Monday, April 26, 2010

A Social Struggle

Today I was finishing up The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, which is an absolutely amazing book that everyone should take the time to read.  It was life-changing - and I'm not just saying that.  I finished up the book by reading the "Twenty Years After" essay at the beginning, which talked about her amazing journey after the book, and the revolution (or evolution as she puts it) in women's rights it rekindled.

Women's issues are really becoming a passion of mine.  I made a small list today of issues facing modern women today, such as rape, cervical and breast cancer, unequal pay, the subtle discrimination still present in the workplace, lack of child care services for working women, maternity leave, and decreasing abortion rights.  I think this is something I really want to pursue as part of my career.  I hope I can find a grad school with faculty members who have done research in this area because I think I'm passionate enough about it to want to pursue it for the rest of my life.

Anyway, today I'm going to talk about the issue of abortion.  This is a hot issue today that often  finds its way onto the political platforms of major candidates.  It was hotly debated in the 2008 election and it is a topic some feel so strongly about that they will vote based on this issue alone.

But the point I really want to make today is that this is one of the major dilemmas that face our society today.  As humans, we are faced with the responsibility to protect all life, as well as the responsibility to ensure equal rights for all people, and this is an issue especially for women.

The basis behind the pro-choice position, as I see it, is that women have fought long and hard for rights in a lot of arenas.  One of these is reproduction rights.  We won a great victory with advances in birth control that let us decide when and if we as women wanted to have a child.  Abortion goes along with this because it ensures that women still have that right, even if birth control fails.  Another facet of the pro-choice position is that some women are raped and become pregnant and shouldn't be forced to have the child of their rapist.  Also, when problems arise with the pregnancy that threaten the life of the mother, even abortions in the later months should be allowed to save the mother's life.  Basically, it comes down to whether or not you will force a woman to have a child she doesn't want.

The way pro-life proponents paint the picture of abortion seems a little unfair.  First, though, I do agree that it's not okay to take the life of a fetus for no reason - i.e. that if you are just irresponsible or don't like wearing condoms, that isn't a reason to get an abortion.  Now we have Plan B, so abortions for failed birth control should be less of a problem.  I feel uncomfortable with some arguments about when a fetus is considered human.  I am really not sure what I think about that.  But the current cut-off for abortions at 22 weeks, when a fetus could survive outside of the mother's womb, is being challenged in some states (I read this in USA Today this morning) which want to replace it with 20 weeks, making the argument that the fetuses feel pain.  But a lot of pro-life supporters make it seem like those who consider abortions are murderers who have indiscriminate sex and don't care if they get pregnant because they'll just use abortion as an easy solution.  That is certainly not the case.  It seems that a lot of women who get them feel a certain amount of guilt afterwards - marking a decision they didn't take lightly.  And most abortions are probably used for teenagers, life-threatening complications, rapes, or birth control failure in couples who are not ready to have a baby but are otherwise perfectly able to support one.

I'm sure there's more to both sides, but I think the basic dilemma here is between a woman's choice of when to have a child (as opposed to her complete absence of choice in the past when she just had to deal with being pregnant if her husband wanted to get her pregnant or if she were raped) and a human's right to life.  The decision seems impossible, and I think that it most likely is.  People still get fired up about it, though.  We waste a lot more energy on arguing about it than trying to find solutions to the problem.

I'm sure women who are for abortion or who have gotten one struggle with the implications - are they taking a human life?  And pro-life supporters should struggle with taking away a woman's choice to be pregnant when she wants to be pregnant, and not against her will.  What we need to do as adults is consider each side carefully and thoroughly, putting any opinion-tainting factors on the back-burner in the process.  This is society's problem; something we all deal with as human beings.  So let us consider it peacefully and with the mind to solve it, without all the bickering and divisiveness!  Because it is everyone's problem and everyone's job to try to fix it, without pointing the finger of accusation in the process.

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