I go out of my way not to be too political here, but inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day yesterday and knowing that today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I am compelled to speak out about the importance of this civil rights issue for women. Abortion is a hot topic in the United States with opponents questioning the morality of ending life against the unborn fetus’ unknown wishes. As a pacifist, I tend to be consistently pro-life: I’m against both war and the death penalty; and yet, I still think women ought to have the choice to bring another life into this world. And I think that pro-choice doesn’t have to mean anti-life.
The Power of Education
As I have expressed throughout my blog, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of education to change lives and the world. For women living in poverty, especially, education is of supreme importance simply because of the influence women have in their homes and social groups. When we give women in poverty access to a basic education, we empower them to think critically about their futures and the role they might play in the lives of their families. This makes stronger women, stronger families, and stronger communities.
Though I know radical misogynists who disagree with educating women are still present and active in our country, I think it would be difficult to find mainstream misogynists (e.g., members of the Fox News machine & audience) who would be opposed to educating impoverished women. So, if even the Ann Coulter crowd of conservatives clearly thinks women should be educated, why would they deny women the right to exercise their critical thinking ability to secure a stable life for themselves and their future families?
Well, many of these conservatives attack women (educated or not) for what they see as a clear absence of morality, relying on a “you made your bed, now lie in it” perspective. These same conservatives prefer an abstinence-only sex education, which doesn’t educate women (or men) how to have healthy, non-abusive romantic relationships. It just tells them to avoid it until they’re married.
I’m over-generalizing many conservative points here, I know; but this is the gist of the conservative position on educating women about sex and abortion: “Don’t have sex until you’re married. We’re not going to teach you what is appropriate or inappropriate when it comes to having a romantic relationship. And then when your potentially abusive husband gets you pregnant, you’re forced to raise your love child in the confines of an already abusive parental relationship.” And that only applies to an ever-decreasing percentage of women who indeed wait until they’re married to have sex. We know that isn’t the case for most people, and according to many of these same conservatives, sexual activity outside the confines of a heterosexual marriage is shameful for women and lauded as a mark of pride for men. (Explain to me how that realistically works!) Moreover, these pro-life conservatives also want to reduce social welfare spending that helps impoverished women care for their children. They apparently want women to produce babies for whom they are unable to feed, clothe, or provide adequate medical care because they generally lack education and because jobs with living wages are out of their grasp.
Conversely, when you teach women (and men) how to have healthy, fulfilling romantic relationships, you empower them to be more selective about their mating choices. A properly educated woman is less likely to pair up with someone who degrades and abuses her than the woman who thinks there are just no better options. A properly educated woman is less likely to consent to unprotected sexual activity because she knows it increases her risk of contracting a life-long disease or a pregnancy she isn’t prepared to support yet.
(Here’s a side note:) And for all those other women, who are “properly educated,” who still accept the victim role in abusive relationships and who still consent to having unprotected sex: they clearly aren’t educated enough. I know a few of these women: intelligent, graduating from college (some with honors even!) making poor relationship choices and engaging in risky sexual activity. To these women, I say you’re quite literally fucking it up for the rest of us who are trying to make the world a better place! You missed something in the education process, and you need to repeat a grade or two. Go back to start, collect your $200, and try again!
The Life of an Unwanted Child
I know from personal experience what it’s like to be an unwanted child. My mom was 31, and my dad was 38 when they found out they were pregnant with twins in 1982. My mom had already had one son from a previous marriage as well as another son with my dad two years prior. So here they are, living in a single-wide trailer with two kids in rural East Tennessee and now two more on the way. It’s no surprise we grew up in poverty in those conditions, and I’m grateful for the welfare program (as well as the work of several charities) for keeping us fed and clothed, most of the time.
Material sacrifices aside, the most damaging thing about living as an unwanted child is being unwanted. From an early age, I could see and feel the resentment from both my parents for merely existing. We had stolen our parents’ lives, and we were easy targets for their resentful rage and disgust. I’ll be 30 years old this year, and I’m still dealing with/processing all the shit that comes with being unwanted. It runs deep and causes more problems than you’ll ever know.
Because a few good teachers sought to educate me “properly,” I refused to make the same mistakes my parents did. Yes, Mr. Owens, you made it quite uncomfortable for me as a teenager, what with the near-daily “sex will ruin your life” lectures. But you know what? I got the message, and you single-handedly made damn sure I’ve never been faced with an unwanted pregnancy with those nauseatingly repetitive words.
So, thankfully, I’ve never been in the position to need an abortion, but I’ll step up for all women who do need one to have one just to prevent more unwanted children from entering this world. And if I could have visited my parents before I was born, I would have begged and pleaded with them to abort every single one of us. Give us a chance to be born into families where we’d be loved and cherished as children ought to be. Knowing full-well that I wouldn’t have all the awesome things that are currently in my life, I’d go back in a nano-second and make that decision. Yes, growing up as I did was that rough.
So what! That happened 30 years ago. Things are different now, right? Some of you may refer the currently unwanted children in similar circumstances to the social services departments where they can be matched up with families who want them. But the likelihood of that actually happening is embarrassingly rare, and we should be ashamed that this is the case in the United States.
Children in “the system” are more likely to experience abuse and exploitation than those who remain in the home. Rarely are infants or toddlers removed from the home because they can’t express their abuse verbally, and rarely do people want to adopt children who aren’t infants or toddlers. So, these kids who have already been removed from abusive homes are then put into foster care where they are likely to experience even more of it at the hands of people who only care about getting the foster-care income and tax credits. What kind of service or rescue are we providing to them? What kind of brokenness do we keep perpetuating with this broken system?
God bless the kids who do find their way into good homes and who grow up knowing they’re loved and wanted. God bless the foster families who are doing their dead-level best to make sure they stop the cycle of poverty and abuse. And I know we can’t “save them all,” but why the hell not?
A Challenge to the Pro-Life Crowd
For those of you who truly support a pro-life stance, I challenge you to adopt these unwanted children, regardless of their age or how cute they’re not, or their social adjustment issues or education challenges. And continue sending your tax dollars to social welfare programs to make sure all those other unwanted children have the necessary resources to live. If you’re going to mandate that women must continue having these babies, then do something to take care of them. Oh, wait, that’s not your problem because you’re educated, and you know better? Well hoorah for YOU, but does that mean the unwanted kids deserve to live the lives they do? Look me in the eye and tell me that to my face, knowing that I grew up as I did.