Controversies Over Choice

I watched a documentary recently, 12th & Delaware, on an intersection in Florida that features a women’s health clinic that provides abortions and an anti-choice center coercing women to maintain their pregnancies. It really irks me that such centers are allowed to exist and deliberately disseminate their blatantly false information.

What it all boils down to is people have a right to make decisions about their own bodies. While, yes, we are capable of critical thinking, we understandably rely on other people to educate us on matters we know little about – not everyone is a neurosurgeon, for example, so we turn to doctors who are qualified to provide us with accurate, helpful information when faced with a situation that necessitates it. I find it difficult to fathom how centers that intentionally misinform women when they are already feeling vulnerable, unsure, and impressionable can escape the level of scrutiny that other professions face when they mislead people under their tutelage.

I have no doubt that at least some of the people staffing and promoting the anti-choice center do care for the well-being of the women they encourage to visit. I do not agree with their primal motive, but hey, it’s ultimately the pregnant woman’s choice whether or not to abort, and whichever path she chooses is irrelevant. It’s the fact that the centers tell lies that I find disgusting – rather than simply being compassionate and offering help, they pursue their agenda of eradicating abortion by telling their “patients” that abortions cause cancer, that all women who have abortions regret it and become incurably depressed, that if they have an abortion they will never be able to have a child in the future, etc. etc. Not a single statement I saw uttered by the practitioners in the center had any measure of truth to it – all of it was meant to invoke fear, disorientation, and doubt in the women they enticed to enter.

On the other hand, the nurses and consultants in the abortion-providing clinic offered genuine support. One of the interviews in the documentary featured a crying patient having her initial consultation with one of the staff, who was also clearly teary-eyed herself. She never once uttered something persuasive or with the intent to influence one decision or another; all she did was listen to the patient’s sob-ridden statements of dismay at her predicament and offer sympathy while she considered her options. As opposed to the center, which incessantly attempted to coerce women to forgo abortion at all costs, the clinic that actually provided abortions explicitly did not attempt to elicit one decision or another from the patient, but rather repeatedly consoled her with the compassionate statement, “No one wants to have to make this choice. No one.” They were sympathetic to her emotional and physical state without trying to push an agenda.

THAT is the key to this whole debate. Unwanted pregnancies are something no one wants to deal with, regardless of their stance on abortion. It’s a personal choice that each individual woman needs to make for herself, and there is simply no excuse for organizations to flat-out lie to women in order to convince them to make the choice the organization thinks is “right.” There is no “right” choice – only the best choice for the woman to make at the time she needs to make it.

Besides, if telling lies is the only way women will be convinced not to have an abortion, if no matter what you say to them they won’t change their mind unless you tell fear-inducing untruths, then how can what you profess to be the only “right” choice truly be that “right”? If their gut instinct is to select one option, how can that possibly be so “wrong”?

There’s nothing terrible with offering support to women handling unplanned pregnancies. Providing financial assistance, supplying goods like diapers and clothes, aiding them with housing and other basic needs: all of those are well-intentioned and generous measures. If lack of those necessities is all that is stopping a woman from going through with a pregnancy and raising a child, then I think it’s excellent for organizations to be so charitable to those women. However, if even with all those resources made available to her, she still doesn’t wish to maintain her pregnancy, then it is absolutely despicable to tell lie after lie until she’s finally convinced that having an abortion would be akin to a death sentence.

It seriously troubles me that such places are allowed to exist – and prosper.

Reproductive Rights

When all is said and done, the biggest issue facing any developed nation today with respect to what is referred to as “reproductive rights” is shaming. Regardless of whether a country instates policies and laws that protect the ability of a person to choose how they are going to approach their reproduction, or lack thereof, the fact is people will attempt to shame them for whatever choice they make.

Seriously people, it’s none of your business what choices people (male or female) make about what to do with their own bodies. As far as I’m concerned, if you would like to avoid birth control for whatever reason, go for it. If you want to try every method of birth control known to man, have fun. If at some point you decide to have an abortion, I hope it’s a simple adventure for you. If you decide not to, again, I hope all goes well. If you then decide you want to have a “traditional” hospital birth, have at it. If you’d rather try a home birth, fabulous. If you want to be sterilized and not have to deal with any of that business, I wish you all the best.

From experience, though, I know that this is not the stance most people take. Whatever decisions I’ve made for whatever reason, people–sometimes complete and utter strangers–have felt the need to voice their opinions on how whatever I’ve done at times is WRONG, EVIL, ATROCIOUS, and otherwise not the decision I should be making. It goes well beyond the whole babies aspect of things–I have a need to take hormonal birth control for medical reasons. At a completely healthy weight and body fat percentage, my body doesn’t produce enough estrogen. Any time I’ve gone off hormones for any length of time, I really feel it. I get more aggressive and testy, my hair gets thinner, I have less ability to concentrate, and so on.

Even in light of a valid medical reason, seemingly sensible people have expressed disdain over my choice to be prescribed and use hormones that happen to have a side effect of preventing ovulation and other reproductive changes, thereby making pregnancy an unlikely event. Furthermore, regardless of a genuine medical need, it’s my choice. You have absolutely no reason or right to impose your shame over personal health choices on me. You choose whatever works for you, for whatever reasons you like, but in no way does that extend to me.

The fact that this whole aspect of existence as a human in 2010 is even an issue is testament to how (the ultimately patriarchal) Western society has determined that people (especially women) can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. The fact that there even needs to be legislation written and enacted in order to (marginally, depending on where) enable access to various reproductive options is absolutely ridiculous. It shouldn’t be a question–the options should just be there for people to take advantage of as they see fit for themselves. If any legislation should exist it should be to have unbiased information on all options a mandatory part of education curricula in order to allow everyone to make these personal decisions on their own in an intelligent, informed manner.

Fortunately, I’m a self-assured person. People can shame and degrade me all the livelong day for making certain choices and it won’t change the fact that I’m going to do what I think is right for me. When I was accosted by a woman outside a clinic who mistakenly assumed I was there for an abortion pleaded with me, “Don’t kill your baby!” I proudly responded with, “I don’t have a baby,” which is about the most fabulous response anyone could have to such abuse–even if I was there for an abortion, I still wouldn’t have had a baby, let alone be “killing” it.

And honestly, I’m glad I’m able to keep it that way if the possibility is something I have to consider, and I’d appreciate it if you’d mind your own business and let me continue to confidently make decisions on my own about my life.