(I spoke yesterday at a pro-choice rally at the capitol. These aren’t the exact words as I left my script early in the talk. But this was what I can remember.)
We’ve had so many pro-choice rallies here at the capital. I’m having a flashback to 1989 when we had a crowd of people that went back onto Congress Avenue as far as the eye could see. I remember sitting by Ann Richards on the stage and thinking that we were on the verge of winning reproductive rights once and for all. But here we are again…
And I was thinking how hysterical men get when anyone tries to put the slightest constraint on weapons in this country. I don’t think our work will be done, until America feels as strongly about protecting a woman’s body against intrusion as it does about protecting a man’s rifle.
But I also understand the prolife attitude because I was raised to have a reverence for life. And, at the same time, I was raised to have patriarchal attitudes toward women’s issues in general. So it was easy for me to leave women’s lives out of the equation and to imagine that pregnancies were happening in a petri dish.
It was only when I began to work as a volunteer at the local Rape Crisis Center that I actually began to listen to women’s stories and to realize that my simplistic view was not only wrong but arrogant, and was a part of the oppression that women faced every day of their lives. I finally realized I could not say I was serious about stopping abuse against women until I was willing to say that a woman’s body belongs to her. She is not common property of men for us to discuss the morality of her most personal decisions.
I will never forget the jolt I felt the first time I looked at a prolife poster and realized that the red “wall” behind the fetus was not a curtain, but the uterus of the woman I was leaving out of the equations.
I still believe there are two lives at stake in a pregnancy, but there is only one person. The woman affected is the only person on heaven or earth who can really say what that pregnancy means. The woman is the context of pregnancy. The pregnancy is not the context of the woman.
I began to notice little things, like the fact that every religious denomination that opposes abortion also believes that women should not be ordained. I began to realize that all the violence surrounding this issue is coming from the prolife side. The only people being bombed and assassinated are pro-choice people, and the violence is being perpetrated in the name of “life.”
Today, I realize that the issue of abortion is complicated and often heartbreaking, but I no longer have any question when it comes to asking who should make the decision. Pregnancy entails two lives, but only one person. That pregnant person not only has the right, but also has the responsibility, to make the decisions that affect the rest of her life and her relationships.
For a woman to decide whether or when to bring another person into the world, is not only right, but a responsibility.
For a woman to refuse to be defined by patriarchy as breeding stock for men, is not only a right but a responsibility.
For women and men to refuse to allow our daughters to be thrust back into the bloody days before abortion was legal and safe, is not only a right, by God, it is a responsibility.