blog for choice day 2012

2012: Sunday, January 22nd

There are two parts to this post, each involving a question:

“What will you do this year to help [re-]elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?”

—“Ask them what they mean by “choice.” ” (Is your ad-blocker on? Okay then.)

So far as I can tell, there aren’t a lot of local electoral contests that I’ll get to vote in where the candidates’ positions on reproductive rights differ. There is one such contest that I know of, and the worst of the candidates claims to believe that abortion is personal matter to be decided by pregnant individuals in consultation with their physicians—which is pretty much a pro-choice position, so long as you follow through on it. Unfortunately this person is also opposed to federal money being involved in anyone’s abortion care, which plays right into a certain kind of anti-choice strategy that actually prevents some people from being able to make certain decisions in consultation with their physicians.

At least then I know who I won’t be voting for. And besides that? I’ll be making some grassroots-level monetary offerings. And I could compose and distribute some nifty flyers laying out all the issues. And maybe this is the year I’ll do some phonebanking for the first time. Or help get out the vote on the big day. I’m really not sure yet!

[Speaking of “nifty” and “the issues”: http://votesmart.org/voteeasy/]

So it also turns out that some anti-choice people are planning an anti-blog-&-tweet-for-choice-day, with the theme “ask them what they mean by “choice.” ” And actually this question resonates more for me than the other one right now. Well, the implied question, since no one has asked me yet. What do I mean by “choice”? What do I, unequipped with a uterus, mean by “choice”?

Choice, for me, means respecting others, because it will never be me making the kind of choice in question here. It means letting someone else be the authority on their own life: it means listening. I will not define anyone according to just one of their body parts, as if their being pregnant is necessarily the most important fact about them—and biologically speaking, a zygote/embryo/fetus is more properly a part of someone’s body rather than a whole separate body. Nor will I presume what someone’s pregnancy means to them, what is at stake for them in it. I will not congratulate them on being pregnant before getting a clue that they are at least partially happy about it. I will not say “what a bummer” before getting a clue that they are upset about it. Nor will I assume that their pregnancy has only a single meaning for them—or that its meanings will remain the same over time.

I will also not presume what someone’s abortion means to them. If only Justice Kennedy had refrained from doing so in Gonzales v. Carhart: “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” Well, there is lots of evidence, and most-though-indeed-not-all individuals feel relieved about their abortions. Nevertheless, when face to face with any particular person who has procured an abortion, I will not say: “It seems unexceptionable to conclude that you feel relief about your abortion, as most individuals continue to do,” when the keeper of the most reliable data concerning that person is face to face with me.

Besides letting others define their own selves and trying to make sure I’m not in their way, choice can also mean enabling them to be the authority in their own lives. Which, first of all, implies helping to get other people out of their way, even physically: clinic escorts do this. (Well, the police do this; clinic escorts just accompany people.) Choice means speaking up when those around me define women predominantly in terms of their pregnancy status or pregnancy history (I say “women” here because I imagine that those who understand that trans men may be capable of pregnancy are much less likely to define anyone predominantly in terms of pregnancy). Choice means working to repeal, for example, the Hyde Amendment, which is basically a bullying tactic built into our legal system, aimed at the poor. Choice means contributing to abortion funds for so long as anyone has to rely on such assistance.

[UPDATE, bonus thought on the topic of bullying: Given the violence that's inherent in anti-choice ideology, it’s no surprise to find bullying and terroristic behavior associated with the movement. For a “good clean fun” example, just consider the anti-choice people occupying the #tweet4choice hashtag today. For less fun examples, think of clinics being mobbed and abortion providers being shot while at church. These are all public acts meant to intimidate. Pro-choice-ness, on the other hand, is basically a live-and-let-live ideology, and any violence involved is chosen for oneself and oneself alone, whether the varying levels of violence entailed by the minor surgery that abortion procedures sometimes are or the more reliably violent process of giving birth.]

[UPDATE, bonus thought #2: Thinking about bullying reminded me of a pro-“life” meditation on choice and Christmastime that I read—surprise, surprise—a few weeks ago:

Mary knew what our choice-obsessed culture has yet to learn: our ability to choose is not, in fact, a right we have been invested with, but a gift we have been given. It is a gift that calls, in return, for a response of sacrificial love. It is, in fact, for the very purpose of enabling us to love that this gift was given.

We have been given choice so that we can choose life, love, and all that is truly good. Perhaps we, as pro-lifers, should consider how this might govern our response to “right to choose” rhetoric, instead of the ubiquitous, and somewhat misleading: “well, the baby/elderly/infirm person has rights too!”

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both you and your seed may live” (Dt 30:19).

If you agree with what’s quoted that choice is a gift from God, what theological justification can there then be for trying to take that gift away from those to whom it was given? Wouldn’t that put you directly at odds with your God right there, more than it would if you thought that choice was just a right that humans had made up for themselves? Real questions!

The irony is that this particular passage from Deuteronomy is quoted, which in context basically says (as I’ve noted): if you, o Israelites, don’t do what I’ve just commanded you in the preceding chapters of Deuteronomy, I will kill you. Whether you take this as a threat or a promise, the Israelites don’t really have much of a choice in whether to respond with “sacrificial love.”]

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