I love children. I love my children. I love the many children I have taught, and my nieces and, in an abstract way, I love all the children I will never meet, and the children we all once were. They see the world through fresh eyes and as they grow they taste and smell and hear the world. Their senses are open, as are their hearts, at least for awhile. And so are their minds. At least for awhile.
I also love life. All the ridiculously perfect things about life, like the smell of fresh basil and a balsam fir tree, the way fresh polish looks on toes, long guitar riffs, the sticky air at the beach, standing next to greatness at the MOMA or touching lips with a loved one. And all the other things I can’t list here. And all the not perfect things – well, I don’t love them, but I love that I am alive to experience them and think about them and accept them or rail against them, as is my wont and my right.
I love that we are alive and have free will and can choose. I can choose to drink decaf in the morning. You can choose to give a tenth of your paycheck to Amnesty International. My son can choose to live in a tent. Your son can choose to shop at Wal-mart. Or not.
We can choose for whom we vote. We can choose not to vote. We can get drunk every day or we can lie down and choose never to make a choice again.
But what I do not get about the abortion debate is that it is always about life or choice. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the kids?
So here’s what I think. Children are invited into life by adults. Because of that, we have a responsibility to them. All of us have a responsibility to all children. Because all children are here at our invitation. Not a party crasher in the bunch. That’s the bottom line. And even IF every adult in the world signed off on free health care and food for all children living in poverty, we could not give them that one ineffable thing they deserve and only one person in the world can give them. To be wanted. We can’t get Congress to sign being wanted into law.
So, okay. Sure. A woman needs to have control over her body. Yeah, she needs to have control over her life. But why is that so important? Well one big reason is so that she is not forced to bring a child into the world that she’s not ready for. Or doesn’t want. Or can’t take care of.
90% of the time, when I hear the talk on the radio, or see the rants in the paper or online, it’s about precious life vs. a woman’s right to choose.
What is so precious about a life that no one wants to take responsibility for? If that life will not be treated as precious, who has the right to insist on it? The very fact that a single life is precious is why those laws are so stupidly blind. The ones that seek to take away a woman’s right to choose to raise a child as it deserves to be raised – or not have it at all.
Remember that George Carlin rant about how the pro-lifers (and I so strenuously object to their calling themselves that) are all about the rights of the fetus but when it’s an actual child, they throw up their hands and say, “Taking care of your unwanted baby is not my problem aka the government’s job.” I mean, George Carlin said it better, but you get the drift. The government can legislate you out of your right to choose to terminate a pregnancy but has no interest in helping you provide for the child once it’s born.
For years I had a sticker on my bumper that read: Pro-child/pro-choice: every child a wanted child. To me that sums it all up.
I know what people say and I am sure it would be true for me too, had my outcome been different. You love all the children you have, previously wanted or otherwise. But I don’t know what it’s like to live in a one room apartment, a single mom with a child I can’t feed, unemployable because I could not finish high school or maybe because I can’t find affordable child care. Does she love her child? Yes. But it is specious in the extreme to say that every woman who has had an abortion is missing something. She is simply carrying out her choice to wait. Until she finishes school. Until she has a job. Until she has a partner. Or whatever it is for her. And maybe her choice is simply not to bear children.
Maybe people who are pro-choice are wary of bringing the child into the conversation. Maybe they don’t want to remind everyone that there is a child at stake. Not just a fetus, but a future child who deserves to be wanted and have the basic rights to love, food and shelter, and also education, healthcare and the chance to get a job one day. But skirting the fact that choice is as much about life as it is about a woman’s body is just artificial. It is about the baby’s life and the mother’s life. And yeah, her body. But pregnancy only lasts 9 months – motherhood lasts a lifetime and no one should be forced to do that job against her will. It is the most important job there is, and a woman brave enough to admit she’s not ready to take it on is all right by me.