Speaking the Truth About the Abortion Debate
By Alicia Colon
October 25, 1999
Originally Published in Staten Island Advance
January 22nd marked the anniversary of Roe V. Wade as the hunt for the killer of the upstate abortion doctor continues. You can expect a rash of columns debating this hot issue but what this columnist will guarantee is that nothing I can possibly write will change anybody's mind about abortion. Instead what I would like to address is the underlying hypocrisy that inevitably infiltrates the debate on both sides.
Labels such as pro-choice or pro-life do not accurately describe the true feelings of the adherents of these positions. The reality is that these labels only literally describe the hard-liners on each side.
The most militant pro-choicers are for abortion-on-demand, up to and including the ninth month, no questions asked. The most fervent pro-lifers do not distinguish between an embryo, a fetus or a baby. Rescuing a fetus from an abortion clinic is the same as saving a toddler from a burning building.
But for that great middle ground in which most of us reside, there are variant emotions that play havoc with our reasoning. We tend to rationalize our decisions according to the situation at hand rather then sticking to solid principles.
NARAL statistics claim that the majority of Americans consider themselves pro choice. Yet, the majority of Americans are also against partial-birth and late-term abortions. To actually advocate a woman's right to control her own body one would have to allow this choice for as long as the fetus is actually in her body, even to the ninth month....in other words, abortion on demand. There is no logic in the argument that after the second trimester a woman's right to choose becomes moot and therefore we can enact laws banning late term abortions. It is still her body and if we believe she has control over her body then by all rights this control should extend throughout her pregnancy.
Yet the image of a nine-month fetus being terminated is abhorrent to many and they cannot accept it easily. The truth that they do not wish to admit is that when a fetus looks like a fish or an alien being, its termination is acceptable but when it looks like a baby they become squeamish. Whether it is two weeks or nine months, however, it is the exact same life with age being the only defining factor.
At the other end of the spectrum, hypocrisy can be less subtle. There have been reported cases of anti-abortion protesters who have picketed angrily and shouted curses at clinic staff and then turned around and sought their services when their teen daughters became pregnant. How easy it is to condemn unplanned pregnancies until they happen to one's own family. Then too, how on earth can one call oneself pro-life and condone the murder of anyone including abortion providers?
I happen to be a practicing Catholic, which means I have no choice when it comes to the issue of abortion. It is a mortal sin, period. I can, however, relate to the emotional turmoil a woman undergoes when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
Four months after giving birth to my third child, I found myself pregnant again. I was still having nightmares about my previous birth ordeal and here I found myself pregnant with my fourth child and my oldest child was not even four years old. I was totally devastated and would stand at the top of the stairs in my home, wondering what would happen to my pregnancy if I threw myself down. I prayed fervently for strength to get through the day without doing something stupid.
That year my mother who had been my sole booster died and my husband lost his job. It was the worst year of my life. Then my daughter, Danielle, was born and believe it or not, she was just what the doctor ordered. She was such a beautiful, delightful, wonderful child that all I had to do was look at her and she lit up my day. Thank God I had no choice because Danielle made it possible for me to get through a very difficult time. But I still remember the anguish and the challenge that this pregnancy presented and I empathize with any woman facing this enormously difficult decision.
A few weeks after the birth of my first child, my husband and I were walking in downtown Manhattan with Evan sleeping in my arms. A woman came up to us and was cooing and carrying on about how adorable the baby was. Then she blurted out in a strange voice, ``I just had an abortion.'' That poor woman was in such emotional pain that she looked haunted. I sincerely hope that these abortion clinics provide some after procedure counseling because abortion is a traumatizing event not simply a medical procedure.
This issue can also be a very polarizing topic. It divides family and political parties but until we can cut through the miasma surrounding our true feelings, we will never come to any resolution. We need to ask ourselves blunt questions about our genuine motives.
Ask yourself: Are you honestly for abortion because you care about freedom of women's rights or because secretly you want that option left open for you in case of emergency? If you are a male, do you support abortion because it releases you from any obligation to the woman or from the prospect of a shotgun wedding? Do you believe that abortion cuts down the birth rate of undesirables?
Are you anti-abortion because you cannot get pregnant and won't have to face that choice or do you really believe in the sanctity of all life? Do you feel more righteous than pro-choicers or will you help in anyway possible to care for their unwanted children? Would you be willing to care for a child even if that child is severely handicapped? If your teenage daughter is raped and becomes pregnant, what would you do?
Why are there more men picketing the clinics than women? Why is it that some women who were once pro-choice change their mind when they become pregnant? Is the fetus a baby only when it's wanted? Can a society in which abortion has become a substitute for birth control lead to a society where it becomes a required instrument of population control, e.g. China's? Can you even imagine a wanted child being forcibly ripped from a womb because society demands it?
Until we can honestly debate the issue further dialogue on abortion is a waste of time.
Alicia's column archives can be found at www.aliciacolon.com
Copyright 1999 by Alicia Colon. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.