Reflecting on Roe v. Wade

Reflecting on Roe v. Wade

Today is January 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States. I was just 5 years old on that monumental day, and much has happened over the course of my life to shift my thinking on the whole question of legal abortion. Having grown up in a strict Catholic family, my indoctrination was to be in full support of the pro-life movement. My father was a single-issue (abortion) voter until his death. Regardless of all the other harm any given candidate might impose, if he (probably never she) opposed abortion, he was likely to garner my father’s vote.

As young people do, however, I grew up and my thinking changed. Not radically, but enough that I can no longer fully embrace the anti-abortion stance I once held. Because so many other aspects of women’s health have been placed by conservative white male politicians side-by-side with abortion – meaning they’ve been defunded or made nearly impossible to access – I can no longer passively accept pro-life politics. Not to mention that making abortion illegal again won’t solve anything for anyone. What we need to do is make it less necessary, but that’s a conversation too few people are willing to have.

That said, a friend of mine mentioned on Saturday that we should be marching – she meant in defense of Roe. I told her that was a march I’d never take part in. I don’t feel I’m ambivalent – just unwilling to pick up another picket sign for any side on this issue.

When I found myself pregnant at 27, no closer to marrying my son’s father than I’d been when I met him five years prior, I knew almost immediately that I’d place the baby for adoption. My son’s father was not so supportive about the adoption decision. No – he did not want to get married. He wanted me to have an abortion. Remember, I grew up Catholic and pro-life – but I agreed to consider the abortion option. And I did – for two days.

I came to the realization during those two days that women place their babies for adoption for many of the same reasons they have abortions. The pregnancy is unplanned. They have no parental/familial support. They feel they can’t afford to raise a child. With an abortion, you must live with the decision, but no one else need ever even know you were pregnant. Carry a baby to term and then place him with an adoptive family, and you’re likely to receive questions and/or inquisitive looks … from co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances who know nothing of your adoption plan. I decided I was willing to live with the looks and answer the questions, if and when the circumstances warranted it.

Going through the process of weighing the option of abortion gave me a perspective many people cannot share. Most especially, men. No man will ever know what it’s like to get pregnant unexpectedly and need to make a decision about what to do next. As a pro-life teen, I spent my share of Tuesday afternoons picketing local abortion clinics. I still remember hearing a guy holler out his car window as he passed us, “Abortion saved my life.” I didn’t get it at the time, but a friend explained it to me, and of course I understand now. I believe every birthfather should have input into the decision, provided the couple’s relationship is not so damaged as to prevent that. And I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were a man who wanted to keep the baby when he knew his partner was leaning toward abortion. But until biology takes a dramatic turn, the woman carries the fetus within her body, so ultimately it’s her decision to make.

While I’ve broadened my perspective about abortion, one thing has remained mostly unchanged for me. Until they can get pregnant and have to face this most crucial life decision, men’s comments on the topic are generally superfluous. It was with this attitude that I watched a commentary piece by Tim Pool, a 30-something YouTuber my husband and I generally happen to like quite a bit. On his channel, TimCast, Pool WEB_INRIKESfrequently describes his politics as center-left, and he makes more sense than almost anyone I’ve heard in the last few years on almost every topic. A couple days ago during a livestream, he got to talking about the subject of capital punishment, which led to a comment about abortion, given the annual March for Life had recently taken place at the U.S. Capitol. “Oh, no. Here we go again,” I mumbled, rolling my eyes and expecting an inane comment. Yes – from a guy whose politics and commentary I tend mostly to agree with. I guess I’ve become that jaded.

But what came next stopped me in my tracks. Tim Pool said he thought abortion was a difficult choice, that most women don’t make it lightly. He also added that having sex is a responsibility, and that abortion should not be used as birth control. “I just don’t think it’s fair to make someone else (the unborn child) pay for your recklessness.”

That was it, in a nutshell. The reason I couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t have the abortion when Tony wanted me to. I’d never heard it put quite that way before, but it summarized everything I felt and why I made the choice I made. Had I opted to have that abortion more than 24 years ago, our brilliant, beautiful son would not be here today. We would have deprived him of his existence simply because we were reckless. I am so grateful for the choice I made, knowing it was based largely on emotion. Yet sometimes when you’re making a potentially life-altering decision, you need to take a step back and view things through your Spock goggles. You have to strip away the emotion and let reason be your guide. I guess that’s why I support a woman’s right to abortion, but doubt I’d ever counsel someone to make that choice.

______________________________
Laura Orsini
 is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make loand market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who recently graduated from college and began his engineering career. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about the first book from her brand new publishing company, Panoply Publishing.

Walking Your Good Christian Talk

Walking Your Good Christian Talk

Good Catholic girl that I was, I was raised to be pro-life. I would still describe that as my general philosophy – but I’ve changed my political position a bit, in that I don’t think being pro-life and being pro-choice are antithetical. I believe to my core that abortion is a heinous act that should be a last resort; I’m not convinced that it always is, at least in America. However, the barn door is open and the carriage long gone – so making abortion illegal again is not the answer. Whom do you charge, and with what crime? Pro-lifers are trying to give personhood status to fetuses – something I don’t necessarily disagree with, except that it would mean charging a woman, who likely has already undergone some serious trauma, with murder. Whom does that benefit? You could charge the doctors – but what about the nurses, anesthesiologists, and other assistants? Are they to be charged as well? Where does it all end?

Having experienced a first-hand understanding of why women choose abortion, if anyone were to ask my personal opinion, I’d tell them I think abortion is a seriously flawed idea. But, then again, I’m not in anybody else’s shoes. I’ve heard and read heart-rending stories of women who experienced miscarriage after miscarriage – only to end up deciding to abort the one pregnancy they would carry to term because the baby would be so sick it would not survive. There’s always a bigger picture. So yes – let’s reduce the need for abortions. Let’s educate women – young and not so young – about where babies come from and how to avoid getting pregnant.

I remember reading a question from a woman in an adoption chat room – do you remember chat rooms at the dawn of the Internet age? She was pregnant with her fourth child, and her question went something like this: I had my first baby at 17, had an abortion at 18, placed my next baby for adoption. Now I’m 20 and pregnant again and I don’t know what to do. Really? Stop having sex! Or use some goddamned protection, for crying out loud! The problem is that so many of the people who oppose abortion also oppose birth control. Listen folks, you can’t have it both ways. We could make abortion a lot less necessary, but I don’t think either side really wants that. It’s like the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s efforts to “end” breast cancer. What would they do with themselves – and where would the money come from – if they ever actually succeeded?

So it was back in my high school days that I used to picket abortion clinics. You know the signs with the mangled fetuses? That was us. I honestly thought I was saving babies and doing a good thing. Then three things happened in short succession to bring an end to my picketing days.

First, I began to notice that I was often the only woman on the picket line. While I’m glad men feel compelled to get involved, unless a man is the father of an unborn child whose mother is contemplating abortion, he doesn’t really have a voice in this argument. And even then, it is the woman who carries the baby, gives birth, and – usually – takes on the bulk of the responsibility for raising that kid, should she choose to parent. So at its core, it’s a woman’s issue – and there really weren’t many women involved in the picketing, at least at the time and in the place I was doing it.

Second, we would begin each picketing session with a prayer. Imagine my dismay when my fellow “Christians” started to pray for the destruction of abortion clinics and the people who worked inside of them. Um – no! My God did not respond to prayers for the destruction of anything.

Third – and the issue that made me permanently hang up my picket sign – was the fact that the teenage daughter of one of the local right-to-life bigwigs suddenly found herself pregnant. Did that family walk their talk? Give that life a chance? Encourage the girl to carry her pregnancy to term? No, they did not. They marched her right down to the local Planned Parenthood and paid for an abortion so no shame could come to their good Christian family name. This wasn’t for public knowledge, of course – I overheard a conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear.

I remember pestering my dad, right about the same time, about what we would do to help the babies who needed our assistance. He didn’t really understand my question. “Well, if we’re pro-life and we want these girls to have their babies, why aren’t we inviting them to come and live with us until the babies are born?” In short, why aren’t we doing the very thing Jesus would have us do? That didn’t go over so well. I kept at him for a while, but soon I knew that enough was enough. I’d probably made my point – but we were a Christian family who was going to leave the heavy lifting to someone else.

Sister Joan Chittister has made headlines with her “scandalous” position on the meaning of pro-life. This quote is from her famous 2004 interview with Bill Moyers on PBS’s Now With Bill Moyers:

It’s so easy to be a one-issue voter. It’s also so superficial to be a one-issue anything. It’s a narrow, delimiting approach to the very essence of life. As in, “I go to church every Sunday but I don’t believe in welfare. I’m not going to support slackers. If people worked as hard as I do, they could take care of themselves, too.” Or even worse, “There’s no such thing as equal.”

***

As we prepare to cut one-third of the social services of this country, as we intend to balance the US budget on the backs of women and children for the sake of the affluent and the privileged and ignore the effect budget cuts will make on the lives around us, we have no right to call ourselves pro-life.*

Sister Joan hit the nail on the head. I don’t care what your position is on abortion, or any issue – when the time comes to put up or stand up, we recognize those who stand by their words because they not only mean what they say, but they also do what they say.

*Source: http://billmoyers.com/story/what-pro-life-means