Sunday, July 27, 2008

Abortion: Feminist Right?

Feminism has promoted abortion as a woman's rights issue. It's touted by society that having that having the option to go to a doctor and have an abortion is empowering. I would like to examine that and present another perspective.

First of all, we don't need abortion clinics to eliminate a pregnancy. Women have been safely doing that for thousands of years. I'm not promoting it, I don't agree with it, but I think the highly dangerous methods of surgically ending a pregnancy that is touted as "safe" and desperately needed as legal so that women don't go for coat hangers is a grossly misleading idea. Emmenagogues are much safer than surgery and have a much lower chance of damaging future fertility. Women have been jumping on the "keep abortion legal" bandwagon largely because they truly believe that it's empowering, even for those who would never choose abortion themselves. They see it as protecting their autonomy on a broader level than just the right to end a pregnancy. They don't' seem to understand that they have been spoon-fed this lie that they NEED a clinic, a doctor and a $400-600 procedure to have this "freedom".

Feminists need to wake up. The right to murder our unborn children is not empowering nor is it protecting us. It's just one more drop in the bucket of how we've been suckered into giving up and handing over our power to someone else. One more aspect of this ridiculous system 95% of us don't' need.

In our society we promote birth control, sex education and abortion as a woman's empowerment. This is how she maintains control over her body and her life. Everything neatly in it's place, including your money in some clinician or pharmacists pocket. Where is the empowerment in depending on someone else to control your body?

I disagree with abortion on a moral level, as well, of course, but for right now I prefer to focus on the ludicrous notion of assuming it's a "right" we must protect. There is a better way, fellow sisters.

For starters, how about teaching our young women the truth of the true control they can have over their own bodies. Instead of teaching our women to take drugs to physically alter their body chemistry, having untold negative consequences on their health as a whole, why not teach them fertility awareness? There is nothing wrong with them choosing to take hormonal birth control or teaching them how to properly use barrier methods. This is all information they should have access to. But they should *also* understand that they don't' *need* any of that, that the power to control their bodies and protect that autonomy that is rightfully theirs exists within them. The fertility awareness method, if practiced correctly, has been proven to be as effective as the pill over and over again. It's something that is simple, easy and becomes second nature to anyone practicing it. Not only does it have the ability to help prevent or more accurately assist in conceiving, it also has the benefit of keeping the woman closely in tune with her body, allowing her to pinpoint telling changes and issues very early on. It's a method that promotes confidence and pride the woman's body, rather than mistrust and mystery. Why should any young girl feel that someone else should be relied upon to control her body? I think that idea subtly undermines her trust in her body and how it works. We are constantly inundated with the pervasive notion that our bodies are defective or will become defective from the time we are very young until we die.

Then there is the issue of personal responsibility. Our society promotes the idea of abortion as being a responsible choice for women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. That seems the exact opposite of responsibility to me. I will be teaching my daughters that being responsible happens way before conception. The reality is that sex has a physical purpose beyond emotional/spiritual/physical gratification. That purpose is procreation. Sex is a good, beautiful and healthy thing but it serves a purpose beyond pleasure. No matter which method(s) one chooses to prevent conception, pregnancy is still a very real possibility! A responsible person doesn't take that risk without being willing to be *responsible* for the consequences. When it comes to sex, the consequences are not like possibly being grounded. The consequence is a new life, a new *person* being created. Life is precious and as women, we have been granted the privilege and responsibility of standing at the gates and guarding it with our bodies. Rather than looking at this as some sort of burden that must be collared and controlled, why not accept it as the beautiful mystery that it is? Why not embrace it? Take it seriously and be proud of this honor. I'm not saying we should all breed like rabbits but there is no reason why our options should be limited to societies excepted notions on how to deal with the growing number of unwanted pregnancies. Why not teach our daughters deep respect for themselves, their partners and the potential lives they may create? Why not teach our daughters to respect all life? Instead, our society teaches us to disrespect and mistrust our bodies, even to the point of viewing pregnancy as something that will ruin their lives.

In fact, we disempower our own young women by telling them they can not possibly care for a child, that they are incapable of being good mothers. And it's BUNK. That is only true if we as their parents raise them in such a way that they have no concept of what it takes to be responsible. I once worked with a teenage girl who was about to become a mother. Shortly after the birth of her son (whom she had been pressured to abort from conception right up until he was born by her mother) she told me, with wonder in her eyes, that NOBODY told her how fantastic being a mother was. She said that everyone she knew told her that having a baby at 16 would ruin her life and not one mother she spoke to mentioned the sheer joy of giving life to another person. Not. one. person. She was flabbergasted at the amazing transformation within herself when assuming the full responsibility for another life. How sad is that? I've known so many women to say the same thing. In the city we used to live in, there were billboards all over the place that basically said to the teenagers: "Getting pregnant is more than you can handle". In many cases, that is true but only because our society promotes a lifestyle that is fraught with irresponsibility until suddenly the people magically become adults somewhere around 30 years old. What a shame. I'm not suggesting that all teenagers should just be promiscuous and not worry about conceiving a child. I am suggesting, though, that teaching them abstinence or birth control because having a baby will ruin their life sets them up for negative attitudes about having a baby later, and encourages them to view their bodies as something that will hold them back in life. I suggest approaching the subject of teen pregnancy from a different angle altogether. Babies are precious. Sex is precious. Life is precious. So lets respect it, guard and hold it sacred. Why not raise our children with an ingrained sense of actual responsibility? Why not teach them that risking creating a new life they don't want to be responsible for IS irresponsible? Why allow them to foster the belief that it's ok, they can just terminate any new life that's inconvenient to them?

It is my belief that we would see a lot less unwanted pregnancies and subsequently a lot less abortions if we stopped crippling our women's ability to control their own bodies by convincing them they need “the institution's” help doing it. Maybe my ideas seem radical but again, where is the empowerment in depending on drugs and doctors to control your body? Where is the empowerment in teaching our young women that they are going to be failures before they even start?

I would say something similar to the pro-life movement. Picket lines, shouting obscene insults at women going into Planned Parenthood and trying to make it illegal may be coming from a noble place within the pro-life movement, but far too often it's just useless. It's approaching the problem from the wrong direction. You want to see less abortions (no abortions?) start from the ground up. Deal with the issue at it's source. The fact abortion is legal is a symptom of a much, much deeper problem. Our society has major issues and I honestly don't see abortion ever “going away” or at least lessening until those problems are addressed. Spreading hate and coldness is not going to have a positive effect. Better to educate. Better to listen and hear the voices and their reasoning behind defending it in the first place. Not every woman that has an abortion actually wants one. In fact, many upon many of them do NOT want one...but they see no other way out. THAT is a serious problem in this society as well. How many teenage girls get abortions because they fear their parents would kick them out or be completely unsupported? This is especially true in the groups that are also pro-life, ironically! What about grown women that are out on their own? How many women get abortions because they are afraid if they don't they will loose the man that supposedly loves them? Or maybe because they don't see any financial way out? Another issue that goes right back to empowerment and trust in one's own self and that is compounded by our societies lack of communal mindset.

I hope I have shared some of my ideas in a coherent fashion. I've not touched too much on the moral issues that I have with abortion as a rule. Maybe for a different day. I close with this: Society takes advantage of our desire to be “liberated women”. It feeds us lies constantly about how to do so. And yet, when we take a few steps back, we see that we are still enslaved, mostly without our recognition, in a system coerces us into their pockets. That's not liberation. It's almost as if we've traded our right to true autonomy over our bodies (with regards to birth and conception and conception control, especially) for the right to vote and be paid a fair wage. In the name of feminism, we've given up our unique powers as WOMEN. Doesn't make sense to me.


maiasong said...

WOW!! Thank you Rebekah. You have helped me get some clarity with my several issues around legalized abortion. Your clearness about teaching young women responsibility is refreshing! Tears of gratitude for an answer to my prayers.

Rebekah Costello said...

I'm so sorry I didn't respond to this sooner. Somehow I missed that anyone had commented. I'm really glad this touched you.

Forgetfulmuse said...

Great post! You've made me think about the issues of fear and trust involved - and how that goes for both individual girls and women and a societal attitude toward their (our) bodies. It's a slightly different angle than I've approached this topic from and it really does show how the issue has been so detrimentally simplified in the public "debate". I lay the responsibility for that on the doorstep of the so-called pro-choice movement, which has deliberately framed it as all about "choice" and "rights", taking out the uncomfortable reality of it while totally and ruthlessly demonizing those who disagree.