Government, ‘anti-choice’ activists

I’m often taken aback by some of the misleading and maudlin arguments made by anti-choice activists, but only most recently, I have begun to be angry about the over-used phrase, “Choose life — your mom did.”

I propose that we instead consider the idea that depending on the state she lived in at the time of her pregnancy, its laws and her finances, she might not have.

It happens to women often, because lawmakers are constantly trying to make it harder for women to make reproductive choices, particularly those who are poor or live in rural areas. Not every woman who becomes a mother wants to be a mother; some are forced into it.

That scenario may not seem as tragic to some people as it does to me, but anti-abortion activists should at least stop couching their arguments in reverence for mothers.

The irony of this stance is that many of the so-called “pro-life” advocates in politics are the same people who would see the poor go on without healthcare for themselves and their children. They are the ones who are against social help for women who become mothers and need childcare.

For the “pro-life” camp, the movement stops caring about “life” once that life exists outside a womb and only respects women’s choice when they decide or are coerced to become mothers.

The abortion debate is about rights, not “life.” Life, as defined scientifically, has definite criteria; it’s not as tough a question as anti-choicers seem to think. Yes, fetuses are alive. So are Iraqi civilians, death row inmates and cancers, and so was the chicken that you’ll have for dinner. Life is not the criteria for the argument, and indeed, serious debate on the issue has moved past it.

The question is about personhood and rights. Even if one grants the attribute of personhood to a fetus, the question that follows is about who has more rights: a woman, who is unquestionably a human person and the owner of her body, or a fetus.

A lot of the language around the anti-choice movement claims that restrictions on abortion and government interference in pregnancy in general, are to protect women from their own decisions. This is paternalistic and often results in fabrications about abortion designed to scare women.

It’s easy to see why people are so misled, as the government allows funding to “crisis pregnancy centers” that claim to help women and instead lie to them. Further, abstinence-only education is designed to keep students from being aware of how their bodies function and of all of their options. The government is purposely misleading a generation, or at best keeping them ignorant.

The truth is, some studies show that it is actually more dangerous to a woman’s physical and mental health to carry a fetus to term than it is to have an abortion. The often-mentioned increased breast cancer risk is refuted by the American Cancer Society on its Web site. As far as experiencing psychological trauma, a 1989 study by American Psychological Association shows that most women receiving abortions feel relief after them and that there is no greater risk of depression or regret after an abortion than there is after childbirth.

A big misconception about pro-choice advocates is that they are pro-abortion. In fact, we sympathize with the desire to reduce the number of abortions.

To cut down on the necessity of abortion, the pro-choice movement advocates comprehensive sex education, access to safe and reliable birth control, social help and healthcare for women and families, and safe, legal, accessible abortion.

I encourage women to make their own informed decisions, and I encourage everyone to refrain from thinking that women need to be protected from themselves.

Kathryn Hogg is an English and women’s studies senior. E-mail [email protected]