Sometimes I come across a topic I want to know more about and start reading everything I can get my hands on. One recent interest was abortion providers. I wanted to learn why someone would choose this line of work given the violence and persecution they face. I first read Suzanne P. Poppema's book Why I Am an Abortion Doctor, followed by Susan Wicklund's book This Common Secret: My Journey As an Abortion Doctor. The writing in both books was so-so, but the stories were gripping. During my searching I also read a lecture by Dr. Garson Romalis, also titled Why I am an Abortion Doctor. I just finished the book Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us by Carol Joffe and am still wanting to read more.
I have to say that the more I read about abortion debates in North America, the more incensed I become at the whole mess. In the past, I'd never strongly identified with either of the two ideological camps. I had understood abortion as a morally complex issue laden with shades of gray. It wasn't something I would have chosen for an unintended pregnancy after consensual sex (I've never been in that situation, so it's easier said than done), but definitely something I would have considered for other situations--rape, incest, threats to my health, etc. I've never felt that abortion should be illegal or inaccessible. There are so many reasons, so many situations, that bring women to that decision and I find it incredibly arrogant that some people want to take away that option across the board. Abortion won't go away simply by being illegal or inaccessible.
As I've been reading more, I find my feelings intensifying. I dislike how both pro-life and pro-choice rhetoric victimizes women: Pro-life groups portray women as victims of their abortions ("abortions hurt women"); pro-choice groups portray women as victims of their pregnancies and of the lack of access to abortion. Is there a way to talk about abortion without casting women as victims?
The hypocrisy of many pro-life arguments, which glorify motherhood (by wishing all women to become mothers, however unwilling) yet do nothing to actually support mothers or babies, incenses me. I'd much rather see that energy focused towards helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies; securing universal health care, paid maternity/paternity leave, affordable quality childcare, and flexible work arrangements; and ensuring that all babies are wanted and that women can become mothers willingly and joyfully. That is pro-life. Not the hateful rhetoric that values an embryo more than the woman whose body carries it.
Overall, I find the North American obsession with abortion puzzling and troubling. It distracts people from more pressing issues. It's focused on symptoms, not on underlying problems. It's like nit-picking over whether or not a bandaid is the right shape while the patient is hemorrhaging to death.
Iknow that discussing abortion will bring out the crazies, but I had to get this out. I cherish my children and my babies. I love being pregnant and giving birth. I also want abortion to be safe, legal, accessible, and, ideally, rare*--not because I don't value life, but because I value it so highly.
I remember reading a book during my graduate student years by a sociologist (or maybe anthropologist?) who spent time with both pro-choice and pro-life groups and explained the worldviews and values of both camps. I can't remember the title but it was really interesting. Any more recommend readings on this topic?
Note to commenters: Keep it civil and on-topic otherwise I will employ the Almighty Delete Button.
* Dr. Wicklund mentioned that, ironically, one goal of abortion providers is to work themselves out of their job by helping women avoid unwanted/unplanned pregnancies in the first place. But the challenges are immense: lack of access to health care and contraception, partner sabotage of birth control (including threats of violence for using birth control), our hyper-sexualized yet hyper-prudish culture, etc.