How growing up and getting married changed my views on abortion

Abortion-AdI pissed off a great number of people in college with some of my opinion columns on abortion. It’s critical to note that at the time they were written, I had never had a pregnancy scare, and I was adamantly against the pill: my understanding of how it worked wasn’t entirely accurate.

Today, I’ve experienced both of those things, and my viewpoints have been changed considerably, even though I still consider myself pro-life. The leaked video of Deborah Nucatola discussing the pricing of fetal body parts got me thinking again – but this post isn’t about the details of that video, which I haven’t watched.

There’s two kinds of pro-lifers, I think. There are the ones who only want to outlaw abortion but do nothing to help prevent the circumstances leading women to choose it (and they probably abhor the idea of women choosing and enjoying sex in the first place). And then there are the ones who want to see a reformed society: one that educates its children, encourages healthy relationships, takes care of its poor, and places compassion above judgment. I’d like to think I’m the latter kind of pro-lifer – I hesitate to call the former pro-life at all.

There are so few people I can discuss this with openly and without argument. Many of my Christian friends will stop at “It’s murder!” and find the circumstances in which a woman chooses abortion to be irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if she’s poor and can’t feed another child. Doesn’t matter if her child has been diagnosed in utero with a disease that will surely make his life painfully short. In many cases, abortion is an act of desperation, not a celebrated decision, and compassion for the circumstances is completely absent.

On the flip side, I have extremely liberal friends who will fight to the death (no pun intended) to defend abortion as a constitutional right. It’s the woman’s choice only that matters – the father’s opinion isn’t relevant. The woman’s family’s opinion isn’t relevant. It’s her decision, and her decision alone.

Honestly, I think both sides get things backwards. There are some questions I’ve been afraid to ask, at the risk of starting an argument and coming across as anti-feminist, but nonetheless, they bug me: Why is the father’s opinion of the fate of the pregnancy not important? Assuming the sex was consensual, and even better – assuming the couple has a committed relationship, why can’t this be a decision they work out together (obviously if the pregnancy was caused through rape, the “father” is no father at all, but rather a sperm donor). The woman didn’t get pregnant all by herself. And, most controversially, I also have to ask why abortion is considered a constitutional right? I do not understand the denial, even outrage, that the biological purpose of sex is to make babies. That’s an evolutionary fact, not just a religious idea.

I ask these questions not to shame or judge anyone. As a now-married and sexually active woman, I finally have a concern in this debate when I didn’t before. And as a married woman on the fence about having children, I think I’d be in for a major attitude adjustment if I did get unintentionally pregnant, but hopefully (knocks on wood) my taking a pill every day will prevent that from becoming a reality before we’re ready. I feel sad that women get unintentionally pregnant because they were denied access to birth control for financial or other reasons. It scares me to think there are teenagers out there who never learned how sex actually works, and buy into myths that pulling out is foolproof or that you can’t get pregnant the first time. I’m upset that some women choose abortion because the programs designed to help low-income families have been shut down by greedy politicians, and they can barely afford the children they already have.

I’m much more interested in working together with pro-choice and pro-life people alike to prevent abortion from becoming an option in the first place. I was wrong to think that making abortion illegal would magically stop unintended pregnancies from happening and motivate people to make more responsible choices with their sexuality. I was wrong to think policing people’s sex lives would result in a better world.

I’m tired of the black and white thinking on both sides of the issue. The grey middle isn’t any easier, though. The moment I admit that I don’t think outlawing abortion will solve anything, but actually worsen the situation with more back-alley procedures, has earned me a scarlet H for heresy on the extreme pro-life side, and merely asking about the fairness of women making all the decisions themselves has branded me an anti-feminist on the pro-choice side, which couldn’t be further from the truth. But if both sides envision a world with less abortion, honest communication accomplishes far more than marching with picket signs and shaming women whose stories you don’t know. That’s the only thing I’m certain about, other than that a baby should ideally not have to suffer the consequences of a society that isn’t always fair to its women.

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About Beth Caplin

Just an author, blogger, and editor working hard so my cats can have a better life.
This entry was posted in Feminism, Social Issues, Theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How growing up and getting married changed my views on abortion

  1. Margie H. says:

    Hopefully, this isn’t too graphic. The pill is great, but the IUD can be more effective. You could always use a combo method: Pill and condom, or Pill and diaphragm or Pill and cervical cap or sponge.

    I understand that using condoms are annoying when two people are faithful and married, but they do make nice non-latex condoms now: polyurethane and polyisoprene.

    Like

    • Beth Caplin says:

      The IUD still creeps me out. I don’t want anything lodged up there that I can’t remove by myself. I was lucky to find the right pill on the first try, with no side effects except for a slight weight gain, so I’m reluctant to change it up.

      Like

  2. njmckay says:

    I have had this talk with my father on a few occasions. Living in Canada, abortions are legal. I’m a christian but I have a very liberal mindset. I do think abortion should be legal but I know it is a very complicate issue. In my mind, I think the mother in question should have a good support system before deciding what to do with the unplanned pregnancy. That includes the father and other family members, even the doctor should help even if it’s to determine the mindset of the women. I’m sure it is a very difficult decision to make and I would never like to be in that situation.

    But at the same time, the women should have her own rights in the matter. If she feels the need to make that dreadful decision I would want her to stand the best possible chance of surviving the procedure and possibly have a child in the future. Making abortion illegal won’t stop people from having them, it will just make it more dangerous for the women who decide to have them.

    I do agree with you that education is a good way to prevent some of these situations from arising. I would love it if we don’t have a need for such procedures, but until then I would like to make sure the woman is safe and has the right to make these choices without fear of penalties.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kate says:

    “… I don’t think outlawing abortion will solve anything, but actually worsen the situation with more back-alley procedures…” –Ever since I learned about Prohibition and how people died from shady alcohol once it was no longer regulated, this has always been my reason why abortion should be legal. And I am SO with you on education/marriage lending a different perspective–when I got married I researched EVERY SINGLE contraceptive option in terror for my life (my life as it was and not as it would be if I got pregnant) and I am now passionate about helping young women know their options and how to access them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bob M says:

    It’s so wonderful to read about someone who is remarkably close to my own thoughts. It’s even more heartwarming to hear something like what you wrote from a woman. What I’ve found is that if I suggest that a man should be able to be included in all of the reproductive decisions, I get shouted down with cries of “male privilege.”

    And I’m sorely disappointed in the way many of my nominal brothers and sisters in Christ respond to the whole issue. There’s a political cartoon making the rounds now that is sadly true for many of them. It shows the Right doing everything it can to save the baby before it’s born, but then denying benefits after it’s born. We as a culture (but especially Christians) need to work *both* ends of the pregnancy issue: prevent unplanned babies that can lead to abortions, and make sure the babies we save have somewhere healthy and safe to go when they leave the hospital.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. AthenaC says:

    I actually had a pretty good conversation with a pro-choice person a while back where we agreed that in a world where choosing life is so darn difficult, a choice for abortion isn’t really a meaningful choice.

    I think it’s worthwhile to separate what causes unplanned pregnancy vs. what causes abortion. Yes, abortion virtually always results from unplanned pregnancy, but if we as a culture were more welcoming to life, that would eliminate a lot of pressure on women to get an abortion. And I think it’s worth pointing out that while there are many reasons for abortion, the one idea that enables abortion is the idea that before a certain level of development, a person hasn’t earned their right to life. If this idea were somehow eradicated overnight, abortion would suddenly become an unacceptable choice. (More detail here: https://athenasantics.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/why-abortion-is-even-a-thing/)

    I disagree that there is zero value in making abortion illegal. I think legal abortion has enabled a culture where abortion is the expected, “responsible” choice in certain circumstances, and on balance has allowed for a much greater loss of life for both mother AND baby, since even legal abortion is not all that safe. In a world where abortion is illegal, it would be that much easier for women who are being pressured into abortions they don’t want to lean on “but it’s illegal!” as a reason.

    That said, I’m sure we would agree that we absolutely do not want a world where women who miscarry have to prove that they miscarried rather than had an abortion.

    So on balance, I don’t know what the legal solution is. I’m inclined to agree with Ron Paul’s “I think it’s a moral problem and not a legal problem” but that feels awfully complacent. So we’re left with a world where choosing life means women have to be emotionally prepared to adopt an f-the-world attitude, but not everyone is prepared or able to do so. (More detail here: https://athenasantics.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/my-abortion-story/)

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      “And I think it’s worth pointing out that while there are many reasons for abortion, the one idea that enables abortion is the idea that before a certain level of development, a person hasn’t earned their right to life.”

      Absolutely. But it seems like a more realistic goal to curb the circumstances in which women are likely to choose abortion than to convince people that “clump of cells” has the same value as you and I. I have never had a debate in which arguments for or against that viewpoint went anywhere productive.

      Liked by 2 people

      • AthenaC says:

        I’m not sure either / or is the best way to look at it. I think it’s both / and.

        On a more positive note, I have seen for myself how effective individuals can be in helping to create a culture of life. It’s usually a very small radius, but it is there and it’s better than not at all. So I definitely think there are reasons to hope.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. lovessiamese says:

    Hi, Beth. I can see both points of view if we’re strictly going by human wisdom. But let me say here that I grew up poor for the first seven years of my life. Sometimes we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from. Still, not only did I survive, but I am happily married, have two grown children and six beautiful grandchildren, two of which are in accelerated education classes at school. Should I have been aborted? I don’t think so. So I’m not sure we should let economics determine the decision, because we don’t know the future or what God has planned.

    As far as birth defects and other life complications, doctors are not always right. Birth defects have been misdiagnosed (even though there were sonagrams showing problems) before, and unfortunately, many doctors today make decisions based, not on what is best for the woman, child, or family, but rather on what will net him the most money from insurance.

    I believe scripture, and I believe God is able to help us through anything if we let Him. I also believe that if a woman has an abortion, it is no worse than any other sin, and can be forgiven. We are all sinners, and all fallible. I must say, though, that having watched (and purchased) a documentary called AGENDA, I am NOT a feminist and would not want to be affiliated with that movement. There’s far more behind the scenes than what we see on the surface. And it isn’t just the feminists.

    Like

    • Beth Caplin says:

      I’m not suggesting that women in poverty should abort their children, but rather that the circumstances deserve our compassion, not judgment. If we handled poverty better, maybe more women would choose abortion less. And yes, there have been times doctors have been wrong, but that’s not true for the majority of couples who consider abortion for medical reasons.

      What kind of “help” are you referring to where God is concerned? It’s not by raining money down from the sky, or else no praying family would be in poverty, and that’s just not the case.

      There are plenty of ugly, agenda-driven feminists just like there are plenty of ugly, agenda-driven Christians. Please don’t form your opinion based on what the biased media shows you. You wouldn’t want people making judgments of Christianity based on the Westboro Baptists and Christian sub-cultures that defend child abusers, would you? I highly recommend Feminism: a very short introduction by Margaret Walters or Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey.

      Like

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