Almost everyone in our country over the age of 30 knows someone who has had an abortion or an unplanned pregnancy. Whether we've made the decision ourselves or not, we all know someone who has faced the reality of making this choice. It's never just, "oh, I'll just run down to the clinic and get this looked at." No, it's a serious healthcare decision made by a woman trying to do what's personally right for her.
Fewer of us are old enough to know someone who sought an abortion before women could legally access safe medical procedures. Freedom of choice is the result of a hard-won battle that continues to save the lives of many women, but that seems to be forgotten until we see the disgraceful treatment of physicians and abortion providers flashed on the news channels.
Earlier this year, I stepped out of the shadow of anonymity and published a memoir that includes my disclosure about teenage pregnancy, my own abortion experience and unexpected motherhood at a very young age. Before publication, I considered the possible backlash of being open and honest in this age of retaliation and craziness, and I was hesitant. But, as the mother of adult children and step-children, I feel there is a much greater risk to my family if I don’t defend the right to choose.
Unplanned pregnancy happens. Sure, it happens to reckless women who don’t care about their own bodies or about contraception and protection from disease. But here’s reality: unwanted pregnancy also happens to married couples struggling to feed their families. It happens to young girls overwhelmed or experimenting with sex as they learn to date and interact with men. Smart professional women devoted to their careers find out they are pregnant as do happily married women at home with children. College students trying to finish school face unexpected pregnancy. And there are the myriad other complexities of life that make pregnancy an impossible situation for many women. The common element in every circumstance is individuality. The sacredness of each individual. Every woman leads a life that is completely different from the life of every other woman. Each is unique. Each woman is free to choose and determine her own path. It is a right to be embraced and cherished.
The alarming trend now is the attack on women’s rights by the Republican politicians tied to the religious conservative groups. State laws are being proposed across the country to restrict access to abortion services and reproductive healthcare. Regardless of your personal view of abortion, keeping the government out of the exam room and out of your healthcare should be supported by everyone who believes in individual freedom. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, your personal reproductive and medical choices must always be yours to make.
I’d like to propose a new idea for the “pro-life” platform. Rather than intruding into my personal medical care with your beliefs, do something that actually supports life. Look at the world and see how existing life struggles to survive. Stop corporations from polluting the air we breathe and contaminating the food we eat. It will save lives. Find a way to feed every child we already have so that they become self-sustaining and productive. Focus on education for every child so that they learn to care for themselves and others. Here’s another good idea. Support women’s rights internationally so that every woman’s life improves and violence toward women is not tolerated. These actions would actually be "pro-life". So ask yourself this - if he came back and saw the damage to this once flourishing and healthy planet, what would Jesus do? He'd be trying to help the children around him.