In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that, the right to privacy, as granted in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, extends to a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. This case was decided over thirty-years ago, yet it is still the subject of contentious debate in American politics today.
Just recently, presidential candidate Rick Santorum joined Newt Gingrich, and former candidates, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, in stating that he is opposed to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. Talking to CNN’s Piers Morgan, Santorum said that women must “make the best out of a bad situation.” Now, I respect Rick Santorum as a politician and a presidential candidate. I admire him for canceling his campaign events this past Sunday to spend time with his ill three-year old daughter. He and his family will be in my prayers. However, the first words out of my mouth upon reading Santorum’s statement on abortion were, “What about women?” With all due respect, Rick Santorum is a healthy, financially-secure married man. Many women who find themselves the victims of rape or incest are not in that same social bracket- some are very young, unmarried, poor, emotionally unstable, physically ill, without family and friends, etc. For many women, carrying a pregnancy to term could result in serious emotional and physical complications, or even, death. Take for example, the mother in Brazil who was excommunicated for obtaining an abortion for her nine-year old daughter, who had been raped by her stepfather. Her daughter had conceived twins and her small body could not have handled carrying them to term. This mother was not a baby-killer or murderer. She was doing what every mother should, protecting her daughter’s life. She took an action that was pro-life, pro- the life of her little girl.
Furthermore, even if Santorum and the others mentioned were to get their wish and see Roe v. Wade overturned, abortion would not end. In the 1950s and 60s, before abortion was legalized, many women sought out illegal and unsafe abortions. Many sought underground abortions, in which they were blindfolded and driven to an unknown location to receive an abortion at the hands of an anonymous stranger. Most abortions took place in dirty rooms without medical back-up services, greatly increasing the chance of injury or infection. Since abortion was illegal, many women bled to death for fear of the repercussions that would ensure if they admitted to having undergone an illegal procedure. Each year, thousands of women flooded hospital rooms with complications from botched abortions. Hospitals even had entire wards dedicated to the care of these patients, whose injuries could have easily been avoided with safe, legal abortions. A frustrating situation. Think of the time and energy spent by hospital staff caring for these women, taking time away from persons with serious illnesses. The time and energy spent by officers of the law questioning and prosecuting these women, time that could be sent searching for murderers, child abusers, and the very rapists who put many of these women in such a precarious situation.
I am not pro-abortion. I hate abortion. Personally, I think women should try to go through with their pregnancy if they can. However, I recognize that not all women can. You may argue with me that the fetus is a life. But what about the woman? Is she not a life too? So my response to the pro-life movement is, I am pro-life too! I am pro the life of the woman. Who am I to say that her life is worth less than the life of the fetus? I am not God. I am in favor of allowing women the right to protect their own lives, because it is not for me to judge their decisions. To those of you who think women should sacrifice their own mental and physical health to bring a fetus to term at all costs, why are you not out donating your kidney? After all, their are plenty of people that need a kidney in order to survive. Yes, its painful, time-consuming, costly, and puts your health at risk, but why not just “make the best out of a bad situation?” If the women of American have to, then so should you.
Furthermore, I am pro- the life of children once they are out of the womb. I know I cannot speak for the entire pro-life movement, but many of the same people who want to outlaw abortion also want to get rid of welfare and food stamps. They oppose universal health care and affirmative action. It seems like once a child is no longer a fetus, it is no longer a sacred gift. If we really are pro-life, we should ensure that every child born, regardless of the socio-economic status of his or her parents, has nutritious food on the table, access to decent health care, a good education, and a safe place to go to sleep at night. If life is precious from the moment of conception, then is it not also precious regardless of race, class, ethnicity, religion, whether or not it was born to drug-addicted parents who are unemployed, whether or not it is in this country legally? According to the Children’s Defense Fund, over 8 million children in the United States are uninsured. These children are more likely to have unmet medical needs and to perform poorly school. Currently, the United States lags behind many industrialized nations on measures of child and maternal health, such as availability of pre-natal and post-natal care and immunizations, birth weight, and mother and infant mortality rates. Let’s be pro-life. Let’s be pro- the lives of these already born children.
It is easy to condemn the choices of others. It is true that other’s choices may very well not be the same choices we would make in the same circumstances. I may say that a woman should not abort- but I am a healthy, 22 year old woman, with a college-education from a prestigious university, a loving family with a home in a safe town, a place where I am always welcome. Unfortunately, not all woman are as fortunate. So when forming an opinion on abortion, I have to put myself in the shoes of the poor woman living in the ghetto; the mother of three who will not survive if she carries the pregnancy to term; the college student brutally raped in her dorm room one night; the woman with abusive parents who has nowhere to turn; the teenager who is frightened and just a child herself; the mentally ill woman; the teacher at a Catholic high school who fears losing her job and only source of income if she has a child out of wedlock. I am not sure that if I were any of these women, I could “make the best out of a bad situation.” So, I choose to be pro-life. I choose to be pro-the lives of these women. I choose to support Roe v. Wade, and women’s autonomy in making choices with regard to their reproductive health.