Black and White Thinking

I read a Point (liberal) and Counterpoint (conservative) opinion page in the Oklahoma Gazette on pro-choice versus pro-life. The liberal viewpoint was written by a philosophy professor whose main point was that it’s a “black and white” issue with no gray areas – all women deserve the right to make their own decision about their own body and health care must provide that for all. The counterpoint was written by an attorney.

As a woman who was raised during the time when a woman who chose to get an abortion likely had to choose either a back alley abortion or some person with a clothes hanger, I believe women who KNOWINGLY choose to have an abortion should be able to have it done by a physician under optimal conditions and it should be available to more than just moneyed women.

However, I also believe that referring to this huge issue as a “black and white” issue without areas of gray is to be oblivious to all the consequences of that choice.

At the very least, I would suggest that a baby [know that no woman who’s sharing the first ultrasound photo or video of her as yet unborn baby walks up to a friend and says, ‘look at my fetus’ – to that mother, it’s a baby] should also have some rights as to the decisions regarding its own body – when a woman claims the right to control the health issues of her own body, there still needs to be someone standing up for that baby’s rights to choose the health issues of its own body.

When I went to the doctor in 1976 feeling extreme discomfort every day in my stomach, I was fearful of cancer or any number of unknown and possibly tragic possibilities. When I arrived they sent me to the restroom with a cup to provide a urine specimen and then out to sit in the waiting room until I was called for my appointment. It wasn’t long before the doctor’s assistant called me back for my appointment, or so I thought. We walked into her office instead of an examination room and she said, “Congratulations, Mrs. Brown. You’re pregnant. Do you wish to carry the baby to full term?”

I could not have been more surprised by any of her words. It had been 15 years since I’d been pregnant and we had hoped for many years to have more children but my husband had an almost 0 sperm count, which the doctors said was deteriorating, so pregnancy was not even on my radar screen when I viewed the possibilities of my stomach distress. But to go from ‘congratulations’ to ‘do you wish to have the baby’ was a giant leap I would never have expected.

Because those words came from my respected physician’s staff, I assumed there must be a problem with the pregnancy. I actually weighed those words and worried about my decision to continue with the pregnancy throughout the remainder of the term. My son, David, is a wonderful young man, a blessing and delight to my heart and his son, Aaron, is equally wonderful. I am so grateful that my value system allowed me to choose to walk through the pregnancy instead of around it.

I wonder how many wonderful children have been robbed of life because of the fear of a mother that she would not be able to meet the present and future obligations of a pregnancy. How many brilliant minds, fabulous musicians and artists, gifted orators or even how many grandchildren have been lost because of our fears and our insistence on instant gratification. Statisticians are saying MILLIONS of babies have been aborted since Roe vs. Wade.

Another area that is not black and white to me is that some of these women make the choice to abort without adequate preparation and counseling and spend much of the remainder of their lives in emotional agony over their choice. I believe that if a woman has looked at EVERY option as calmly as possible and with personal intelligence plus supportive and encouraging professionals to guide her in her decision and still opts to have an abortion, the medical community should offer her a proper medical environment in which to do so. We should definitely be out of dark alleys with women risking death, dismemberment or the inability to conceive or have a pregnancy at another time in order to avoid the consequences of a current pregnancy. But, in my opinion, a world in which killing babies becomes a method of birth control should be unacceptable to everyone; one of the old sayings I grew up with was, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – probably never more true than in the case of pregnancy.

Living in the Bible belt is also not an area of black and white to me where too many religious groups have stopped adequate sex education in schools so that our young people are inadequately prepared to meet the sexual encounters they experience. Our rate of teen pregnancy in Oklahoma is one of the highest in the nation. In fact, unwanted pregnancies in divorced women are equally high – presumably because it would be unseemly to be prepared ahead of time for such an encounter, so women are willing to risk pregnancy rather than to seem immoral by planning ahead. Living in a time where a substantial number of teenagers are sexually active before high school is over is not a time to put our heads in the sand and hide information from them that could protect them from not only unwanted pregnancies but sexually transmitted diseases as well.

And speaking of hiding information, we have people in this city who try to inhibit our libraries from providing information on sex education. They want any books with any reference to sex in them to be placed on shelves that are too high for short bodies or behind the check-out desks so they can’t be seen by our youth. They also want the libraries to allow parents the right to see any books their children may have checked out – in case some of them decide to fend for themselves. They have written editorials and scheduled interviews with reporters to express their views that the library carries pornographic materials available to children. When I saw a newspaper article that listed some of the books they were claiming were explicit in their sexual depictions, I wanted to see for myself if my library system was guilty as charged. When I didn’t find the materials I was looking for, I asked one of the librarians about the materials; I was told they were unavailable because the people who were fighting the library had actually removed some of them from the library. I did manage to find and check out a couple of the books and reviewed them myself; I found them to be clear, unbiased, sane, educational accounts of sexuality. I handed them to my son, who was about 16 or 17 at the time, and one of his friends to get their opinion. I explained the news reports of pornographic materials in the library and waited for their response. It was quite funny and revealing. They each quickly and, obviously hopefully, flipped through the pages and then handed the books back to me with the comment, “where are the pictures.” These were, in fact, textbooks.

Whatever else the prolife/prochoice situation is, it isn’t black and white and we need to be willing as a democratic nation to address all of the ramifications of this complex issue in order to come to a rational public policy to deal with the physical, emotional, spiritual, familial and financial consequences of unplanned pregnancies.

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