Saturday, January 21, 2006

Blog for Choice: It's About Responsibility

I tried once before to outline why I'm so pro-choice, but I didn't like it. I was too wishy washy. I was too concious of the fact my dad reads this space sometimes and that, by advocating for choice because it matters to me personally, my stance marks a complete break with my fundamentalist upbringing. I was also highly conscious that making a personal argument of it, I might as well have put on a snappy little cami with a big scarlet F on it for fornicatrix.

Oh, well. Too late for that now. No more sqeamishness. I'm coming out:

1. I believe in the separation of church and state: whatever your political opinions on abortion, birth control or choice, most likely it’s colored by your faith (or even the absence thereof.) In other words being for/against abortion usually comes down to a religious argument. Our thoughts about zygotes, conception, what the egg thinks/feels, what it’s for, what women’s bodies are for – these are all faith-based arguments. But establishing civic authority over a woman's body based on religious orthodoxy is antithetical to the idea of church/state separation. Like it or not, we live in a secular country. And in this particular secular context, church and state are supposed to live in two different neighborhoods.

(And, no – I don’t believe that America was founded to be a Christian nation; if you do, then you have a wickity whack knowledge of history, dude.)

2. I believe that reproductive freedom is about more than abortion: most discussions among regular people (not policy nerds) begin and end at abortion. (It’s like most conversations about sex ed beginning and ending at abstinence or handing out condoms.) But imagine if your first choice didn’t have to be about abortion. Just as important to reproductive choice, if not more so, are issues around equal access to all methods of birth control, insurance coverage for contraception, comprehensive sex education for young people, information about sexual health and careful family planning. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians and religious groups weren’t actually forcing someone to play the abortion end game, and let women and girls have access to what they’ll need so they won’t get pregnant?
3. I believe I shouldn’t be punished for having sex by being forced to give birth
When conversations about choice or rights or women’s bodies crop up, there's always that smart-ass who thinks she’s scoring a philosophical or rhetorical point by sneering, “Well, you shouldn’t have had sex if you didn’t want the responsibility blah blah sneer sneer snit snit.”

Well, no shit. But it’s utterly beside the point. Better watch out - not only is your misogyny showing, you run the risk of toppling beneath the weight of your halo. Our biology automatically dictates that women assume most of the responsibility/consequences of sex. Any slip in vigilance impacts our lives immediately. It’s why the Christian Right’s recent moves against contraception must stop. If you take away my access to birth control, you take away my ability to be responsible for myself. That’s a heavy and ever present responsibility; to me, advocating for choice is ‘personal responsibility’ personified. And we carry that responsibility – why does Alito and his ilk think such responsibility should rest elsewhere?

The separation of religious and civic authority is at the heart of this fight and it’s the most important to me. It’s not that I don’t care what the bible says or what moral squeamishness other people might have; but, ultimately, your exegesis or your thoughts on your morality have nothing to do with whether a woman who’s not you should have the right to make decisions about what happens to her uterus and ovaries.

Her uterus.
Her ovaries.
Her faith.
Her moral agency.
Her responsibility.


Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. Excellent post on choice. I'm linking to you on this one

ding said...

thanks, liz. it was difficult to write. glad you liked it and hope others take something from it, too.

MEP said...

Excellent, excellent post. I shall link it too. Bravo for speaking your mind!

Nicole said...

Hey, your post got me thinking. I posted a response at my site.

jesus chick said...

so obviously i disagree. here are a couple top of mind thoughts:
regarding religious freedom and the new world, au contraire’ read the history. what were the pilgrims all about?

separation of church and state is not in the constitution. the idea came from a letter by thomas jefferson. what was originally meant by separation of church and state was to keep the state out of the church. people did not like the lack of freedom of religion, particularly in england, but also elsewhere in europe. so, they very much desired the freedom to worship without interference from the government. It was never intended to be a piece to keep the church out of the state.

was your mom “punished” when you were born? since when is giving birth to a child a “punishment”?

this whole deal is on its head. no, abortion is an attempt (wrong headed) to shirk responsibility. taking away abortion does not add responsibility in the sense that you are saying. however, there is a whole other layer of responsibility that is not acknowledged. in fact, when one has an abortion (so i am told), the guilt and anguish are multiplied, because of the weight of the guilt (responsibility) of taking another life.

Wasp Jerky said...


Well, many of the founding colonists in this country also wanted a Christian theocracy. That's a direction I really doubt you want to see this country go in. I also think you would react a bit differently if the faith not being kept out of the government was a Muslim faith. Modern interpretation of the 1st ammendment is that the government cannot create laws respecting any particular religion.

For the record, the Hebrew law seems to regard the fetus as property, not life. The text of Exodus 21:22-25 states: "When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman's husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (New Revised Standard Version).

From that we see that punishment for the miscarriage is handled by imposing a fine. However, any damage to the woman herself results in a life for a life, etc. In other words, the woman is regarded as a full person with status equal to the man who struck her. Any damage to her can be inflicted equally on her assailant. But the fetus is property of the husband to whom the fine is paid. The fetus does not hold the same legal status as a person with a life equal to that of the assailant or the woman. Just some food for thought.

ding said...

as much as i care for and respect your opinion, jc, i have to strenuously disagree. strenuously.

1. separation of church and state: our constitution is a living document and our society is based on the premise (not the law, the premise) that the state shall not establish a national religion, as well as the premise that the church won't interfere with the work of the state. both are necessary in order for this separation to work. without this separation, you're advocating for a theocracy.

is that what you're really saying?

(and the pilgrims left england because their asses were being kicked all over the place in reaction to the recent civil war they waged against the crown. their arrival in the New World also coincidentally coincided with an English national desire to expand their colonies. so, no. this nation wasn't founded on Christianity. it was founded on economic/political exigency and colonialism. know the history before repeating mythology.)

2. pregnancy as punishment: you're deliberately misunderstanding my point. if you want to give birth, have the baby. if you don't, then you shouldn't. forcing a woman to give birth against her will is punishment. period.

3. abortion shirks responsibility: since when? your moral judgment has no bearing on that other woman's moral responsibility. it is not your place to make that judgment. and, frankly, it's disingenuous of you to avoid saying what you really think: pregnancy should be a consequence of having sex and a woman should learn the lesson of her actions.

again, total misogyny and utterly beside the point.

the debate over reproductive choice isn't an esoteric discussion of ethics. or scripture. we're talking about establishing law over a woman's body based on an external understanding of religious law.

by what right do we have to exert our religious law over another human being?

Brandon said...

Speaking of shirking about those crazy americans who so insist on tying health care for children to their parents' employment status that they often go without things like regular doctor visits or medication. Oh yeah, then there's those hungry children with parents who aren't really fit to be taking care of them, or even provide a roof to go over their heads...and we crazy fun lovin' USians smile and scream, "Trickledownworks, no really it does! It'll just be a few years until our economic growth ends poverty!!!" But, of course it never really does.

What was I talking about...oh yeah, shirking responsibility.

ding said...


this is a grand generalization but i'll make it: americans like to frame reproductive choice as a debate between those who kill babies and those who want to save babies.

it's not what the debate is about. it's not about life. if it was, then it would lead us to a larger discussion of what life means in this country and what it means to cultivate a 'culture of life.'

we do not practice a consistent life ethic in this country. as religious people or as americans. if we did, our discussions about responsibility, life and the sanctity of it would be a lot more valuable.

until then, i'll keep talking about reproductive choice as a range of ways that women (and their partners - the people who matter to them) control their own fertility.

hipchickmamma said...

wow...awesome discussion. i really appreciate how you were so deftly able to articulate a christian pro-choice voice.

thanks to nicole for linking over...i can't wait to check out the rest of this blog!

Anonymous said...

When I see others advocating for pro choice it is because "they" are obviously concern with only one thing, themselves!

Christian view? ummmmm- jesus Chick , please stick around.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man...For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Roman 1:18-25

ding said...

you're probably long gone by now but i'll respond anyway.

it's easy to label people like me selfish, isn't it? send us to hell because we don't think we should be living in a theocracy and because we believe faith is a private matter.

it's easy, and oh so brave, to just spew scripture at someone so you don't have to deal with the actual issue itself, isn't it?

so thanks for the spiritual drive-by, you self-righteous pharisee.

Anonymous said...

For the most part I agree with you. However, when it comes to abortion, I have a serious disagreeal. I have been taught all my life that you should have to deal with the consequences of your actions. I view abortion as a way of just getting out of the consequences. Before you start to say, "It's my body!" let me say I know. The only reason I have a problem with it is because I consider it cold blooded murder. That zygote inside of you is now a living being. You may say that a living being should be considered human once its born but I disagree again. Science defines a living being by 6 traits:
1. It reacts to its environment. The child in your belly will do that like anything else.
2. It's made up of cells. Of course your child is made up of cells.
3. It uses energy to perform its functions. This is called metabolism, or the internal proccess of turning inanimate materials into energy. Your child receives its energy from what you eat.
4.It must be able to reproduce. Your child has as much ability as a six year old to reproduce bisexually so before you say "Aha! It can't reproduce!" think and you'll find that if you say that, you wouldn't be defining a six year old as a living being either. And no six year old's can't reproduce because their testacles haven't developed into testes and so cannot produce sperm.
5. A living thing must grow. Your baby is doubling it's size every time it undergoes mitosis until it has been alive so long its first cells start to die off. Make no mistake, it is growing.
6. Finally, a living thing must be able to adapt to it's environment. While it can, due to it's genetics, I cannot give any specific reference to this since it is in a controlled environment 24-7 due to your process of homeostasis.
I have explained to you why I consider abortion murder. The definition of a living thing I just gave to you came directly from the encylcopedia, Wikipedia. Your child has all the traits of a living being from the first second it is fertilized. Thus I feel it is murder. If you still feel you don't want the child don't murder it. Put it up for adoption, but make sure it goes to a good home. For heaven's sake, girl. Its your baby. Don't kill it before its even come out.

Anonymous said...

What about parents and close family members of a person who has an unplanned pregnancy, who might constantly be stating views of how anyone pregnant before getting married is immoaral. Did you ever think: sometimes this "I'm above you" attitute might lead to abortions? A pregnant girl with no support might find it better to not go through the stress and bantering from family members? I find it ironic and believe that often a pro-choice parent might geniuinely express to their children when grown up that they have a choice to have a child or not. At least a pregnant girl could approch them without regret and say I'm having a baby. It would be nice if all "pro-life" parents could say "we will support you no matter what and be happy you are choosing to have a baby" as much as they express thier views on how abortions and sex before marriage are bad, before thier daughter gets pregnant; instead of "you better not be pregnant but an abortion is evil."