Pro-choice and pro-life — both wrong?

Killing Dr. Barnett Slepian because he performed abortions was wrong. Bombing abortion clinics is wrong. Scaring patients and staff at abortion clinics by mailing them envelopes of fake anthrax is wrong.
But is abortion wrong?
I wish I had a definite opinion on this issue. I consider myself a feminist and hate the thought of men in Congress deciding what a woman can and can’t do with her own body. I also know that if abortions were illegal many young women would resort to dangerous ‘back-alley’ procedures. And just listening to the religious right spout anti-choice sentiments makes my hair stand on end.
Still, something about abortion doesn’t sit right with me.
A few years ago, I took a women’s studies class. We had guest speakers from the pro-choice and the pro-life movements. My friends and I sat quietly as Uglier Than and his sidekick, Sin, took out their anti-abortion paraphernalia. They were a white-bread, Bible-thumping couple with seven children. Uglier Than held up pictures of aborted fetuses while Sin passed out cookies. Then Sin explained abortion to us. In her world, evil abortion doctors and even more evil feminists took advantage of confused young women.
I was feeling sick to my stomach when I heard the door slam. A girl from my class had walked out. She was followed by another girl who grabbed one of the foul ‘crushed fetus’ posters and stormed out. My pulse raced as Uglier Than set up his slides. I’m not sure if I did what I did because I was strongly pro-choice or because I couldn’t stand another minute of their cookie-based brain washing.
Either way, I almost took the door off its hinges.
There were six of us out in the hall. None of us were close friends, but at that moment, I felt like we were sisters. Together, we tore apart the hideous posters. Then we moved to the privacy of the third floor bathroom, and some of the girls shared their own experiences with abortion. After class, our teacher was furious and demanded that we apologize. But by the time we faced Uglier Than and Sin our combined energy dwarfed them into the size of fetuses.
Abortion is an intensely personal issue, filled with shades of gray. Abortion is not just a woman’s issue, although it certainly becomes her problem once the man is out of the picture. And any pro-lifer who thinks a feminist goes to an abortion clinic, gets a fetus suctioned out of her and then returns to life as normal is sadly mistaken.
I’ve never had to make that kind of a decision but I know if I had an abortion, it would haunt me. Was the baby going to be a boy or a girl? How old would the baby be now? What would my life be like if I had the child? Did I do the right thing?
When I see girls who had to drop out of my high school because they wouldn’t have an abortion, I wonder if there really is a right decision. A girl from my class brought her baby boy to school one day. A gaggle of girls, myself included, took turns holding the smiling infant, cooing and generally making fools of ourselves. Just as I was thinking I MUST have one of these, the baby started fussing. The mother grabbed him and set him on her lap. When he didn’t stop fussing, she flicked his face with her pointer finger. He was immediately quiet. It left a small red welt.
It happened so quickly, I don’t know if anyone else even noticed. I went back to my desk, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the two of them. If I scratched the surface of the image in front of me, I saw something a lot different than an adorable baby and a mother who got her waist back. I saw two scared kids; one wearing concealer to cover dark circles under her eyes and another who might be wearing concealer to cover other welts on his face.
This is what I want to know: Where are the pro-lifers when something like this happens? There are hundreds of young women raising children alone. They don’t know how to be mothers and any dreams or goals they once had are either fading or have disappeared completely. The pro-lifers are too busy picketing and forming human blockades because it’s a lot easier to deal with kids who are going to end up in garbage cans than it is to help the kids that are already here.
Would Uglier Than and Sin be willing to adopt a family? Open up a child-care center? Pay for check ups and vaccines? I wish I knew how to use words on that day like I do now. I would have asked them these questions. I also would have asked them why they breed like they’re living in biblical times instead of opening up their home to a foster child.
But most of all, I wish I could have broken the look of plastic pity that Sin gave me when I stuttered through my point of view, knowing that she was never going to understand me.
Abortion is sad, disturbing and complicated. I hate the way anti-abortionists try to shock people into their warped belief system and I don’t feel comfortable considering abortion simply a constitutional right. Preventing myself from ever having to make that decision seems like the best plan. I wish I could rationalize abortion by saying that some blood and tissue created inside my womb doesn’t have a soul. But I can’t.
It just doesn’t sit right.
Shannon Scott’s column runs every Thursday. Send comments to [email protected]