This past Tuesday night, the NBC Law and Order franchise “Special Victims Unit (SVU)” featured a story of a pregnant teen who, in an act of desperation after being unable to get a legal abortion, opted to make her boyfriend beat her up in order to force a second-trimester miscarriage. The writers of the program presented the case that there were only two options for her: either she has an abortion or she has the child and raises it by herself, a lonely teenaged mother with no help. The life was unanticipated, so it had to be disposed of. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and Planned Parenthood have sold this view for nearly the entire of my years on this planet. It seems to me, though, declaring a life unexpected a life of no value is about the most nihilistic statement one can make. With all modern protections at hand, life happens. Who are we -- who was I, when that knock came to my door -- to decide fecund nature was in error? Even in my darkest days, when I was young and lost, I recognized the danger of crossing certain such lines.
Some think it’s strange how a largely atheistic young woman could have moral questions about this issue. It was stranger still, to me, that I could find no secular support for my perspective. In my own time of need, I was led to a church-affiliated organization, and they kindly walked me through the easy parts -- medical appointments, paperwork, and so on. But the most difficult part, where a young woman must learn to live with herself long after whatever choice she makes, was a flight of Icarus. I was alone, with the wax of my wings melting, as is almost every single young woman facing an unplanned birth.
Even since I’ve come around to being less adamantly atheistic, I can’t sit here and say that God told me I have to oppose abortion. And, although I’m not a theological scholar, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing directly about that sort of thing in any of the ancient texts, and, if somebody pointed out a relevant verse, I still couldn’t say with certainty that it applied to everybody, regardless of faith or any other human condition. But I do know that -- surprise, surprise! -- we live with other people, in what is called a civilized society. And I do know that if we have gotten ourselves to a state where it is deemed better for a healthy woman to kill her unborn child than to bring it into the world, our civilized society is failing its women -- indeed, it is failing itself.
But, recently, I was at Mom’s computer, scanning a new website, reading about a group which has been around since my high school days and which says that “right to choose” should also include the right and privilege of bearing a child to full term. They have worked with that in mind. I don’t agree with absolutely everything this group stands for, but Feminists For Life provide support for women of all ages, all circumstances, to bring life into this world with joy and hope. As their honorary chair, Patricia Heaton so aptly said it, “Women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy also deserve unplanned joy.”
Feminists For Life have been working a college outreach program, helping female students in need of real family planning -- day care, adoption options, medical support, legal support, financial support, emotional support. Their successful program led them to introduce the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act of 2005, which would guarantee the same sort of funding and support on campuses that Planned Parenthood gets for its less life-affirming programs. Instead of automatically telling a young woman who wants to finish her education, “Go, and get thee an abortion,” this act would provide for medical and psychological support throughout her pregnancy, and then help her, either to raise her child while she studies (via day care or babysitting) or to place her child in an adoption. It would also provide support for those who would adopt children while still studying. It supports families.
So, contrary to what the leaders of NOW and its elements in the screenwriters’ guild would have us think, there are many options, even for feminists. I’m learning that people can believe in equal rights without being forced to follow every word of an official organization’s or party’s dogma. We have the unalienable right to declare that, in a society where we value diversity -- and not simply as a catch-phrase for making a rainbow with skin colors -- we are right to expect our society to value us. Society does this, largely by setting limits to protect us from harming ourselves or others. In return, we value our society and defend those rules which demonstrably protect and cherish life -- of ours and of those to come. Anything less is uncivilized.
Update, Saturday, 26 November: This column was printed in this morning's Daily Review Atlas, but incorrectly credited. It was erroneously listed as by Lee Thompson, in his "Journey of Faith" series. While this mistake in publication does not perturb me greatly (I have rather low expectations for myself), I imagine it might give Mr. Thompson pause, as he likely has never been an atheistic pregnant young woman, and, indeed, probably had words to offer other than those I seem to have given him via the editorial staff of the DRA.