I’m actually very much against abortion.
It’s interesting that I learned my progressive idealism from my father who considers himself a conservative. Dad is pro-choice. When I learned his stance on it, I still hadn’t made up my own mind. In fact, as I do now, I felt that abortion was completely wrong and immoral. So I had to ask Dad why he felt that way.The first thing, Dad explained to me, is that morality should always be a choice, otherwise it is nothing more than forced obedience. To be able to choose is true freedom.
Not long before that, I complained to my mother, (who, to me, is ultra-conservative), that my ex-husband was always trying to constrain my choices despite the fact that we were no longer married (of course, the fact that he always tried, was one of the biggest reasons for leaving in the first place). She pointed out that part of the LDS belief system is that we were given our own agency with the intent that we, and no one else, would have control over our own salvation. In fact, she pointed out, it was Lucifer’s idea to take away the agency of humankind, resulting in what we know to be The Plan of Salvation: “And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 2:26–27)
Suddenly, as distasteful as the choice to abort a pregnancy was to me, I knew that it would be wrong to legislate against that choice.
Not long after, I had a discussion with an LDS friend who told me that he could be completely against abortion except for the fact that he had learned the difference between a zygote an embryo, and a fetus, and that the heart doesn’t even start beating for the first six weeks following the meeting of sperm and egg. In fact, he said, even though there is a brain stem, and the beginnings of a rudimentary brain, there really is no possible way to support life before that point, and that there was actually no way to prove whether or not there is life at the point that the heart starts beating . So, he said, if we could actually identify the point when a heavenly spirit entered the earthly body, we might be able to identify a period of time when abortion would be acceptable. Because of that, he said, there was no way he could be completely against abortion. Well, that made sense to me.
I thought about the day I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter. I had gone off of birth control, but after discussing it more thoroughly with my then-husband (now ex), we decided that we really weren’t quite ready. I had been off the pill for eleven days when I went back to the doctor. A mandatory pregnancy test was necessary before he could prescribe a new regimen. It was a hot summer day, and I had put my shoulder-length hair into two piggy-tails to get it off of my sweaty head. I was only 25 years old at the time, and the piggy-tails made me look like I was 15. The doctor made me sit down for the news–he wasn’t sure how I’d take it–I was nine days pregnant.
When I put that unexpected pregnancy into perspective, I could have been very upset. The medical staff treated me as if I was the unfortunate, too-young, victim of an unwanted pregnancy; they treated me with kid-gloves. I wasn’t upset, I was elated, and an abortion would never have crossed my mind. After my conversation with my previously-mentioned friend, I realized that the bundle of cells inside of me at that point in time had no heart and no brain. It could have been aborted with little-to-no guilt. Okay, I admit, I would have felt guilt anyway, because the word abortion alone would have been enough to keep me from doing it.
I was a good kid as a teenager. I painstakingly avoided situations where I might get into trouble. I was also one of those kids who would not have had premarital sex without access to birth control. I was afraid enough of getting pregnant that I would never have tried. I was a good argument for abstinence-only sex education; it worked for me. But if I had managed to get pregnant before I got married, I still would not have gotten an abortion.
But I wasn’t one of those kids who had über-angry, controlling parents who would have thrown me out on the streets or beaten me within an inch of my life if I had made that mistake. I knew kids that did though. I also knew kids who just didn’t care what the consequences were–they were going to take advantage of that temptation if it had been offered to them, and if they couldn’t find birth-control, they were gonna do it anyway.
My own daughter confessed that she had been one of those kids, and that there had been a point in time where she would have gotten an abortion if the “need” had arisen. We had previously discussed the option of adoption, and she had told me that she would follow that route or just keep the baby if she ended up pregnant. It was later, she admitted, that she would have had an abortion anyway, because despite the fact that I wasn’t one of those “mean” moms, she would not have been able to bear seeing the disappointment in my eyes. We are both very lucky that she never had to see my disappointment if I had learned that she’d had an abortion. By that time, I had already become a pro-child/pro-choice individual. Yes, it is possible to do so.
In defense of my daughter, she has matured quite a bit since those days, and thanks to her, I am now the proud grandma of two beautiful grandkids. There is no way she would make those same choices now.
But it wasn’t just the conversation with my dad, the conversation with my friend, or my daughter that solidified my stance. It was those kids I’d known in high-school who made decisions I wouldn’t have. It was also the parents of some of those kids who would have mistreated their children or forced them into bad marriages because of the “shame” their children had brought on them. It was also because of the shame I know I would have felt, that same shame my daughter would have felt, if I had found myself in the situation of having to explain my poor choice to my parents.
It was during that decision-making phase in my life, that I learned about abortions before Roe vs. Wade. I learned that desperate women and girls used coat-hangers to perform abortions at home, and that the mortality rate among those women had sky-rocketed. After Roe vs. Wade, women who made those terrible choices would be able to live to repent for them.
I can agree that “calling a child unwanted says nothing about the child and everything about the person using it.” But I can also agree that calling a woman a murderer says nothing about the woman making the decision, and everything about the person passing judgment upon her. It’s not my place to judge, and thanks to a hysterectomy, I will never be in the position to make that choice. Lucky me. Remember, Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7).