I used to be a rabid social conservative. This was due mostly to spending most of my childhood in a suburb in Ohio surrounded by other rabid social conservatives. Consequently, I used to think that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape because I equated it with murder and thought that everyone else should too.
As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I am now pretty much as progressive as they come and think that abortion should be legal in basically any circumstance.
However, this is not to say that my views on the subject are simple. Personally, for reasons that I’m unsure of and am still examining, I believe that life begins at conception, and I define a fetus as a living human being. By my definition, abortion is murder.
So how could I support a woman’s right to choose to abort her fetus, especially given that I do not condone murdering anybody once they’ve been born?
The simple answer is: ambiguity. Nobody really knows when life begins. I feel like it begins at conception, but this is a belief, not an educated opinion. This is why I emphasize the fact that I “feel” or “believe” this; I do not think it or know it. Others may feel or believe differently, and I cannot impose my feelings and beliefs on others.
In contrast, there’s really no doubt that a human being that has left the womb is alive, and that killing such a person is murder (with exceptions, of course, for assisted suicide and removal of life support). This is why, contrary to pro-lifers’ ridiculous arguments, legalizing abortion is not tantamount to legalizing murder. Since no amount of scientific research can tell us when life technically begins, this is all open to interpretation by individuals, which means that abortion should be something people are free to choose.
As for my own views, I’m still trying to figure out where they come from. My family is very much pro-choice, and we are not religious, so it’s nothing to do with that. People who are more liberal than myself might suggest that I’ve been brainwashed by the surrounding culture, but that’s a spurious claim given that the surrounding culture has largely failed to brainwash me on any other subject.
That said, if I ever do become unintentionally pregnant, I will probably have to choose abortion, because destroying my entire life is at least as unpalatable a prospect as is killing a fetus. And then I’ll have to live with a huge amount of cognitive dissonance and probably force myself to change my views on when life begins in order to resolve it.
In any case, I guess this makes me the complete opposite of all those social conservatives who claim that abortion is okay for them/their wives, but not for others. I think it’s okay for others but not for me, because it conflicts with my beliefs. Maybe that will change someday.
Except for the part about once being a conservative and growing up in Ohio, I was sure I had written this piece.
I am 100% pro-choice. My dilemma is that I don’t know when life begins. And for me, it is disconcerting not to know. It gnaws at me sometimes.
I don’t make judgements and I have never thought of abortion as “murder.” I find that word too extreme. But yes, I wonder about this strange trip called life. Probably more than I need to.
Heavy topic. I’m like you in some respects. I believe in and support freedom of choice, but would not have an abortion myself. But that is what choice is about – being able to make that choice.
When I was a kid I had a really hard time with the concept of abortion, even though my mother is very pro-choice and I wasn’t raised to be religious. It was only when I had a pregnancy scare at 17 that I was shocked into reconsidering, and a year or two later I began to think about it more deeply and felt that forcing a woman to give birth to a child she didn’t want was tantamount to rape (I actually wrote a post about this a while back: http://elizabethmatter.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/the-gops-redefining-of-rape/). Anyway I won’t go on at length about my views on this, but I just wanted to say that I can really understand being ambivalent about it.
I too was forced to think about this more when I had a pregnancy scare a while back. That’s when I came to the conclusion that despite my views on abortion, I would probably have to get one and force myself to change my views somehow.
I went and commented on the post you linked to so I won’t repeat that here. 🙂
I always think that the thing about the abortion question is it doesn’t really matter what we would choose personally – but rather that we recognize the right to choose. Because – that allows all people their freedom. In light of that – thank you for this post and your ability to be openminded enough to recognize that your choice doesn’t have to be everyone’s choice.
Well said. Interestingly, a pregnancy scare in college pushed me in the other direction. I was raised Catholic, and was firmly against abortion in all forms. Then as a teenager I had a cousin who committed suicide by trying to self-abort with a knitting pin. Very nasty business. A year or so later I watched “Cider House Rules”, and from that point on I was 100% pro-choice. Then during my pregnancy-scare I realized that I couldn’t have an abortion, at least not one without good reason (eg severe disease in the fetus). Simply because regardless of timing/money/etc…I loved my boyfriend and thus our potential child.