I’m a Liberal Woman: Here’s Why I Question Pro-Choice
Ever since I was old enough to understand abortion, I’ve been pro-choice. But recently, I’ve started to question that decision. The pro-life stance hinges on one major belief — that life begins at conception. If you don’t believe life begins at conception, then there’s really no reason to worry about abortion. A fetus is simply a collection of cells dividing in a woman’s uterus, and a woman should have total autonomy to make decisions about her cells.
I’m not religious.
When Life Begins – The Crux of the Debate
According to the Pew Research Center’s fact sheet on public opinion’s views on abortion, 70% of white evangelical Protestants think abortion should be illegal.
Contrasting that statistic, 80% of religiously unaffiliated Americans say abortion should be legal.
This isn’t meant to throw religious people under the bus — Catholics are divided, with 53% believing abortion should be legal.
Plus, many Liberal Christians, while morally against abortion, do not believe their personal religious beliefs should influence our secular legal system.
It seemed pretty clear to me that most people are against abortion because their faith tells them life begins at conception. I never begrudged those people their stance on abortion; however, I felt it was presumptuous of them to try and force their religious beliefs to become law for all non-religious people. The majority faith should not have any legal power over the minority faiths, as this country is meant to provide freedom for all faiths. Furthermore, it seems pointless to make abortion illegal, as women will simply get abortions anyways. It’s better to have legal, safe abortions, and protect the religious freedom and bodily autonomy of all American women.
Scientists Don’t Agree When Life Begins
I was talking to my friend Jon, who is in seminary to become a Catholic Priest. For years, he’d mansplained abortion for me, often using his personal religion as the crux of his argument. We had argued politics and women’s rights and religious freedom, and finally we’d whittled it down to the one final point — the origin of the disagreement between Republicans and Democrats.
“The truth is,” I said, “We’ll never be able to reach an agreement because we have a fundamentally different worldview. I don’t believe life starts at conception. That’s a religious belief.”
This is the moment I was proven wrong.
“Actually,” he responded, “Scientists don’t agree on when life starts.”
I immediately dragged in my friend, who is a biologist, P.hD, and atheist. He’d have no reason to show bias. And he concurred with my Catholic friend.
Further research validated this. According to this article on Wired, Developmental biologist Scott Gilbert ascertains, “I couldn’t say when personhood begins, but I can say with absolute certainty scientists don’t have a consensus.”
“When life begins is, of course, the central disagreement that fuels the controversy over abortion,” continues the article.
BBC Ethics confirms, “Unfortunately there’s no agreement in medicine, philosophy or theology as to what stage of foetal development should be associated with the right to life.”
Research paper after research paper brought me similar results. Unless horribly biased, most doctors and scientists agree: They have no idea when life begins.
Abortion: A Debate With No Foundation
If the core of this debate is built on when life begins, and there’s no solid answer for that, how can we truly reach a conclusion one way or another?
Now, it’s important to note – just because we can’t prove one way or another when life begins, that does not mean life begins at conception. It simply means we don’t know.
However, this knocked the entire foundation out of my personal belief in Pro-Choice.
Here are my beliefs, as a Liberal Woman:
- Do I believe all women should have a right to make decisions about their body? Yes.
- Do I believe a woman who is raped should be forced to go through all the hormone fluctuations and permanent bodily changes caused by pregnancy? No.
- Do I believe politicians should control a woman’s private medical care? No.
- Do I believe making abortion illegal will prevent abortion? Absolutely not.
- Do I believe religious people should be allowed to make laws based on their faith? No.
But my final belief had been changed –
- Do I believe life begins at conception and that a fetus has bodily autonomy?
Definitely not.It’s possible.
Let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and recognize that, according to science, it’s possible.
If this small mass of cells, this early fetus, is actually alive, then shouldn’t it have bodily autonomy as well?
And suddenly I could understand the reasoning behind making abortion illegal.
It’s not because women shouldn’t have a right to make decisions about their own body. It’s because the fetus should have autonomy, too.
It’s not because a woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy even after being raped. It’s because, regardless of how this life was created, it might have its own autonomy now.
It’s not because politicians should control women’s medical care. It’s because politicians are meant to protect the most helpless lives.
It’s not because religious people should create laws based on their faith. It’s actually scientifically-based; we just don’t know when life–and therefore bodily autonomy–begins.
It’s not because making it illegal will prevent abortion. — Oh wait. This one’s true. Making abortion illegal will not prevent abortion. So here’s where my Liberal side comes biting back.
Republicans Still Need to be Pro-Choice
So I’ve made some concessions and provided some backup for the Republican stance on abortion. I get it. We need to protect these potential lives. I agree.
“Outright bans on abortion have not been proven to reduce abortion rates,” points out Annie Reneau of Scary Mommy. Even though her religious and personal beliefs tell her life begins at conception and abortion is a sin, she recognizes that the best way to save the lives of unborn children is not to threaten women with legal consequences. It’s to protect women’s rights and provide support.
In the end, the government can never take away a woman’s right to choose. If a woman doesn’t want to carry a baby, she won’t. As far back as the Greco-Roman Empire, women drank herbal tonics designed to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
Pregnancy is painful. It changes your body permanently. Your hormones change, your body shape changes, and you even risk death. The government can’t strong-arm women into carrying a baby when she truly doesn’t want to.
If you truly want to save the lives of unborn children, forcing a vote isn’t the way to go. Instead, I’d love to see the Republican party create laws that prevent abortion, not by threatening women, but by taking care of them.
Prevent Abortion by Supporting Families
One of the biggest criticisms I hear of the Republican party is this: You only care about babies when they’re unborn. Once they’re born, you want to take away welfare, insurance, and educational programs that protect them.
There are a number of ways Republican politicians could prevent abortion:
- Make adoption more accessible. So many families want to adopt, but the cost of an adoption and legal fees is out of reach.
- Support foster families. If you want women to carry their babies to term, then you need to provide a safe, loving place for these babies to grow up.
- Provide financial and community support for single mothers, teenage mothers, and victims of rape who choose to carry their babies to term.
- Help teenage and single mothers stay in school and keep their jobs while carrying babies they would otherwise choose to abort. Ensure they will not lose out due to choosing to carry their baby to birth.
- Allow for true sex education programs in public schools that ranges outside “abstinence only.” Teenagers have sex. Just accept that, and teach them to do it safely.
- Finance specialized programs for psychological and medical assistance, particularly for women who were raped. If you want them to keep their baby, you better support them.
- Accept that some women will still choose to abort their unborn fetus/child. Again, this will happen whether or not abortion is illegal. So instead, prevent abortion by providing support.
And if you’re one of the people who carries signs to abortion clinics and shouts at the women going inside, remember: Compassion and support works better than wrath and judgement. Instead of carrying a sign, consider donating to an organization that supports foster families.
Or, hell, foster a child yourself. Be part of the solution.
All or Nothing Doesn’t Work
Liberals have a tendency to demonize Conservatives: You don’t care about women’s rights. You aren’t feminists.
Conservatives demonize right back: You’re baby-killers.
Beneath these polarizing perspectives, there’s a truth: We don’t have a clue when life begins.
The primary reason we can’t agree on the abortion issue is because there truly is no clear answer. We have a big gap in our scientific understanding, and each side is filling it in based on personal moral beliefs. We can never reach a logical, absolute conclusion based on a million different personal opinions.
Therefore, I think we should try to understand each other.
Democrats: We might be aborting life. We have absolutely no proof that we aren’t. If so, we should treat that decision with a high degree of consideration and respect.
Republicans: You are being irresponsible by focusing all your energy into making abortion illegal. Even if it is murder, you must realize you can never stop it using your current tactics. If you really want to save lives, take a step back and come up with a better strategy that actually helps women make their choice.
We’re not baby-killers. We’re not women-haters. We’re just people trying to do the best we can.
But let’s try to do a little better.