Ever since I became a feminist I have despised, challenged and questioned Oppression – first it was the oppression of women within a patriarchal society. Whether it was exercised in institutions, societal values, figures of authority, the media or individual relationships, women were not getting the respect, the voice, and the equal opportunity to make their own choices, which they more than deserve. I then began to explore and understand oppression through many different lenses, of race, of class, and of sexuality. And no matter what form it took, I realized that the power dynamic that it created left the under-privileged, the subservient, and the exploited party, without CHOICE.
So why couldn’t I see pro-life advocates as oppressive? Why couldn’t I understand the oppression of CHOICE through the lens of abortion, through the eyes of the women who went through this life-changing experience? Although I am still trying to work out this complicated issue in my head, I am so thankful that I was able to walk into Choices, see this clinic in its entirety, and engage with an open mind with a women that is passionate, intense, personal, loving and mindful…Merle Hoffman.
After reading pieces from Merle’s book Intimate Wars and seeing her as a very intense, passionate and enthusiastic activist on behalf of abortion and the clinics that support them…I did not know what to expect from her. I was extremely glad that her responses were personal and purposeful. It made me feel that no matter what our beliefs were, she cared about each one of us in the room, about our choice, supporting us no matter what.
Prior to having the opportunity to visit Choices, and prior to discussing and learning from Merle, abortion was not a topic that I spoke about very much. Not because it made me uncomfortable, or because I didn’t believe that I could engage in a respectful discussion, but I wasn’t sure—myself– where I stood. It was not until we discussed the mutually reinforcing forms of oppression that were all at play in the issue of abortion, and not until Merle made clear the difference between Pro-Choice and Pro-Abortion, that I really understand where my confusion and uncertainty came from. These two beliefs were not the same thing; abortion was DEFINITELY NOT a black and white issue but composed of multiple layers. But most importantly abortion was not even the issue; rather it was a discussion that needed to be expanded to the idea of Reproductive Destiny.
I am Pro-Choice. I believe in having the ability to decide your own future and I live to empower women – Women are limited every day because of their gender. In the workplace, walking down the street, in the classroom, in relationships; economically, socially, politically limited — the list goes on. However, what is most encouraging about reproductive justice is stated by Sister Song, that is, it “represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice (the focus of mainstream organizations) to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.” It is unfortunate that women are even placed into this position of choosing..have a child or terminate a pregnancy, because almost all of the time it was not by their own choice. Whether they must terminate their pregnancy because they are not getting the financial support that they need from their partners, or government, and they have 5 other children at home, or they got pregnant because they were never fully educated on protection and were directed towards using ineffective birth control, or finally – they had been sexually abused, traumatized and raped by a friend, a close family member, or a stranger – this decision is and should be theirs. These situations are never solely women’s choice, and they depict the consequences of the mutually reinforcing forms of oppression that only women must deal with. Women have money taken from them, rights, respect, dignity, power, and equal opportunity— I cannot justify any single one of these things. And I undoubtedly can say that it is NEVER just to take away a woman’s right to choose, to shape her own destiny, to create a better future for herself, her family and even the unborn child.
A piece of me is still Pro-Life. Life is sacred; it is a gift from God. Life is a Miracle. A 24 week old fetus can be born and survive at this point in its development. A 24-week-old fetus can also be aborted. At this point in my life I cannot come to terms, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to understand, 2nd term abortions. If a human life can survive outside of the womb, it is too late to take that life away, at this point I do not believe that there should be a choice, at this point the choice is no longer yours because you have created another being that can survive in this world. This is my exception. People may not agree, people may see it as contradictory but PEOPLE do not decide my beliefs for me. My beliefs and understanding of issues can grow and develop over time and I cannot deny and erase all of my prior values as I obtain new ones. This was the uneasiness that I felt when I listened to Merle speak, when my mindset began to shift, when I questioned my past values…But I can have both, I can believe both.
That is the beauty of freedom of speech, of expression, and of having control over your own thoughts… It is the beauty of CHOICE.