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Every year in May we set aside a day to honor our mothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law and sometimes other women who we lovingly think of as stand-in mothers. We love and honor women who are important to us, who have impacted our development, our health, our success, and our very survival. But do we trust our mothers?
The resurgence of the abortion issue every political campaign season reminds us how easily we become polarized on many cultural and personal matters. People of good intentions on both sides of an issue can give impassioned arguments about their point of view, and of all of the debated issues, abortion routinely evokes the most passion. On the one side, the argument is about the sanctity of life, and the protection of a vulnerable fetus. On the other side, the passion rests on the rights of a woman to make her own decisions about her reproductive life without interference from legislators or strangers who do not know her circumstances.
Yes, that is a very abbreviated summary.
Since the beginning of mankind, women have been bearing and raising children. For most of our recorded history, bearing children was the single measurable asset that women had, and the discovery of a barren womb was cause for divorce or, in some societies, permission to kill a woman. Unfertile women were of no use in our patriarchal communities.
Even as we progressed and women found a spot in the workplace, the responsibility of bearing children naturally fell to the female of our species and raising them has continued to be primarily the function of the mother. Women have set aside or truncated careers to raise their children. Many have died in childbirth throughout history and, frighteningly, it continues to happen in the 21st century, even with all of our medical advancements. In those cases, it has often been the role of a second wife to raise the children of another woman.
We humans have a history that traces back to our very earliest ancestors of relying on women to give birth and to spend their lives raising and nurturing children.
So when did we come to some kind of out-of-left-field conclusion that women cannot be trusted to make decisions about how their reproductive organs shall be used? We can point to thousands of generations in which women have been the gender that nurture, nourish, sustain and rear their offspring – yet the overriding message from anti-abortion advocates is that deep down women cannot be trusted to make reproductive decisions on their own, or even with the consultation of their doctor.
I acknowledge that the wording “women cannot be trusted” probably does not appear in any pamphlet that urges the defunding of women’s clinics or the repeal of Roe v. Wade, But the message is loud and clear. After all, if our mothers could be trusted, legislators would not feel the need to add laws that hinder, delay and disrupt a woman’s decision, as if she set about to pursue an abortion on a whim and a bet. This belief that she needs to be coached through a very personal decision by someone completely ignorant of her health, her finances, or any of the other circumstances of her life is disturbing and insulting.
There is no doubt that some in our society misuse the medical option of ending a pregnancy, just as there are people who abuse life-saving medicines or have secret lives that destroy their families. There will always be people who treat our laws with indifference or go through life in a mode of self-destruction. But we don’t make public policy decisions based on what the few will do, and we have a history of advocating for the right to self-determination.
To make it clear, pro-choice isn’t the same as pro-abortion. Pro-choice advocates are the same people who support and provide sex education and access to birth control with the full intention of reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. That, in turn, has the effect of reducing the numbers of abortions. If anything, stats will show that pro-choice champions are much better at reducing the number of abortions than pro-lifers, simply because they work so hard to make sure there are fewer unplanned pregnancies. Closing down clinics that provide health care to thousands of poor women just because a small percentage may seek an abortion is cruel and un-American.
Overall the number of abortions has continued to decline since about 1991, but teen pregnancy continues to be a problem. Statistically, the highest numbers of teen pregnancies occur in southern red states which are more likely to preach a failed “abstinence only” policy and not provide easy access to sex education or birth control.
In contrast, the states with the lowest numbers of teen pregnancies tend to be northern blue states that fund the programs that work to prevent unintended pregnancies.
So there is a direct correlation between advocating that a woman make her own decisions about her reproductive system AND providing the resources to make those choices possible. First come trust and the conviction that the neighbor across the street does not have a say in the decisions I make for myself. Women have been bearing and raising children since the beginning of time. Trust them to make important decisions.
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