Monday, June 27th, 2022
Over the course of the weekend following the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a decision that overturned precedents in both Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), I was frustrated with the pro-choice emotionally charged response. Its not that I didn't understand it or sympathize with their anger, its that it followed the same counterproductive blueprint that has divided us all on this issue. So when I posted some quick thoughts about the ruling, instant blowback was the only thing I received. I'll explain myself and my intent here, but also reflect on where we are and why this is such a difficult issue.
First of all, no one should be surprised with this decision, especially after the leak of the draft opinion. It should go without saying that any protest must remain peaceful and cooler heads need prevail while demonstrations occur. Regardless of your stance on this issue, we have to strive for a better relationship with those who we disagree. Violence, calls for government overthrow, etc. aren't how we should be solving our problems.
That doesn't mean those who support pro-choice can't be mad. Be mad! Be mad and manifest that anger and passion into a productive plan at the grassroots level. Especially with Roe overturned and the regulation of abortion rights now in the hands of the states, local elections mean more than ever.
What About What I've Said Makes Me a Target?
In an attempt to rationalize the court's ruling and call for a tamped down reaction, I seem to have came across as cold. I think those who know me know where my heart is and where my intentions lie. But that fueled my frustrations more, and I took too much to heart the loud noises being uttered on the internet. I made the following post:
Posting this emerged from seeing people online call for cancelling the 4th of July, abolishing the Supreme Court, burning flags in the streets etc. As someone who largely aligns with a woman's right to an abortion, it infuriates me to see the pro-choice movement's tactics be so irrational. But then I realized I was just throwing salt in a wound.
In my mind I liken this to teenage love. When a boyfriend or girlfriend where to be broken up with at that young age, it really does sting and feels like your world is ending. What doesn't help is for a parent to tell them "oh hush, there are children starving in Ethiopia, you're fine". When dealing with emotional distress, you have to validate the person's feelings before continuing forward. Meet them where they are and let time help them take the deep breaths needed. Listen to one another and work towards a peaceful goal of understanding.
Regardless of why people may feel the overturning of Roe is as existential as it is, they do. There is no question this is a massive shift in the law and the debate has intensified. I've been called all the names, been told to shut up, and I understand that this wasn't received with warm welcome.
My point was meant to be a call for civility and that understanding all sides of this issue is of utmost importance. There is no question that perspective would help how we interact with each other, but we aren't there and my attempt was an ill-thought out Facebook post that did no good. I recognize that this was ill-timed and as I type this I still am getting lots of hate for it.
Let me be clear though
I myself align more closely with pro choice, have a record of voting for the people that want to do the right thing for women's healthcare, advocate for for better handling of mental health, healthcare reform, etc. But it felt like the minute I criticized tactics or what I considered to be irrational and emotional reactions, I was immediately lumped in with "the enemy" and that my thoughts meant nothing as I've never been in a position to have a stake in this game. And as much as I resent the idea that I'm not allowed to opine on a subject because of who I am or what experiences I have or don't have... I understand the argument.
But allies are allies, and criticism with the intent of making arguments more refined and robust should be welcome. With any issue, the loud minority online who make the most outlandish statements are the views that dominate the culture. We cannot allow that to derail honest conversation.
But We face a partisan problem
I am in no way trying to sound self-righteous, but the following needs to be acknowledged. The Republican party, along with many of its faithful constituents, has labeled abortion as murder, and that life begins at conception. This doesn't make them bad, evil people in the same way that those who are pro-choice are not bad or evil. Differences in worldview doesn't inherently mean there wouldn't be support for a more in depth discussion about how and when abortions should be handled. E.g. rape and incest, health of the mother, etc.
Our elected officials have made sure to take advantage of our divisions and have failed to facilitate nuanced conversations and debates on this important social issue. Both sides have perpetuated the bad faith arguments. Recognize the officials who you may have thrown worship level support behind, because of their eloquent TikTok length talking points, are extremely narcissistic and corrupt and purely self interested.
Hold them to account with your power at the ballot box and make your voices heard through peaceful protests!
But understand that rhetoric matters, and could be self defeating. Treating the overturning of Roe as the end of the world and allowing the loud TikTok and Twitter voices to control the narrative with videos of screaming in the streets claiming America is oppressive only further pushes away the people who need the education and nuance surrounding this issue. Do the vast majority of Republicans really believe that a 14 year old girl should be forced to bring a child to term from the result of rape or incest? Do Democrats really believe that it is morally justified for women to abort their pregnancy near the 9 month mark?
If polling is accurate, the vast majority of Americans are on the same page and believe in at least allowing abortions for rape and incest and for obvious medical issues as dictated by a medical professional. But these situations get lost in the hyper-partisan attacks.
I saw the following image posted on Facebook, and I think it poignantly sums up the disconnect when discussing abortions.
The Republicans often fear monger and make it seem as if those who are pro-choice are eager to get abortions everyday just because. That is a complete farce. As if women are just interested in killing babies for fun. It's disingenuous and gross to assert that.
However, the above sentiment needs be better communicated from the left, because I am fairly certain that everyone would agree using abortion as a willy-nilly replacement of contraception isn't responsible, and that responsibility should take place prior to the needing of an abortion of such nature. This harkens back to my previous blog on Roe where I stated the following:
What we need is a more robust sexual education in this country. One that doesn't teach abstinence only, but one that explains to young adults where and how to make responsible decisions. Creating better character with values that reflect the proper raising of children could prevent the amount of teen pregnancies, and therefore lessen the number of abortions in those cases.
Banning things outright has never boded well for us. It often creates an unsafe black market that risks more lives than it intends to save. Our culture needs to address the abortion issue from a place of compassion and understanding, while providing women the adequate healthcare they deserve.
We can debate the ethics of abortions for the rest of time, but no political figure has been brave enough to wade into the actual conversation. We've been left to partisan and religious talking points and have severely devolved into finger pointing rather than good faith arguments on the issue.
Is Abortion a Constitutional Right?
Since the modern debate on this started, I have been consistent: the constitution doesn’t protect the right to an abortion. It just doesn't include any language regarding this topic whatsoever. What do we do with topics not expressly discussed in the constitution? We defer to the 10th Amendment:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The constitution provides government the duty to protect life, liberty, and property. So the challenge here is defining what constitutes a life. "Where does life begin" has been the widely contested question, and I'm not confident in my opinion on it. I personally have been a fan of the viability argument that states a fetus is likely viable outside of the womb at around 25 weeks, but that gets dicey. Many pro-choicers ineloquently equate a fetus to a parasite prior to that period as the fetus cannot live without it's host. But does the potential for human life matter for legal definitions?
I think we need a clear and agreed upon medical definition of "human life" rather than suits in Washington D.C. making politically or religiously charged legislation.
Now, I need it to be understood that what I just stated above doesn't reflect my personal opinion on a woman's right to an abortion. Its simply the legal interpretation and explanation of how the Supreme Court approached this. In technicality, I agree with the court's decision. That doesn't mean I am against federal or state protections, or at the very least a further more nuanced discussion of how to handle abortion rights. This is what democracy is for. It comes down to who we elect and what they do while in office.
However, we are so far into this rabbit hole of extreme partisan division that we seem to be incapable of seeing the bigger cultural problems. Neither party has made an honest attempt to heal the conversation on this issue. In fact both have used it as a fundraiser for their campaigns. "If you don't donate to a Republican, the Democrats will kill babies!", "If you don't vote for a Democrat, the Republicans will control women's bodies!"
Those extreme sides within this discussion are the culprits to our unproductive nature. Abortion is probably the most nuance and education deprived topic, which makes it all the more important to do our best in pocketing emotionally charged reactions and make an honest effort to understand the other side, meeting them where they are at. Otherwise we get nowhere, and its a constant shouting match.
So Where Do I Personally Stand...?
I've said repeatedly that I find the labels of "pro-choice or life" to be constraining. And when you label your beliefs as such, people on other ends of the spectrum assume things that may be untrue about how you view abortion. This issue craves nuance.
I’ve always wanted the issue of abortion out of the federal government’s hands. Medical professionals need to be at the table and states need to work with them in word-smithing the proper language to enshrine specific situations and caveats such as ectopic pregnancies, still births, health of mother, etc. I won't list EVERY medical circumstance where abortion could be needed - but they are real and they need be addressed if/when legislation in on the table. Federally or locally.
An abortion is a medical procedure I would prefer to leave to medical professionals. Women should be free to consult with their doctors and decide their best course of action. That being said, abortions should not be a form a birth control used willy-nilly for those who irresponsibly failed to understand the consequences of sex.
I truly believe that this issue, and the choice, should be between a woman and her doctor. Not congress or government.
If you’re upset with the ruling, don’t be mad at the Supreme Court. Be mad at the representatives you’ve elected who have failed to codify abortion rights. The regulation of abortion is now put back to the people and their representatives in each state. A legal standpoint Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself agreed with citing Roe v. Wade’s weak standing.
If you don’t like that or if your state has a law that isn’t what you think is right? Fine. Vote. And then hold officials accountable when they don’t follow through on campaign promises. That goes to both sides of the aisle. Agreeing with this legal decision is not the same as agreeing or not agreeing with abortion itself.
The cultural shift in caring more about federal politics than local politics will be our undoing. It gives more and more credence to corruption via campaign finance. Solutions outside of federal policies are impossible to argue nowadays because people are so sucked into the celebrity of the president and congress. People want the federal government to handle everything, failing to recognize they hold more power at the local and state levels. State laws are much easier to change than federal and this may even be a blessing in disguise in the long run for those who desire abortion rights be legally protected.
Regardless, this issue needs to be met with sensitivity and compassion with an honest attempt at understanding the other side. Republicans and Democrats/Pro-life vs Pro-choice - we cannot continue to label each other as inherently evil due to our stance on a subject requires nuance and discussion. You have every right to be upset with the outcome of Dobbs, but recognize the work needed to be done so your anger isn't falling on deaf ears or causing eyes to roll.
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