HuffPo Live: Hypocrisy from Pro-Life Lawmakers

Last night I was honored to take part in a live roundtable with HuffPost Live’s own Alyona Minkovski. Other invited guests included Benjamin Corey, author of FormerlyFundie.com; Frank Schaeffer, New York Times best-selling author of Crazy for God; and Sheila Bapat, writer for RH Reality Check, an online publication related to all things reproductive health.

The topic of discussion was Hypocrisy from Pro-Life Lawmakers, and many excellent points were raised by the participants, including:

  • On the day Texas executed its 500th prisoner, Texas governor Rick Perry made the statement that, “In Texas, we value all life.” One supposes he means “life only until time of birth.”
  • The House of Representatives recently passed a modified version of the Farm Bill, stripping it of $20 billion dollars in food stamp support (SNAP) while maintaining subsidies for commercial agri-business.
  • Much like the “pro-family” movement which is, at its heart, anti-gay, the “pro-life” movement actually began as a reaction to the feminism movement and sexual promiscuity of the 1960s. This point was raised by Frank Schaeffer, a relgious commentator with almost unparalleled access to information about the founding of the Pro-Life movement.
  • Frank Schaeffer goes on to explain much of the pro-life movement as deliberate political manipulation to divide-and-conquer blue-collar Democrats — many of whom are Catholic or fundamental Protestant — appealing to social sensibilities to get them to vote against their own economic interests.

Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, I was unable to respond to one of Alyona’s excellent questions:

We can talk about this as a political reaction against somebody else’s values, but it has very real life effects on women all across the country, especially a lot of this restrictive abortion legislation that we’ve seen in the last couple of years, in states across the country. […] What’s it like for you, because this is something that can be a very divisive — or is a very divisive [topic] — but can become very heated, especially when you talk to people online about it…?

Had my sound been cooperating, I would have responded:

Legislation restricting abortion access hits very close to home. I see every day how it impacts real people’s lives while I feel that everyone else is simply discussing a hypothetical situation. I couldn’t watch the live stream of what happened in Texas. It was too painful. I was infuriated listening to unqualified people make medical decisions for women they didn’t know but who I knew were very real with very real lives and families.

No one’s opinion or belief on the topic of abortion matters except that of the woman facing this unimaginably difficult decision. My opinion doesn’t matter, your opinion doesn’t matter, nor the opinion of legislators who don’t even know how a Pap smear is done. This is a fight about a woman’s autonomy and I fight every day to protect her from scorn, shame and guilt over what can only be one of the most difficult decisions she will ever face. I fight to protect her free will and her ability to ensure her own health and well-being. Only she can know what is best for her and her family. Pro-life? Yes, I am. I fight every day to protect her life from harmful legislation that is rejected by medical professionals and supported by political zealots.

Further Reading

Universal Truths

It doesn’t matter which side of the abortion debate you are on — or wherever on the spectrum of opinion on the topic you fall — there are a few universal truths that must be noted:

  1. Everyone wants fewer abortions.
  2. Abortions will always be needed.
  3. When abortion care is legal and accessible, it is safe.

Everyone wants fewer abortions.

A woman who finds out she is unexpectedly pregnant faces one of the scariest and most difficult situations of her life. Chances are, she has taken several precautions to prevent having an unplanned pregnancy, yet no birth control method is perfect and remaining abstinent goes against human nature. She must consider every possible consequence of continuing the pregnancy — with or without rearing the child — and of discontinuing the pregnancy, as well. She must consider her current health, her family situation, her financial situation, and many other aspects of her life and the lives of loved ones to decide the best course of action. This is not something she ever wanted to face. She never wanted to consider having an abortion yet, despite having taken all precautions, not everything in this world works out the way we plan. Thus, what I mean by “everyone wants fewer abortions” is that, beginning with the woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy, everyone wants fewer abortions. We must encourage and support comprehensive sexual health education and access to highly effective contraception (see Pregnancy and Birth Control 101) in order to lower the rate of abortion. The importance and benefits of doing so have been shown in a large study out of St. Louis, MO: The CHOICE Project.

Abortions will always be needed.

Mother Nature isn’t perfect. She, too, makes mistakes. When I see a patient experiencing a devastating miscarriage from a desired pregnancy, my heart breaks for her, and I do everything within my power to comfort her. When a pregnancy is desired, that pregnancy is a child riding their bike for the first time, getting on the bus for their first day of school, and going off to college the minute the “+” sign appears on the home pregnancy test. Having a miscarriage and losing a pregnancy can be devastating. When I encounter these women, I generally tell them the following:

This is not your fault, there was nothing you did or did not do to cause this. This is Mother Nature’s way of helping you to have a healthy pregnancy next time.

I explain to her that, when cells multiply and divide such as they do during pregnancy, that it is a very complex process that goes smoothly most of the time. Sometimes, however, something zigs when it should have zagged, and the blueprints are no good. A miscarriage is simply nature’s way of sparing a woman from continuing an abnormal pregnancy for 9 months. That said, Mother Nature is not perfect. She doesn’t always get it right, and an abnormal pregnancy might not result in a miscarriage. Women sometimes receive the devastating news that their pregnancies are abnormal and will not result in a birth of a child that will live long after delivery, or that the fetus may die while she is still pregnant. This is when women need an abortion. Women can become very ill during pregnancy if the pregnancy continues into the second and third trimesters, possibly risking their own lives as well as the well-being of the pregnancy or any future pregnancies. This is also when women need an abortion. Even in a perfect world with perfect birth control that works perfectly every time, history has shown that, whether out of need or desire, women will continue to seek and acquire abortions.

When abortion care is legal and accessible, it is safe.

I will not rehash the entire Gosnell trial here, but for the record, he is not an example of how abortion is or should be performed; he is a monster who is shunned by the entire medical community and should be punished for the atrocities he committed. Anyone desiring to make an example of him to portray how abortion care is provided may as well make an example of Dr. Mengele to portray how all medical researchers conduct scientific research. I will also not recount the horrific tragedies of maternal deaths before abortion became legal in this country in 1974, but you should read about it if you have not already. There is evidence, however, that when abortion is legal and accessible, women are safer. A modern day example of what really happens to women when abortion is illegal can be seen here, courtesy of Al Jazeera: Right to Life.

How do we reduce the need for abortions?

The answer is simple: we must provide pre-teens with comprehensive sex education and provide people of reproductive age with highly effective methods of contraception. We must reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in this country, the percentage of which has been an incredibly high 49% for more than 20 years. When pregnancies are planned, not only are they are primed for being healthy, but they are also much less likely to result in abortion. We must work to ensure that the only abortions are those that are necessary (because Mother Nature cannot be controlled) and that those abortions are legal and accessible, thus making them safe.