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So earlier this month I posted about how I wanted to write an article for my school paper about pro-life/pro-choice ideology and about how I was worried about the potential backlash (and thanks to everyone for supportive comments!). Well, I'm happy to report that the feedback has been pretty positive--teachers have complimented me on it (even a religion teacher!) and my classmates and friends were totally chill about it (one of the diehard pro-life friends even liked it). So it's been about two weeks and nothing's happened, so I think I got lulled into a false sense of security, which is why what happened today pissed me off as much as it did.

The Campus Ministry director at school--the head of the religion department, basically--sent a rather inflammatory e-mail to my journalism club advisor, outlining point-by-point her problems with it and setting up a meeting after school on Friday to discuss them, with the aim of printing a correction or retraction in our next issue. Which would be fine, because I've no problem if she honestly disagree; but her e-mail doesn't argue my article--she's arguing with some straw[livejournal.com profile] lastnightblues . And I think she kind of proves my point for me. Anyway, I'm posting the article beneath the cut, with her valid criticisms.

 

"A Culture of Life: How a Pro-Life Movement Can Work With a Pro-Choice President

 

“Pro-life” and “pro-choice”—two of the most contentious words in American culture. Certainly they are two words that played an integral role in 2008’s presidential election, two words that can bitterly and instantly divide a room.

 

And now, after eight years of an adamantly pro-life president, America has elected an equally adamant pro-choice president, and the pro-life community waits in fear of what the new administration will bring. Yet it is this reporter’s opinion that abortion policy and all the legislation raised by it—FOCA, or even Roe v. Wade itself—do not matter to the issue of abortion as much as many assume.

 

The far-right edge of the pro-life movement will never understand the far-left edge of the pro-choice movement and vice versa, and at the heart of this detachment lies a decades-old dissonance—each side is having a different conversation. Where pro-lifers are in the midst of a mission of near cosmic proportions for unborn life, pro-choicers are in a knockdown, drag-out brawl for hard fought rights and protections. Each can argue silence and suppression; each has its own moral and ethical appeal. The problem is that each side believes that it is having the same discussion with the other when neither is, and that disconnect in dialogue fuels the debate’s political enmity.

 

But those are the extremes. America, for the most part, is a nation in the middle, a nation of gray area, and in the end, abortion will not be a battle of hard line ideology but one of hard truth. And that truth is that innumerable abortions were performed yearly long before Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade, in terms of ending abortion, is a red herring. It—and most other abortion legislation—is not, never has been, and never will be the point. The point is that forty percent of American women will have an abortion in their lifetimes. The point is that that number is far too high, and the point is that that number has very little to do with Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court, or even our elected officials.

 

If forty percent of American women feel that they had no choice but to terminate their pregnancies, then we have a problem far beyond legalization. We have a problem of circumstance, of inevitability. How many women with a minimum-wage job and two kids to support make up that forty percent? How many single women with two jobs and no daycare options? How many of that forty percent are among the forty-seven million Americans with no conceivable healthcare opportunities for themselves or their children?

The problem is not Roe. The problem is every woman who cannot afford to miss work for morning sickness and get fired, every family with no recourse for healthcare coverage for their children, every teenager who becomes pregnant because she does not understand how not to. The problem is ours.

 

If we as Americans want to create a true “culture of life,” we must create a society built on mutual responsibility and respect for that life and recognize the hard social and economic truths that lie at base of the issue. We have to overcome bitter backbiting on both sides—such as the Mexico City Policy, reenacted by President Bush in 2001 and repealed by President Obama in January. The Mexico City Policy, also called the global gag rule, restricted funding to any international organizations that merely mentioned abortion. The problem there is that funding was also cut off for those organizations to provide pre- and post-natal care, basic healthcare, and, most importantly, family planning resources. Abortion rates subsequently went up in these areas, as did death rates for young mothers and babies.

If the pro-life movement wants to end abortion, then these are the problems on which it needs to work with the new administration. None of us lives in a vacuum. If forty percent of American women felt abortion was their only choice, then that sense of desperation cannot be ignored, dismissed, or discussed as an abstraction. Even adoption is not always an option—how does a waitress hold onto her job if she has to miss work every other day, and how does a woman with heart problems and no healthcare safely carry a baby to term? To create a culture of life we must create a culture that can care for life, where women living beneath the poverty line have viable options for childcare, where expectant mothers have healthcare fallbacks, where young women are not patronized but taught responsibly about how to care for themselves.      

 

This will not be an easy battle, nor is it a cure-all, and the two hard-line ideologies will most likely never reconcile. But for pro-life Americans committed to ending abortion no matter who is in office, the chance lies in wait. Let us not allow it to slip through our fingers; let us move forward hand-in-hand."

~~~

She mentions the fact that the Mexico City Policy allows abortions performed in rape, incest, or medical emergency cases, which is fair; I should've said "promotes abortion," although I suppose I could argue that allowing abortion is not the same as offering it as an option to women. Either way, it is semantically arguable.

The other valid point I think she made was that some Americans without healthcare are young, single men who don't have healthcare because they're healthy and would rather keep the money. Which is true, of course. Not particularly the point, but true. She's right there.

Beyond that, though, she argues with me on points I didn't make, like that I said my high school patronizes women (which I didn't say, because I don't believe it does, with a few exceptions). Or that I shouldn't have said, "If the pro-life movement wants to end abortion, then these are the problems...etc.," that I should've said, "If the pro-choice movement wants what is best for the health of women, they would have worked with the previous administration to keep proper safe guards [sic] in place and provide for follow-up visits to the doctors who perform abortions" (which I didn't say because, if I had, I would've called the article 'How a Pro-Choice Movement Can Work With a Pro-Life President' and I would've written it eight years ago).

My favorite part goes, "The tone of the article gives an impression that it is okay to be pro-choice and makes it more challenging to teach the doctrinal beliefs of the Church on this issue." Because if I somehow made her job harder by presenting a view that wasn't based on some evil caricature, I don't really feel bad about it. If she now has to give a more thought-out answer to her students, if she has to base arguments on the fact that not every non-pro-life person is morally, intellectually, or ethically confused, then wouldn't her argument be the better for it?

My only worry is that my advisor will get in trouble or that our fledging little paper will suffer, but I don't think either will happen; I made a point of running the article by the highest administrative official at school and he approved it (and actually started in on a rant about how the abortion rate went down during Clinton's administration. Did I mention I love this guy?), so she doesn't have much wiggle room.

The sad thing, though, is that this is a woman I did have respect for, and it bothers me that she went about this in a way that showed me and my advisor very little respect. We'll see how it goes on Friday!

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June 2009

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