How To Have An Opinion On Women’s Reproductive Rights—
A Helpful Chart:
Do You Have A Vagina?
Yes-You May Express An Opinion.
If, as a man, I have no right to enter the conversation about abortion rights—unless, apparently, I support them whole-heartedly—then the issue is strictly a women’s issue. If that’s the case, why should I care what Obama, or Paul Ryan, or Scott Akin, or anybody thinks about it?
But I do care.
And given that 12 years after the 2000 election I still hear crap regularly about how voting for Nader instead of Gore was akin to waterboarding kittens, I might as well out myself fully, once and for all: not only do I not define as a liberal, or a conservative, or a Democrat, or a Republican, I don’t identify as pro-choice. Or pro-life.
The issue of abortion rights has been a question I have always grappled with resolving. Over the years I’ve leaned a bit more in one direction, then the other. I don’t think I’m alone in this regard. If you’re one of the morally privileged clear-eyed homo superiors who’ve landed squarely on one side of the argument and sleep easily at night, bully for you. I’m not. But the fact that I don’t declare as pro-choice doesn’t make me a misogynist. And the fact that I don’t declare as pro-life doesn’t make me immoral.
Abortion has polarized people in this country since before this country was this country. The Puritans permitted abortion in the 1st trimester. They also believed a woman who was pregnant could not have been raped, because conception was linked to orgasm. So 350 years ago, the Puritans were just as unsettled about where they fell on the issue as many people today are.
I was raised in a religious home. My father was a minister. My mother was our family’s spiritual crux. My older sister went to a Christian high school. My younger sister went to Christian colleges for her undergraduate and graduate programs. When I was 15, I stopped going to church with them. It was one of the scariest things I ever did. I still remember the Sunday morning when I told my father I wouldn’t be going to church anymore—from behind my closed, locked bedroom door. That was hard enough, but while I didn’t expect approval, after attending hundreds if not thousands of church services I thought my decision would at least be seen as informed. Instead, I felt like they thought my decision came from a place of ignorance…like if they brought me to a different church, or had me speak with a minister about my issues, that I’d realize the flaw in my feeling.
I did not and do not share many of my family’s beliefs. But to say their beliefs are stagnant would be untrue and unfair. One thing I love most about my family is that they are always evolving. I take great comfort from this.
There is so much intolerance expressed by so many people against those who voice contrasting opinions. I don’t dismiss anyone’s right or responsibility to feel strongly about an issue, or to act on that issue. It’s the writing off of “the other” that worries me. People are capable of change. It’s one of our most redeeming qualities as a species. If you want to affect change, you must love those you wish to see change in. Calling someone an asshole because they don’t support something that you do is never going to make things better. I know way too many people who use words like “liberal” and “Republican” like they’re ethnic slurs. Some of this is because mediums like Facebook promote groupthink and minimization. I’m as guilty as anyone of posting glib little notes that reduce mountainous issues to molehills. But one reason Martin Luther King Jr.’s bus boycott succeeded is because he didn’t sit at home sending letters to his friends calling the Montgomery Bus Company a bunch of assholes.
I’d say that I wished we all wouldn’t lose sight of each other’s humanity during the elections, but the truth is the problem isn’t people losing sight of it. It’s people willfully tossing such sight aside. Some of the most loving and wonderful people I’ve known have evolved in unpredictable ways. I take comfort and hope from that. I hope others do, too.