23 January 2006

Things Can Change: Blogging for Choice

Laura (aka Geeky Mom) has had some awesome posts up about choice and abortion, part of Blogging for Choice. I'm a little late, but reading Laura (and Suburban Lesbian) got me thinking, and then writing. My thoughts about abortion have changed more than anything else in my political biography. As an adolescent, I was fervently pro-life, and the issue seemed so simple: abortion was murder, people who weren't married shouldn't have sex, and women who somehow got pregnant and didn't want to have a child should simply put the baby up for adoption. It was all so very simple. In my myopic view of the world, there were no young teenagers having sex; there were no abusive marriages; there were no bad relationships; there was no economic uncertainty; there was no moral complexity. I didn't know then about the complicated ways in which sex, power, and gender can intertwine (although I was enough of a young feminist to be pleased about the fact that only while I was in high school did my state's rape laws change to permit prosecution for rape without a witness besides the victim). I didn't know then about the anguish that can accompany the choice to place a child for adoption. I didn't know then about sex: I never had a sex ed class, my parents never discussed sex with me, and my friends were all good girls who didn't talk about sex, either. There was a lot I didn't know.

I went away to college, and while I would have told anyone who asked that I was pro-life, it just wasn't a hot topic on campus. My political inclinations were more involved with the fall presidential election (I voted for Anderson) and feminism more generally. And I was just pretty overwhelmed with college, period.

And then I got raped. It took me years to realize that it was rape--he lived above me in our dorm, and at the time one of the many things I didn't know was that you can get raped by someone you know, even someone you sort of dated for a while. I went to a friend the next morning and said "but what if I'm pregnant?" and she explained to me how to figure out the chances that I was pregnant. I wasn't pregnant, as it turned out. But I knew that if I were pregnant, I'd have had an abortion rather than tell my parents I was pregnant. (Yes, more decisions made for bad reasons.)

I spent way too much of my life feeling that I have to be More than Practically Perfect in Every Way; years of therapy have pretty much gotten that out of me. As a mother, I'm working really hard to make sure that Curious Girl never feels that she has a problem so big she can't tell me about it, a problem so big that I'll reject her because of it. When I was 18, I was sure that my parents would have rejected me for being pregnant. In hindsight, that's probably not the case, but at 18, that's what I thought. And it changed my abortion politics in an instant.

That change is an odd thing: I wouldn' t have thought that what seemed at the time to be such a fundamental political belief could change so quickly. But it did, and I've never looked back. Looking back now, I can see that my own politics have become more coherent over time, and that part of the oddly zealous conservatism that characterized some of my high school political beliefs are both a product of my family culture and a rebellion against it. My current political beliefs make a little more sense--they're still rooted in parts of my family background but they hang together better as a type of liberal feminism. I dated someone once who was anti-choice (she was adopted, and maintained that if her birthmother had had an abortion, she'd never have been born, and therefore it was necessary to be prolife). That political divide was a serious problem for me. As the adoptive parent, I'm acutely aware that CG's birth mother might have been able to have an abortion, but didn't (then again, perhaps she wanted to but didn't have access to abortion services: it's hard to fathom, and I just don't know). Being a mother makes me aware of just how complicated decisions about parenting are, and how complicated decisions about pregnancy must be.

Complicated decisions about lots of people: that's the kind of thing governments can be good for. Complicated decisions about the economy: talk to the Federal Reserve. Complicated decisions about national health care: how I wish we could talk to Congress. But complicated issues about one woman, one family, and the decision to have a child: those are decisions only able to be made within a family, or by a woman, depending on the circumstance. I want the government out of it. Because it's complicated, and it's private.

So things can change.

These days, my own choices about abortion are moot: as a menopausal lesbian, I won't ever need to decide what to do about a pregnancy.


Laura said...

This was a really great post. It's interesting to see how someone's political views can morph over time. Some of mine certainly have.

Lauren said...

Thanks for sharing your story and how it shaped your views. I think many of us were conservative in the early 1980s on this issue.

jo(e) said...

Thanks for sharing all this. My views too have shifted and morphed on many topics as I've gotten older.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Thanks for telling your story, Susan. It's so critically important to remember, in this debate, that rape is not something outside the experience of most women. It's not a side issue. It's bedrock.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Thank you for writing this post.

susan said...

I'm glad you've commented, one and all: I sometimes feel embarassed when I think through some of the changes in my politics over time. I'm happy to say--as I did in my numbered posts--that I've been a feminist from the get-go, but some of these other issues were just so naively articulated by my younger self. Live and learn, I guess.

JennyN said...

I have always been pro-choice, and still am. But I have to say that as a future adoptive parent, I find it a very strange and ironic situation to now potentially be the beneficiary of someone who may well be pro-life. In fact, since we are planning on adopting domestically, I wonder sometimes if our pro-choice, not-too-religious views may work against us in the selection process. However, as always, I come back to the same issue -- whether a woman decides to have an abortion, parent her child, or make an adoption plan, she has made her own decision about her life and her future. This is something I have always wanted for myself, and has always been the core of my pro-choice feelings. So, even as I wait and hope for someone to come along who has decided not to have an abortion, I believe steadfastly in her right to make that decision for herself.

Arwen said...

My mom is personally pro-life and politically pro-choice; she had a little girl before me who she gave up for adoption. I very much honour her choice and she did it with a lot of love. She felt like she had the resources.
I went through a pro-life period at 14 or so, for vaguely environmental reasons - I was suddenly sick of waste, or throwing things away, or something. I don't utterly follow my own thoughts at that time.

Piece of Work said...

I've always been pro-choice, though I can't remember why,as a teenager, I automatically took that position. I had an abortion myself when I was 19, and I am so grateful to have been able to make that choice.

Had abortion been legal in 1967, and again in 1969, my mother would probably have aborted both my sister and I, as we were unplanned, un-wanted pregnancies. However, this knowledge has no bearing on my views. My mother's life would definitely have been very different, had she been able to abort us. Would it have been better? Maybe. Maybe not. But she should have had the choice.

halloweenlover said...

Amazing post, Susan. I am always surprised to look back on how my views have changed.

I'm so sorry you came to the realization of being raped (and that it happened, of course), what a terrible memory. I hope that everyone can understand for reasons like those, why we have to keep abortion legal. Hugs.