Confessions of a Reluctant Pro-Choice Advocate

Just to warn you, this post is going to be a little more weighty than most of what you’ll read on The Progressive Redneck. I figured I’d make that disclaimer since the title implies that it’ll be the sort of light-hearted romp I usually throw up on the internet. But, with all the fuss over those propaganda “creatively edited” videos concerning Planned Parenthood, abortion has once again taken a major place in the public debate. Up until last night, I had pretty much lurked in the background, posting a meme or liking someone else’s post on the subject. Honestly, it’s not a debate I like to get caught up in because it doesn’t really go anywhere. And, there’s the fact that I feel a little dirty when it’s all said and done.

Like some of my friends, I am reluctantly pro-choice. I’m guessing that’s a statement that requires a little explanation. That’s going to be hard, because I’m not sure I fully understand it myself, but I’ll give it a shot. I use the qualifier “reluctant” because, let’s face it, some of the pro-choice arguments are rather callous ( a fetus isn’t alive, it’s just tissue; it’s human, but it isn’t alive, etc). Then, there’s the fact that I am a father of two children and there’s nothing that influences your belief on abortion quite like holding a life that you helped create. I’m also a product of my upbringing, growing up in a time and place (the South of the 1960’s and 70’s) where abortion was accepted as the law of the land grudgingly, if at all. Lastly, I am a Christian and Christians have a long history of opposing abortion.

But, I am pro-choice because there is no scientific consensus on when life begins. Now, you might think that would push me the other way, but it doesn’t and it’s my Baptist faith that’s the reason. As a historical Baptist, I believe in something called “soul freedom” (aka “soul competency” or “soul liberty”). “Soul freedom” is the concept that each person has the right to choose what their soul (or conscience, if overt religious language is a problem for you) decides is right and they are responsible only to God once that decision is made. Personally, I believe abortion is wrong and it’s something to which I could never be a party (except in certain cases). But, in the absence of scientific proof that life does begin at conception, soul freedom means I cannot in good conscience force others to accept my belief. That is a matter to be decided between each individual and God.

There is a second reason that I am pro-choice and that is that criminalizing abortion and closing down facilities won’t stop the practice; if anything, it will only make the situation worse. Right now, we are seeing renewed Republican efforts to defund Title X of the Public Health Service Act because groups like Planned Parenthood provide abortion services. Of course, federal money can’t be used for abortions, but it can and does help organizations provide a myriad of services to women who either can’t afford or can’t get to other facilities, things like birth control, cancer screenings, counseling, etc. The largest of these groups is conservative bugaboo, Planned Parenthood (FYI, abortions comprise about 3% of what they do). Now, Planned Parenthood could possibly find other funding streams and continue to operate, but many smaller organizations couldn’t. That translates to a lot more unwanted pregnancies which, in turn, translates to more abortions. In other words, defunding Title X to stop Planned Parenthood from performing abortions is a self-defeating proposition.

If we truly want to stop abortion, there is another way: a concerted effort to make abortion unnecessary. How would that work? By providing comprehensive sex education in place of the failed abstinence-only model, making sure contraceptives are readily available to anyone who wants/needs them and ensuring that all families in this country have a roof over their head, food to eat, decent healthcare and a good education. It should be our goal that every person in this country (citizen and alien alike) not only survives, but thrives. If we did these things, abortion would eventually become a practice resorted to only when the life of the mother is at stake or in cases of rape or incest. But, then it wouldn’t be a political hot button that could be used to divide the masses. God knows we don’t want that.