You Know Me. Three incredibly powerful words turned hashtag. If you’ve posted those words in earnest in the past few days, I see you and I love you. And for those of you who are members of that group but did not post the hashtag, I also love you. I’ve never had an abortion, and I consider myself lucky to not have had to weigh that decision through in its entirety, but I also know women I admire very much who have had abortions. Some have gone on to have children; others have decided against it.
A few women in my life have asked me recently how I feel about the recent conversations surrounding abortions in the US, and it honestly feels like I’m a crazy person sometimes - like, how did we get here? I can try and understand someone’s religious viewpoints about conception and child murder from a logical standpoint, but do people not understand that there is no one-size-fits-all anything? Not everyone is raised the same way or believes in the same things. I’m not saying that someone has to change their beliefs, but there has to be some sort of understanding that goes into play, some sort of basic level of empathy or sympathy. There are billions of people living on the planet, and that someone believes there is one way to do anything is absurd to me. I know I’m not alone in my thoughts, but the us vs. them, right vs. wrong mentalities that exist are incredibly polarizing and do way more harm than good.
What good ever truly came from someone taking away another person’s choice or voice? Now I’m not talking about raising kids and enacting punishments. It’s not wrong to say “no” to your kids or to take away their privileges for breaking rules. If your kid hits someone else or threatens violence against someone, that kid deserves to have their iPad taken away or to be grounded or whatever. Actions do have consequences. But in talking about abortion, if your argument is focused around when a baby is indeed a baby (i.e. point of conception, etc), you’re missing the point of the larger picture.
I am pro-choice, but that does not mean that I would personally choose an abortion for myself. I want to have children one day, but I have also tried to somewhat plan out a life for myself that prioritizes a career for myself in addition to one day having kids. At 29 - almost 30 - I know myself well enough to know that once I have a child, that child will become my priority. That kid’s needs will come before my own, which does not mean that I won’t make time for myself; it just means that I have enough experience with children to know the commitment raising a child entails. It's a beautiful commitment filled with lots of joy, but it is also not for everyone because there are many other ways to find joy.
I would hope that all things considered, a woman would choose to have a child instead of an abortion because her circumstances would at least allow her the flexibility to figure it out. I also understand, however, that my one personal opinion and my situation does not apply to every single other woman on planet Earth. I also understand that I have been fortunate enough to have access to birth control as a preventative measure, which is also not something every woman can access. One day, however, should I end up with the man I want to build a life with, I would hope that I would never feel the need to consider abortion. But life can be messy and complicated, so if that day came for whatever reason - my body couldn’t handle it, something was medically wrong, we couldn’t financially afford another kid - I would hope that those in decision-making roles wouldn’t have the power to exercise control over women and what they do with their bodies. I for sure know that whoever I end up with will be supportive of my decisions because a relationship is two individuals compromising and making decisions together with love and understanding, not one exercising control over the other.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past decade or so studying human nature, so I actively try to understand the way human beings interact and how they form their decisions. Social Identity Theory is incredibly helpful in understanding how normal it is for one group to tear down another in order to build up their own confidence and reenforce their own “rightness.” It’s why there are such strong emotions surrounding the tried-and-true democrats vs. republicans narrative in the US. At a less political level, it’s why people feel affinity towards their home sports teams and hate the rival teams. As a Philadelphia Eagles fan I can relate to this and also understand how silly it can be at its core. I don’t actually hate other sports’ teams, but it can be fun sometimes to cheer against opponents and talk smack with willing participants. But people are ultimately programmed to be a part of a community. If a specific point of view does not make sense to you and you feel the need to tear it down, perhaps understand that it is simply because you are not a part of that said community. Except anti-vaxxers and flat-Earthers. God, those people are dumb.
The issue many people have with abortion is that it is the "taking of an innocent life." I’ve seen everything from “that child could’ve been the next Einstein” to “you can’t take away that unborn human’s choice.” Listen, I get it. It is true that there is no way of knowing what a child could become, and maybe that child could have been the next Einstein. That child could also have potentially become a tyrannical leader inflicting genocide. You can’t control the outcome. And sure, you could view it as taking away an unborn child’s decision, but how is taking away that choice inherently different from taking away the voice of the woman forced into one of the most difficult decisions of her life? Perhaps in choosing to not have a child, that person is making an incredibly difficult adult decision, which is what so much of parenting entails.
Conversations around abortion are usually a slippery slope that lead to name-calling and tearing others down because it is an incredibly emotional debate. I disagree with with many pro-lifers in that their definition of pro-life is incredibly black-and-white and doesn’t take into account the many different ways in which people find meaning in their lives. I want a family some day, but that doesn’t mean women who don’t want a family deserve any less respect. I wouldn’t necessarily choose abortion for myself, but that doesn’t mean I have any right to make that decision for others.
If you are threatened by the idea of women having bodily autonomy, perhaps take a minute to look inside yourself and ask why you feel so threatened? The way someone else chooses to live life does not mean that your life and your choices have to feel invalid. If you are truly strong and steadfast in what you believe, another person’s personal choice should not have such a strong effect on the way in which you choose to live. Most people are truly just trying to do their best.
I wrote a blog post back in my early 20s about women’s rights and how women in the US didn’t have the right to vote until 1920. It hasn’t even been 100 years since women gained a representational voice in democratic voting processes. We’ve come a long way since 1920, which is important to remember, but people are surely mistaken if they believe women will just give up and not continue to fight for their own rights, their own opinions, and their own voices. Although I'm not really fighting for my right to party per se, I'm a long-time lover of The Beastie Boys, so it felt like an appropriate reference to make. Women have to fight for their fundamental human rights, and just because a situation may not specifically apply to you does not mean it is not a reality happening to other people.
It’s incredible to see women voicing opinions across the board. That we live in a day and age in which women can voice these opinions and be heard is incredible. Letting that sink in, let’s not slip backwards, silence women, and remove their right to choose and create their own lives for themselves. Women can speak up and voice their opinions because they have that representational right and can choose to make themselves heard. Regardless of representational rights, though, women are also human beings with voices. That, in and of itself, is enough. Let’s not take away something as simple as human choice, which is something many might refer to as "free will." Because at the end of the day, it’s no one’s business what a woman does or does not do with her body. If you had an abortion and you want to tell the world, you go girl. If you had an abortion and don’t want to tell anyone, you go girl. If you never want to have an abortion and tell the world, you go girl. If you never want to have an abortion and don’t want to tell anyone, you go girl. Your life is yours, and the only people who need to know about your personal choices are yourself and whomever you choose to tell.