Abortion is such an ugly, hateful word. It is a subject I try to avoid and my least favorite topic. One reason for my reluctance to discuss abortion is the fact that men cannot get pregnant or ever truly understand the pain and trauma of ending a pregnancy.
It seems so arrogant and callous for men - who dominate state and federal governments and judgeships - to make decisions about what women may or may not do with their bodies and the life that grows inside them. Fathers should care and - in an ideal world - should have a voice in what happens to the life they have helped create. But the debate that rages across this nation - most currently and dramatically in Louisiana - is less about fathers and mothers than it is about politics and the desire to win elections and influence voters. It is also about a tremendous effort by some well-meaning and some not-so-well-meaning people to control the lives of others.
Just the mention of the word ``abortion'' creates levels of controversy unmatched by most issues. People are willing to march, picket, intimidate pregnant women, go to jail, and - in some cases - bomb abortion clinics and risk adult lives to make a statement about unborn fetuses. For many, the question is when life begins, and whether unborn fetuses are human beings, and whether terminating a pregnancy is murder. Some folks are surprised at my opposition to abortion, my belief that life begins when it begins - at conception - and that the taking of any life at any point in that life is murder.
In that perfect world mentioned a moment ago, abortions would be permitted only in the case of rape, incest, or the threat that carrying a pregnancy to term would jeopardize the life of the mother. But in that perfect world, there also would be no poverty or hunger or homelessness. There would be no poor women who have to go without prenatal care and no doctors who refuse to accept these women as patients - as happens right here in Washington state - even though there is funding to pay for treatment.
In that perfect world, there would be no people unwilling to go to jail to make sure every child is born; no people unwilling to support programs that ensure every child has adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical attention, and educational opportunities. There would be no inequities - in that perfect world - based on race or social class, and unfair burdens would not be placed on the people least able to handle the extra weight.
It's hard to imagine anyone in favor of abortion, and I'm not even sure it's really a matter of choice. It's hard to accept anyone making the choice to use abortion as a form of birth control in an era when the means exist for anyone to avoid getting pregnant unless they want to. But that's another area where there seems to be hypocrisy among many in the anti-abortion movement. It's often those who holler the loudest in opposition to abortion who also raise their voices against sex education in the schools and clinics that dispense contraceptives to young people. There is an almost spiteful sense of morality that says only married couples should make love and everyone else should just say no or bear the consequences. That sort of thinking is part of the reason for this nation's astronomical teenage pregnancy rate and part of the reason children have a better chance of surviving the first year of their lives in Costa Rica than they do in the United States. Correct information does not promote promiscuity. It prevents acts of ignorance. Part of the reason the current crisis exists is that many parents are uncomfortable with discussing sexuality with their children or are themselves ignorant of pertinent, up-to-date information.
Just saying no is the answer to a host of human ills. It works for drugs, insider trading on Wall Street, crooked savings-and-loans associations, discrimination of all forms, cheating spouses, greed, insensitivity, and overeating.
But humans haven't achieved that level of perfection in any life area. And it's patently foolish to expect total abstinence from our young - while we bombard them with the sexually explicit and provide morally bankrupt examples, from presidential advisers to television evangelists.
Yet this is about abortion, and the lunacy of the debate rages while the lifeblood of the nation is being sucked dry by the selfish and the overindulgent. Abortion would cease to be an issue if schools taught children what they needed to know and if there were a system of medical care based on how sick you are and not on how much money you have. If everyone had equal access to housing and jobs and a decent quality of life, there would be no need to block the entrance to abortion clinics.
It's not as simplistic or silly as being for or against abortion. No one is for the killing of babies. The issue is more about no-choice than pro-choice. Many people believe they have no choice, no options, no support systems, no way out in a country that ought to be rich enough, smart enough, and caring enough to provide real alternatives. We'll talk more later.
Don Williamson is a freelance writer and researcher.