I’ve had four reactions to the column I wrote and published regarding my feelings about the anti-abortion legislation being considered by North Dakota’s legislative body. Most readers have not commented at all. That doesn’t surprise me. A few people have told me I was courageous to make my feelings and experience public. One brave reader respectfully refuted my opinion in a letter to the editor. Other acquaintances have stopped speaking to me and have avoided me when I have run into them. Maybe I’m being defensive because I think I know what they think about the issue of abortion and I’m projecting my own discomfort on them. I could convince myself of that the first time it happened, but the second time, I couldn’t make that reasoning hold.
There is no doubt that abortion is an emotional issue. I thought I was clear at the beginning of my previous article that the issue was an especially emotional one for me considering my painful and potentially life-threatening experience. I also acknowledged that at least one of the bills being considered probably would allow the ending of an ectopic pregnancy. Such an exception was, however, made conditional upon a “reasonable diagnosis.” The lack of specifying who would define what constitutes a “reasonable diagnosis” makes me uncomfortable. Many anti-abortion groups, and some politicians, maintain that even ectopic pregnancies need not be aborted to save the life of the mother. How long before the extreme positions of these groups also become law? An absolute ban on abortions was the law in Italy when I ended my pregnancy and women died because there were no exceptions granted. I admit there are gaps in the consistency of my logic on the issue. For me it is extremely emotional.
I also understand that it is an emotional issue for people who disagree with me. My friends who oppose abortions are kind, caring people who are very sincere in what they believe to be right. Some come to their understanding of the sanctity of life from their religious beliefs. I respect them for standing up for what they believe. Some are especially emotional because of their own experiences with child birth and issues of fertility. I understand those issues as well. Losing one of your fallopian tubes to an ectopic pregnancy does not increase your chances of having babies. I know how lucky I am to have given birth to two beautiful daughters.
Some of the comments following Governor Dalrymple’s signing of the anti-abortion laws recently passed by the legislature were very upsetting. Individuals on both sides have made statements that are mean and uncompromising. Both sides have referred to “winners and losers.” Putting this issue in such terms, the words used to describe the opponents in a basketball game, diminishes the issue. This is not a game. This is not some sort of contest. These laws affect women’s lives, babies’ lives and the health and well being of both.
I object to being labeled “pro-abortion.” Supporting a woman’s right to choose what is right for her and for her health does not mean I think an abortion is always the right choice. I obviously made the choice to have two children. Abortion should not be used instead of birth control. I find it hard to believe that any woman would chose to have such an invasive procedure over using other forms of contraception. I don’t believe abortions should have no regulation or restrictions. Even Roe versus Wade does not give women the right to abortions at all points in a pregnancy. What I do believe is that it is not my right to tell someone else what is right for them. This is a medical and a moral decision, not one that should be made for others by those sitting comfortably in the state legislature.
There are politicians who say they are on the side of ending abortions, but vote consistently against programs that would support mothers and children. Many of these same legislators vote against programs to fund adoption services, to provide health care to children and pregnant women and to feed children. There are people who claim to be “pro-life” but disparage efforts to protect the environment and to reduce the pollutants that put our children’s lives and health at risk. There are those who would never end the life of an unborn child, but ridicule efforts to slow global warming for future generations’ benefit. Do we not also need to protect the life of the rest of God’s creation? Once a child is born, does their well-being come second to economics and political dogma?
Yes, there are inconsistencies in the arguments on both sides of the issue. Yes, there honest, sincere Christians on both sides of the argument. Yes, we all think we are right. There are people who are “pro-life” on both sides of the debate, and there are extremes of both positions. Neither side should condone violence against the other side. Death threats against anti-abortion legislators and the shooting of medical professionals who provide abortions should be condemned by everyone and recognized for what they are. They are the misguided actions of a radical few.
This issue is not about winners and losers. Compromising and trying to understand the position taken by others is not a failure to stand up for what you believe. Ethical decisions are never simple. None of us are totally rational and objective about what we believe to be true. Nothing is gained by name calling or threats of violence.
I’m sad if my position on this one issue makes anyone so uncomfortable they can’t speak to me.
Copyright © 2013 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains