There is a common misconception in the public that pro-choice arguments are only, or mostly about repealing anti-abortion laws. The philosophy of what being “pro-choice” even means is rarely brought up. Most people think they know exactly what “pro-choice” means. But, do they? Even those of us who are “pro-choice” think that we are meeting like-minded people when we meet other advocates and activists. But, are we?
Yes, the phrase “pro-choice” originated out of feminist movements, as a platform for those who supported a woman’s right of choice to an abortion. In this context, it has to do with, and only with, abortion issues. Critics and “anti-pro-choicers” oppose these views citing evidence from science and religion about the sanctity of life. They use data mixed with gruesome images to paint a picture of gory murder and incomprehensible evil. They make some very compelling arguments that as human beings, we have a legal, religious, and moral responsibility to support and sustain the growth of life from the moment of its creation.
On the other hand: “Pro-Choice does not mean Anti-Life”
This is almost a mantra that pro-choice activists have to keep chanting in their own defense. Because, really, advocating the right to exercise one’s own choices does not mean, or even imply support for mandatory abortions. Nowhere in the pro-choice literature or formula does it say that anyone who agrees with the pro-choice side of the argument automatically will or has to end their pregnancies. What the literature does emphasize however, is the fundamental right to make personal decisions. Now, isn’t this a human right?
The power of having a choice, the pro-choice argument, at its core, is about the freedom of being able to make choices for oneself. Our nation’s forefathers even emphasized this fundamental freedom in many beautifully crafted words and many instances. This freedom is about each individual’s personal right – over their body, their mind, their thoughts, and, any decisions that involve their bodies. This freedom is a fundamental human right – both for men, and for women.
Let’s break it down further.
Pro-Choice from a Medical Perspective
Medically, the course of a pregnancy is a series of traumas that a woman’s body endures. Yes, women are built for this. Whether by evolutionary and/or divine processes, there is no doubt that we are efficient and successful (and amazingly strong!) reproducers and caregivers. But, the risks and complications of a pregnancy is are very real. The three trimesters will cause anemia, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, hypertension, and hyperemesis in normal healthy women. Depression and gestational diabetes are also real possibilities. After birth, women are at risk for depression, pituitary gland shrinkage, hypertension, anemia, obesity and even death due to hormonal changes.
Pro-choice in the medical context is simply about allowing women to make their own decisions about what is right for their bodies. These are real medical implications that have profound effects on the quality and life expectancies of women, each of whom has a unique personal medical history. The decisions made by women need to be between them and their medical professionals, and not in a public forum.
Right now, reality is far from this ideal. Not only do we have anti-abortion laws that restrict women’s choices, but some states are now even prosecuting women who have miscarriages – something that happens spontaneously in about 15% of pregnancies! We have created an environment in which we are systematically eliminating safe options for women to have healthy lives! Those who are pro-choice today are fighting against this. We are fighting for the inalienable right to make decisions about our own bodies.
Pro-Choice from a Spiritual Perspective
One of the most profound and beautiful truths that is glaringly obvious in most (if not all) organized religions is this: each person has a very personal relationship with God. The teachings of these religions guide their followers towards establishing exactly this connection. In prayers (conversations with God), we ask for guidance about many aspects of our lives, including decisions that impact our bodies and our lives in permanent, irreversible ways.
Pro-choice arguments in the spiritual context are about the choice, freedom and right to have these private matters stay private. No one, but the person and his or her God, has a right to weigh in, to judge, or to declare someone’s decision as the “wrong one”. Sure, some pro-choice proponents don’t believe in God. For the majority of those who do believe in a Higher Power though, the decision and process of bringing a child into this world is an immensely personal spiritual journey. Regardless of religious background, every woman has a right to make this sacred journey with her personal God without judgment, and definitely without having to worry about legal repercussions.
We all should have the religious right to believe in our personal God, and to answer only to that God. If you think about it, it is the religious duty of every person who believes in any kind of God, to fight for people’s right to have their own private conversations with their God. After all, this is what any organized religion and religious leader teaches us – to have tolerance and compassion for the struggles that other people are going through, to not be judgmental, to not cast stones when we live in glass houses. Pro-choice protects this right to privacy – a fundamental right to not be judged and vilified by others for our beliefs.
Pro-Choice from a Financial Perspective
In 2013, the projected costs of having one child in the United States, and raising him or her to the age of 18 was $245,000. The average per capita income for that year was just over $28,000. Even if 100% of this income is dedicated towards childcare, the cost of raising one child comes out to the equivalent of 9 straight years of earnings! This is the bleak reality. Making the decision of having a child has become a more financially stressful choice today, than at any other time in history!
Once a child is born, the lack of proper and sufficient resources available to mothers and fathers from their employers further compounds the burden on the parent(s). Especially in the United States, about 40% of households with children have women as their primary or ONLY earner, yet, even simple things like maternity and paternity leave are a matter of arbitrary, organizational decisions made by others. In fact, you will still only find the concept of “paternity leave” in the more culturally evolved companies, which are far and few between. In order to be able to make the most responsible decision that will have the least negative impact on the life of the child, people (especially women) need to be able to make objective financial decisions without having to worry about legal repercussions.
Right now, we are in an economy where more than 15% of our national population is below poverty levels. These are also the communities and people who don’t have access to proper medical care, education and other critical resources necessary for them to bear the financial burden of raising a child. Allowing both men and women (but, especially women!) to make healthy financial decisions about their lives and futures is not just a matter up for a debate, it is a necessary and fundamental part of creating a healthy economy! This is the pro-choice way of life.
Pro-Choice from a Societal Perspective
From a societal stand point, we are expected to be healthy, productive citizens in our communities. We are raised in a way that for the most part allows our thoughts and behaviors to conform to the ideals of the society around us. When we have children, we raise them to do the same. We are all taught to live in these exquisite, metaphorical glass mansions, where we are expected to be friendly, kind, transparent, compassionate, tolerant, transparent, productive, helpful, and, oh, did I mention, transparent?
So let’s be transparent, and blunt. Unless we personally want to help with pregnancy care, pre-natal care, and, child care, what right do any of us have, to question another person’s very private decision? What makes us any better than them in judging the circumstances of their own lives? Are we going to adopt someone else’s unwanted child? Are we going to adopt all of them? Do we not constantly nag, whine, and moan about “welfare” in private conversations? Who do we think these welfare programs are for? These programs were created for the very people whom we, in our infinitely awesome societal wisdom, have punished.
The pro-choice stance, from a societal perspective, actually alleviates the financial and other burdens placed on society by its members. Pro-choice arguments advocate for better choices for women, so that they don’t have to be forced to make decisions against their own bodies. Pro-choice activists fight for the right to make personal decisions, even in a supposedly transparent society!
Pro-Choice from an Educational Perspective
Within the education system, pro-choice discussions often get muddled. They are lost in between the debates of resources available, between state and national standards of test scores, and, in between the creationism/evolutionary theory debate that still rages on within school halls. Many schools still cringe, or think twice about introducing educational initiatives which teach students about the advances being made in science, technology and thought, with regards to health choices. Abstinence education is still the norm in many educational institutions.
Pro-choice in the educational context is about equipping people with the tools and information necessary for them to make the best informed decisions they can, about their bodies. Right now, we are utterly failing to do that. This is how I know: Over the course of the last few months, I have had the privilege of talking with over two dozen women who have graduated from reputable high schools in the United States in the past 20-30 years. I found out that the overwhelming majority of them had no idea how contraception (other than a condom) really works, or what options they even had when it came to making any decisions about pregnancy. Most of these women are now wonderful mothers to gorgeous children. However, most of them did not know the dangers they had put their bodies in when they decided to have children. They also confirmed to me that their children were definitely not learning about the reality of the situation in schools today.
These young people will have to make informed decisions about their bodies at some point in their lives. How can anyone expect them to make informed and healthy decisions, when their education in the matter is so utterly incomplete, and maybe even haphazard? They are our future, and so far, we have done nothing but hurt their chances, by creating intellectual and educational barriers that prevent them from exercising their rights to have choices!
At the end of the day, healthy pro-choice society understands that a very personal life-changing decision should not be highlighted in the public eye. Every person (man and woman) should have the choice to not have to take part in conversations of this nature. Every person (man and woman) should be given the resources and options that are the most practical for his or her life. Every person should have the right to even have choices! Unfortunately, this is not reality. Today’s reality necessitates vocal and public protests, tensions, and, conflicts, because across the broad spectrum of human rights, people are not being given a right over their own bodies, their thoughts and their decisions. People today have no choice but to fight for their most intimate rights.
Think about it: Do you feel like you have complete control over the decisions you make that affect your body and your life? What if you want to get a tattoo, or, what if you decide to fall in love with someone? What about if you want to have another child, or you want to switch careers? Who should you pray to, or maybe, should you convert? What should you eat? How, where and when should you sleep? Do you think these questions should be a matter of public opinion? Should they be up for debate? Should laws that govern your entire existence be made about these topics? If even a small part of you thinks that these are personal issues that are not up for public debate, then you, my friend, are pro-choice. You just didn’t know about it. Till now!