for adoption; I just have not seen them be the majority of women who place their child for adoption. Just like abortion, adoption is often talked about with little nuance. Just like abortion, adoption is fraught with moral ambiguities. No one gives any thought to how hard it is to actually grow a child in your womb for 9 months, bond with that child, give birth to it, and then hand it over to someone else to raise. Unless you’ve actually sat in a room and watched a woman relinquish her rights to her child and then place that baby in another mother’s arms, you really have no business suggesting adoption as an alternative to abortion without knowing those complexities and moral ambiguities of adoption.
For instance, little thought is given to the grieving mother left behind in the wake of adoption. Yes, I know lots of women who placed their babies 10, 20, 30+ years ago who are doing great, have had great lives, no regrets, and feel like placing their baby for adoption at that time in their life was the best choice they could have made. However, if you do even a cursory search of the plethora of birth mother blogs out there you will see wounds that have not healed and lives that are irreparably altered. The bloggers at First Mother’s Forum advocate abortion over adoption because of what they have experienced. I believe a lot of this grief can be mitigated through extremely open adoptions where contact is maintained throughout the child’s life. However, a lot of adoptive parents are uneducated about how important open adoption is for the well-being of their child and the people who gave that child life. I’ve seen a lot of long-term open adoptions that work and this is one of the only cases where I believe adoption should be considered as an alternative to abortion (obviously when drugs and abuse are in the picture and a woman does not to have an abortion, adoption is a great alternative to being raised by a drug-addicted or abusive parent).
Another way adoption is fraught with moral ambiguities and is not always the best alternative is no one gives a thought in these abortion discussions to how it feels to be “given up” for adoption. Back when open adoption was not the norm and it was replete with secrecy and social stigma, all an adopted child knew was that his or her first parents abandoned them and that they were left to be raised by strangers (even if this wasn’t the case, an adopted person was not allowed to know their birth parents or why they were placed for adoption). An adoptee’s history and heritage was erased and replaced by a new one. Again, there are a plethora of adoptee’s blogs out there telling the world just exactly feel how it feels to be adopted. Why aren’t we listening to them? In some states, adoptees don’t even have the right to have access to their original birth certificate. Another argument for why open adoption in the right circumstances, the the right adoptive parents, and for the right reasons is always best.
I do not want to come off as anti-adoption by any means. I am very pro-adoption. Adoption can be a beautiful, wonderful thing if done right and for the right reasons. Expectant mothers should never feel coerced by social, cultural and religious pressure into placing their children for adoption. Women and men should be given accurate information about all their choices and their consequences. Adoption should not be for-profit and it should not be fueled by a population of desperate people desperate to have babies and will pay any price (adoption is a billion dollar a year industry) to get them. Adoption should always be about finding homes and families for children who need them, not finding babies for people desperate to have them. The adoption industry has a history of deception, unethical practices, and lies and thankfully there are people out there who are honestly trying to improve this without personal motivation of monetary compensation (one of the main reasons I work where I work no matter what anyone else thinks or says about that). This is why I ask people when suggesting adoption as an alternative to abortion to please do your research and know what you’re talking about before you make it seem like adoption is a panacea for abortion.
To sum up, there are no easy answers or quick fixes when it comes to human reproduction, especially when it was unexpected or unwanted. There are nuances, complexities, and most importantly real people in real difficult situations who should be allowed the freedom to consult with doctors, their partner, experts, and their God about what they should do, not a legislator with no medical experience, knowledge, or empathy for their situation. I believe the Republican platform on abortion should be condemned for caring more about those who haven’t been born than those who are actually living and giving no thought to the real people they are hurting with their extremist policies. Mitt Romney, you’re better than this.
Edited to add: You can access the GOP’s official Platform here. This is the wording regarding the “right to life” as said by the GOP in their own words. “…we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.” As you can read, there are no exceptions mentioned. If they wanted to have exceptions to abortion in their platform, they should have explicitly outlined them. They didn’t. Which leads me to believe that they are not for any exceptions at all. If they meant something different, they should have written something different. Also, I do not agree with not subsidizing health care clinics, like Planned Parenthood, who perform abortions as part of their services. These clinics often perform many more health care services, which are vital to the health of a woman. Including annual pap smears, cancer screenings, birth control, sexual health education, and STD screenings. Abortion is only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services and it seems ludicrous to me to shut down a health care clinic over a minute portion of their services. Like I said, the platform is concerned about the life and health of the unborn, but not the people already living who depend on these services.