pacifist and pro-choice


Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

In honor of Blog for Choice Day, I’m posting an essay that I published in one of my zines a few years ago (2003), about how I felt it wasn’t a contradiction to be a pacifist and to be pro-choice:

I am pacifist and pro-choice, which seems paradoxical to some pacifists. How can someone who sees all violence as wrong and unnecessary nonetheless condone or allow for abortion, which many view as violence towards a fetus?

My views on abortion have been dynamic and ever-changing. My first recollection of having a stance on abortion comes from my high-school years, when I was strongly anti-choice (I refuse to use the term pro-life, as I will explain later). These views I held were uninformed, unfeminist, and unquestioned. I swallowed the dogma of the religious people I surrounded myself with, including Christian bands and a circle of Christian friends. When it came time to write our big research paper my senior year of high school, I set out to prove that abortion was wrong.

However, I stumbled. When searching for evidence, I could hardly find any that wasn’t religious in nature. Although at the time I firmly believed that everyone should believe in God, I knew that some did not, and I was baffled at how to convince an atheist or other non-Christian that abortion was wrong. I could easily prove it was horrific, I felt, because of all the evidence that I had garnered from anti-choice websites describing abortion as something none-too-pleasant to either the woman or the fetus. However, when it came to proving abortion wrong, I couldn’t prove it either way to a non-Christian, and even when it came to using Judeo-Christian evidence, my argument faltered. One religious authority would argue one way; another the opposite. I was in a conundrum. When finished, my paper pretty much argued, “Abortion is wrong and disgusting, but I can’t necessarily prove it, and since morality cannot be legislated, then it should remain legal.“ Due to research and education, I had shifted from a hard-lined moralist to a relativist.

In college, I met and began dating Jessica, a hard-nosed pro-choicer who would have beat up any anti-choice activist had one confronted her. While far from a pacifist, she did teach me and enlighten me, and help me in my progress towards becoming the feminist I am today. I began to see the implications of the religious patriarchy that controlled our society and prevented necessary research and patenting on viable birth control methods. In addition, our society’s children were not being educated about sex and birth control due to the religious qualms of the Right. How were our teenagers supposed to know about birth control when many teenage girls thought that jumping up and down after sex would remove the semen from their bodies and prevent pregnancy?

Abortion is needed because of the religious right’s control of our society – without education and available birth control, unplanned pregnancies will happen. While many feel it is selfish of a girl or woman to choose her life and body over that of the fetus, it is not. Children do not need to be brought up in this world raised by a mother who would resent them for changing their lives. Many women, due to the patriarchal construction of our society, live in poverty, and raising children without proper housing, nutrition, and health care is not wise. The choice of a woman to have an abortion is not a selfish one, but one of great thought and often necessity, and I do not envy any woman who has had or will have to make this decision.

As I left Christianity behind, I no longer viewed abortion as a sin. I began to develop my belief that abortion is something that should not be outlawed, but rather will become unnecessary as our society develops decent education and birth control. I do not know whether I would have an abortion if I were a woman; indeed, it is impossible for any man to truly know the answer to that. However, I do know that I would support any friend or girlfriend of mine in her decision, no matter which way it may be.

A little more than a year ago, I became a pacifist. This was not a transition that happened overnight, but was gradual, from my roots as a Christian in high school, reading Jesus’ words about humility and nonviolence, to my life as a humanist in college. I saw violence as destructive, unnecessary, and cyclical. Violence only begets more violence, I saw. Through meeting of some great new friends, I was able to mature more in the first few months of being a pacifist than I had perhaps in the previous two years.

Abortion again became an issue for me. If I was truly against all violence, shouldn’t I be against violence, through the death or murder, of a fetus? Wasn’t my stance as a pacifist and as a pro-choice feminist paradoxical, I began to wonder. I was at once annoyed by and in praise of signs at our peace rallies that read, “Choose Life.“ I agreed with that sign; choosing life was the answer in Iraq, in our inner-city ghettos, in Africa, and all over the world. However, I feared someone would see that sign and believe that we were also anti-choice, which I did not and still do not equate with pacifism.

As a pacifist, I see greater violence going on in this world than a woman aborting a fetus. While that may be violent, the woman has had greater violence forced upon her by society. As long as we exist in a society where rape occurs, and is often condoned by those who claim that women deserve it, then abortion will be a necessity. As long as we live in a society where fathers and brothers have incestuous relationships with their daughters and sisters, then abortion will be necessary. As long as we live in a society where the dominant culture commits violence towards women and children through lack of proper sex education, removal of access to a varied selection of birth control, the feminization of poverty, and the withholding of adequate health care, then abortion will be necessary.

When any woman can choose to have sex or not have sex with an education and access to birth control, without worrying about the stigma or reputation attached to either decision, then and only then will abortion be unnecessary. When a woman will know that society will help her raise her children, through free and accessible health care and day care and other support systems, will abortion be unnecessary. When the patriarchy of this nation quits trying to control a woman’s mind and body, will a woman be able to lead her life without fear of an unplanned pregnancy.

I mentioned early that I do consider the anti-choice movement or viewpoint as pro-life. Put bluntly, it is not. The anti-choice movement cannot be pro-life when it does not take the mother’s life into consideration, when it does not advocate caring for that unplanned child after its birth. I find it sick and twisted that the same people who want to illegalize abortion also want to curtail welfare and block universal health care. I find it hurtful that these same people block the education of our youth and access to birth control, two of the very things that would drastically reduce the number of abortions performed every year.

So this is how I have come to the conclusion that I can be both a pacifist and pro-choice. Violence towards women, minorities, and children is so great that abortion will continue to be a necessity in our society until these violent acts and ideas are ended. I don’t feel that this article could be complete without a listing of the steps that need to be taken in order to end ideological violence towards these groups:

1. An amendment to the constitution demanding equality for people of all genders (and sexual orientations, although this has less application to the abortion issue). Only when women and sexual minorities have the constitutional backing to demand equality will it be possible to make it happen. Of course, this does not guarantee it, as the amendment offering equality to all races did not make it a reality, but it will be a step in the process.

2. Equal pay for equal work. Women currently make something like 72 cents to the man’s dollar. This is an outrage. Poverty in America is being feminized, that is, a higher and higher proportion of those living in poverty are women and their children.

3. Free socialized child-care. Women are at a disadvantage in our society because men are not expected to raise children. The vast majority of single parents are women, and they are expected to have a job, raise children, and pay for child-care, whereas a nuclear family has either one worker and someone at home to raise the children, or two workers and has a better chance at affording child care than a single mother. Even with this true, it is becoming harder and harder for even a couple to afford child-care. How can a poor woman be expected to raise a child alone and hold a job if she cannot afford to have child-care while she works?

4. Free socialized health care. Health care costs in this country are astronomical. Poor single mothers cannot afford most forms of health insurance or do not have jobs that offer insurance. Even if they do have insurance, the deductibles alone could be too outrageous for a woman to pay. It costs thousands of dollars to go through a pregnancy and give birth; how can someone making a mere $10,000 a year afford to put that much of her income towards health bills? In a society as affluent as ours, universal health care should be a right.

5. Real sex education for both boys and girls. Currently, many children grow up never learning about their bodies or pregnancy. Every child should be aware of their bodies, what is happening to him or her, and the consequences of sex. Every boy and girl should know about pregnancy and birth control. Boys and girls should be educated in the same room, so that “both“ genders are aware of what is happening to each other. In addition to girls knowing about birth control, boys should be aware of this too, so that they are held responsible. Only through education can we decrease the likelihood of unsafe sex and unplanned pregnancies.

6. Free and readily available birth control. Currently, there is a limited variety of birth control on the market, mostly because the religious right halts research and often refuses to allow funding. More reliable alternatives to birth control are needed, because currently if you use a birth control other than hormonal, you are only 97% safe from pregnancy, at the highest. Alternatives to hormonal birth control, which would allow a woman to keep her body natural and safe from medical intrusion, are especially needed. Not only this, but birth control needs to be free and de-stigmatized. A girl should not feel humiliated because she needs birth control. A teenager should be free to get birth control (or an abortion) without her parents’ consent or knowledge. Health insurance currently covers Viagra, which is only used so that men can have sex, but often refuses to cover birth control in any form. A safe, reliable, over-the-counter method of birth control is needed for those who do not have the time or money to visit a doctor can have some readily available.

7. A responsible male population without taking power and ownership of women’s bodies away from them. Men are currently not held accountable for their actions; there are thousands of fathers who are not there for their children or the mothers of their children. I would not argue the old conservative line that every child needs a father, because I completely disagree with this. But if a man impregnates a woman, he obviously failed to take the responsibility for ensuring birth control, and should feel responsible for helping with childrearing or financial support. The burden of raising children is placed solely on the shoulders of too many women.

8. The true equality of all races. Many claim that there should be no abortions because all children can be put up for adoption. This is great for a white baby, who has a greater chance of getting adopted as long as he or she is adopted before becoming too old (older children are less likely to get adopted). But what of minority children, who are not as easily adoptable? If everyone viewed all races as equal, then it wouldn’t matter what race a child was for adoptability. In addition, the equality of races would eliminate the black and Hispanic poverty that fill our inner cities and other areas of this country. When minorities are treated equally as whites and compensated for injustices against them, then poverty will decrease, education will increase, and unplanned pregnancies will decrease in frequency.

I believe that these are eight important necessities in order to make abortion obsolete. Only when violence towards women, minorities, and children ends will unplanned pregnancies fall to a miniscule level and abortions become unnecessary. I haven’t laid out how to go about creating these changes, as that is an extensive process that I probably could not do justice, but I believe that working towards these goals is imperative towards not only the end of abortion, but also the end of violence, inequality, and poverty in this country.

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3 Responses to pacifist and pro-choice

  1. Chileno says:

    Definitely. If we can create a culture of respect toward women and reproductive rights, then abortion can be avoided altogether. It’s such an important struggle. Here in Chile, a supposedly “civilized” nation, the conservatives are on the verge of banning even birth control pills, because they are beholden to the Catholic Church which considers birth control abortive. I’m not against Catholics, but just the sects of Catholicism which try to control the lives of women through public policy in a very abusive, sexist manner.

  2. shona says:

    Neither pro choice or pro life pacifist as I find both stances unethical, first there are mothers who also abandon their children, secondly an unplanned child is the result of both adults equally failing to take proper ethical responsibility. Third I live in a country with free readily available contraception where all children are taught responsibility and I am absolutely sickened by pro choice abuse and denial of their ethical duty to both be fully responsible adults, their sexist attitudes and inability to behave as adults when discussing the termination of a biologically alive potential human. Fourth Under no circumstances should you present as fact anything without proof, where is your proof that people only want to adopt white babies? This in itself is racist.

  3. Michael says:

    I don’t want to spend much time responding to a comment on a ten-year-old blog post (which is really a post of an essay I wrote as an undergraduate) that doesn’t really reflect where I’m at now in my thinking on this, but I do want to respond to your last point: I never said in this post that people only want to adopt white babies. That’s clearly not true. I said that white children have a better chance of getting adopted. From Wikipedia, for example, “Between 2008 and 2009, approximately 2,700 white children were adopted compared to only 410 mixed-race children and only 90 black children in the UK. Approximately 1 in 10 children in care is black and 1 in 9 children in care comes from a racially mixed background. Black, mixed-race and Asian children typically wait to be adopted on average three years longer than white children.” (not comprehensive statistics, but something readily available, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interracial_adoption )

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