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.

Brief Musing & Comment on 2008 Election Post

I get an email every weekday from A.Word.A.Day – I love words and have enjoyed this particular effort. The words each week are based around a theme and the theme for this week of the inauguration of a new President is words used by Barak Obama in his books and speeches. As a preface to the weeks’ words, the website’s author, Anu Garg, wrote this:

Obama is to be commended for his accomplishments. We’ve come a long way in this country. But we still have far to go before we can call ourselves truly unbiased. Real progress will be when any capable person can have a fair chance at winning the highest office, even someone who happens to be, say, a black gay vegan atheist woman.

Anything is possible… but don’t hold your breath.

I watched some inauguration programming on Sunday afternoon and there was a lot coming from black history, again supporting how far they’ve come and what Obama stands for in their minds, hearts and hopes. But Anu Garg reiterates what I was commenting on in my “Reflections on the 2008 Election.”

Reflections on the 2008 Election

The days following the 2008 election have been interesting. Although I knew the black community was pleased and excited that a black man had finally been nominated to run for President and that the polls were strongly in favor of his election, I was unprepared for the emotional response that was so visible on the streets, particularly in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. The sight of Jesse Jackson and others with tears streaming down their faces; in this instance, Oprah doesn’t count – those who have watched her through the years know she does what she refers to as “the ugly cry” over very small touching things. To the black community, this was no small victory; it was huge.

In these days they have recounted their long journey, from the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, through Martin Luther King’s strong leadership with sit-ins and marches and enduring brutality, beatings and bombings, being denied education in our finer educational institutions to finally having a black man be judged, as Martin Luther King hoped, by the content of his character rather than by the color of his skin, and elected to serve as our President for the next four years. We have obviously come a long way – for the black man. But what about the white and black women? We had Hillary Clinton running for President – meaning, to some extent, we’ve come a long way there as well. But really, how far is that?

When facing the choice between voting for a senior citizen, a woman or a black man, the majority of our people chose a black man. Though I know our voting decisions are never black and white – no pun intended – this result makes me wonder what this election really says about us.

In assessing John McCain, his superior experience in leadership was never questioned. What did seem to be questioned was if he had, perhaps, passed his prime. I heard news commentators say things such as, “McCain kept repeating himself as though he had forgotten he’d already said that.” There is no doubt that if, and when, Clinton and Obama repeated themselves, it was either for emphasis or because the same response was, once again, pertinent to the question for them.

I heard commentators saying that John Kerry had been successful with the youth vote by 7% while Obama managed to bring in a 32% higher amount of the youth vote than McCain. The commentators’ suggestion was purely that our young people were drawn to Obama’s platform and message, but I would suggest that a far stronger factor was this country’s obsession with youth. AARP, in their magazine, has to go to an effort to point out and review any movies that show our aging population in any positive light. It is clear from viewing ads in any magazine, except AARP, that the focus of advertising dollars is on young people.

If that’s how it is for a senior citizen candidate, how have and do women fare? At the present time, there are apparently 16 women in the Senate, and 79 in the House. There are currently eight women governors. Historically, there have been 218 women in the United States House of Representatives, 36 of whom were elected as widows to complete their deceased husband’s term. There have been 35 women in the United States Senate since the establishment of that body in 1789, meaning that out of the 1,897 Americans who have served in the United States Senate since that time, 1.85% have been female. Interestingly, the first woman Senator was 87 years old and was appointed when they wanted someone who would NOT be a contender for the general election to complete an unexpired term. Because the Senate was not in session, no one believed she would have any opportunity to actually vote on anything. She served one day between her swearing in and the swearing in of the newly-elected male Senator.

Observing the nation’s responses to both Hillary and Sarah Palin was also interesting. Hillary is an exceedingly strong, even aggressive, woman. Here’s a quote about Hillary from an article for the Washington Monthly by Carl Cannon: “You know the rap: She’s too liberal, too polarizing, a feminist too threatening to male voters. Too much baggage. Too… Clinton. She can’t be elected in a general election; men aren’t willing to vote for a woman like Hillary; women don’t think much of her marriage–or her, for staying in it.”

It is not my intention at this time to discuss Sarah Palin’s true strengths and weaknesses as a candidate, but I would like to address some of the areas pertinent to her being a WOMAN candidate. Where people referred to Hillary as a “ball buster,” Sarah Palin seemed to be viewed as too attractive to be taken seriously. One man I heard say she clearly wasn’t experienced enough to be elected, although he got turned on watching her. And I heard women suggest she should not have even considered running for Vice President since she had five children, one of whom was handicapped. It was quite clear to them she should be a stay-at-home mom with all that on her plate. Let me say, it would never have occurred to anyone to suggest that Joe Biden should have been a stay-at-home Dad following the death of his wife and daughter when his sons clearly needed a hefty dose of ‘mothering’ as they struggled for life and health as well as emotional stability in the aftermath of that tragedy.

Additionally, in an interview on a Baptist university campus, both male and female students were asked what they thought of Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate. They were effusive in their warm response to her; it was clear her principles on abortion and marriage were in line with their own views. But then they were asked, “You would be fine if she ended up being President of our country?” They indicated their agreement with that possibility due to her conservative views. Then the interviewer asked, “Could she be a pastor of your church?” The answer was an absolute, “No way. That would be against the clear teaching of the Bible.”

As a young woman, I felt a strong call of God on my life, but at that time there WAS NO PLACE for a woman to serve (and in the conservative church that is still the case). Women could be wives and mothers and, if they HAD to work, they could work in retail or be a nurse, teacher or secretary, though, of course, their wages would be small because, “the company just can’t afford to take the wage from a MAN responsible for the upkeep of his family.”

I learned as an educated musician that I could be used to lead rehearsals and conduct the choir in the absence of the minister of music, but I could not sit on the platform and I was not permitted to lead the congregational singing. They chose a 17-year-old boy to do that – because, of course, he had the necessary genitalia.

Today, although as Hillary said, she put 18,000,000 cracks in the glass ceiling, that ceiling is still there. A preponderance of both men and women seem unwilling to see and live according to the biblical principle found in Galatians 3:28 that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So in these first days following the election as we watch the black community wiping away their tears of joy that Martin Luther King’s words regarding his dream have been fulfilled, women are still waiting for the fulfillment of Susan B. Anthony’s words when she said, “The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation.”

I can only add with a sad hopefulness, “that day will come … that day will come.”