We Can’t Talk About Abortion

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Anti-abortion protesters

A month ago I blogged about my pro-life, pro-feminist stance, and the results were astounding. I fielded recruitment emails from pro-life organizations, endless Facebook comments, and even phone calls. To many, I had betrayed my San Francisco sensibilities.

At first, we disagreed, with respect. Then conversations devolved. When I was accused of being “compassionless” and “anti-woman,” I’ll admit: I cried. I am pro-life because of my inherent love for human life. How could this possibly be compassionless? My pro-life views have nothing to do with hating women; they have everything to do with loving all people equally.

Contrary to popular belief, when I disparage abortion, it is not because I want to take control of a woman’s body and force her life into ruin. To me, an abortion is taking control of a child’s body from that child and forcing their life to end. My love of an unborn child under no circumstances comes at the expense of love of the mother. I simply do not believe that the love of the mother, the enhancing of her life, could morally come at the expense of another’s very existence. This is not anti-woman, it is pro-existence.

I come from a place of love.

When Planned Parenthood says that “serious, long-term emotional problems after abortion are about as uncommon as they are after giving birth,” I don’t see love. By claiming that birth and abortion have an equal effect on a woman’s mental health, Planned Parenthood equalizes the options themselves. No one would come out with an “anti-birth” stance, so standing against abortion must be equally insane, right? Wrong. Planned Parenthood’s argument is misleading. Serious moral implications cause the emotional fallout from abortion. Comparison to post-partem depression implies that these moral issues must similarly be treated. If you regret your abortion, you need treatment.

Not only is this claim incongruous with the often claimed pro-choice mission to reduce abortions, but it contradicts an axiom I agree with, which is that “absolutely no one should pressure [a mother] into making a decision [she] is not comfortable with,” another quote from the Planned Parenthood website.

Similarly, the recent campaign to “shout your abortion” has highlighted the trend of pro-choicers to try to normalize abortion. I applaud campaigns to raise visibility of women’s issues, and vocalization of our experiences is central to our empowerment. But when the founder of #ShoutYourAbortion states in an op-ed that “an abortion is just a medical procedure,” she coerces her audience. The physical procedure of an abortion may be medical, but its existential implications are far from mundane. This is not empowerment–this is deceit.

I saw similar patterns in my recent arguments. When we talk about abortion, we talk past each other. Instead of addressing our core disagreements, we move forward with our respective assumptions and dehumanize the other side. We refuse to acknowledge our differences because they are so fundamental. We can’t talk about abortion until we all question our deepest-held beliefs about the sanctity of human life.

If we can’t talk about our differences, then I hope we can at least talk about some similarities:

  • We all come from a place of love. Wherever either side sees a human life, we do our best to protect it. I understand that if you don’t recognize a fetus as a person, that you won’t treat it with the same deference. In the same way, truly pro-life activists must work to help the unborn and his/her family during and after pregnancy.
  • We are all people. As fallible people, we must see ourselves in each other. There is no inhuman opposition here. Even if you are pro-choice, we still agree on most things. Puppies are adorable, Chipotle is delicious, mayonnaise is not an instrument… the list goes on.

So please, before we move forward in our debate, take a breath. Calm down. Let’s give everyone the respect they deserve. Stop dehumanizing, stop coercing, and start loving. Then we can get on with the real debate.

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