Some say that people on the pro-life side in the States are prepared to let women suffer or even die to further their cause. They believe that having adult autonomy includes the right to make a wrong choice, while saying it should be an informed one.
It would be easy, or certainly possible, to take up a kind of directly opposing stance to this, refuting it with other examples, presenting the whole thing as a black and white case. But that would not be an accurate reflection of my feelings. Slogans and rigid positions are not where the deepest truth are to be found on this issue. Abortion is clearly deeply political, and as we try to express in the website, it is understandable that people should champion choice rather than constraint and see women’s access to legal abortion as a vital “right”. Even though I don’t agree with it, I can understand this viewpoint; I can imagine feeling like this myself if… if I did not have some other, deeper sense of what life is about and if I had not lived my own abortions as the most hellish, horrific experience that I could imagine, so that anyone seeking to save me from that would have been a friend, not an oppressor.
I can understand of course why people want legal abortion. But the trouble with legal abortion (without saying that abortion should be made illegal again) is, in my view, two-fold. Firstly, along with its legalisation, the moral judgement of it was reversed, so that we went from a situation in which, as an older friend once commented about her childhood years, “everyone knew abortion was wrong” to one in which it has become morally neutral. And that removal of a natural restraint against doing something that was generally perceived as wrong, or at least as posing a real moral diemma, has led to women and men choosing something without really knowing what it is they are choosing. Because I do believe there are natural laws of life and that in breaking those laws, we are apt to suffer, to experience remorse and regret. This isn’t a judgemental, Old Testament kind of statement – you obey the law or else! – but really just something that I see as pointing to a deeper wisdom about life, a way simply of avoiding unnecessary pain and suffering – of not putting your hand in the fire, if you will. If we could have legalised abortion but kept it as a rare phenomenon, that would be one thing… but of course the floodgates have opened and it has become an almost trivial procedure, with unknown consequences for women’s long-term health, emotional, mental and physical.
The second problem I see is that abortion on demand goes along with an ideological stance that states that women must have free access to abortion as their human right. The right to choose, the right to autonomy, as my correspondent says. And yet who can really choose between one’s child’s life and one’s own? Some can. But for other women, such a choice and the conflicting pressures it emerges from can lead almost to madness. Sophie’s choice… She says that some pro-life groups in the States are prepared to let women suffer and die to promote their cause. This may be the case; certainly some US pro-life groups are extremely off-putting in their tactics and maybe their understanding of just what it is that leads women to abortion. Yet I can also say with certainty that many pro-choice groups or people simply do not care about the suffering experienced by women, and men, after abortion and seem to view it as necessary collateral damage in the goal of readily available abortion. As I said, it’s ultimately futile playing tit for tat – suffering is suffering – and in the end we can only each of us answer the question: what do I believe to be right, to be truthful, and what am I prepared to do about that? My correspondent answered the question one way. I have to answer it another. I do not seek to make abortion illegal, for that is not a realistic aim, but I do seek to alert people to the terrible suffering inherent in that choice for some. It seems to me an act of compassion, not oppression, to put up a warning sign before the cliff edge.