This is a guest post by Raven Ashley. She can be reached at Ravenashleywrites@gmail.com. Great read and a fresh voice on factors that influence the design of community and self.
The inspiration for me to even pick up a pen (okay, my Macbook) and write this opinion piece is the cornerstone of why I am Pro-Choice, put another way, why I am pro abundant life. I could tell you this piece was derived out of years of protest and support for the right of choice. I could tell you this piece was inspired by the sincere disdain I have for political parties who support a cesspool of misogynistic malarkey some of its members represent by actually attempting to define the levels of rape; because, well, we all know that “legitimate forcible rape” is the only kind of real rape. Right? Riiiiiight. However, if I told you that, I would be lying. This piece is inspired by Jasmine.
As a nearly lifelong resident of the south side of Chicago, I am often exposed to the full gambit of what this side of the city has to offer: comedic genius, heartbreaking despair, familiar peculiarity, altruistic motivation, pessimistic stances, hopeful ideals, unabated success, depressing defeat, defiant triumph, soaring confidence, unabashed ingenuity, and everything in between. This past August, while sitting in front of my home in my car, I witnessed heartbreaking despair.
After a long day at work, I pulled in front of my home and just rested. I stopped at the grocery store before coming home and I was mentally preparing to trek up three flights of stairs with my workbag, purse, gym bag, and grocery bags (talk about bag lady!). As I sat with the windows down, two girls, no older than 16, walked and talked. While I obviously did not hear their entire conversation, I heard enough. With a terrified look, I heard one of the girls say, “But, I’m not ready. I made a mistake.” As the girl rubbed her stomach, she declared in a stern staccato rhythm, “I. Am. Not. Ready.” To this serious affirmation, her walking partner (and de facto reality check) responded, “Jasmine, you ain’t got a choice. The baby will be here before you know it.” And with that, the girls had passed my earshot and I became mentally paralyzed: frozen in a moment of anger, concern, and sheer fear.
I did not know these girls and it is likely I will never see their faces again. Nevertheless, in that moment, I wanted to grab them both and let them know, YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE. But, I did not. I sat in the car and I prayed. I prayed for clarity and preparedness for Jasmine, her family, the father, and his family. I wish I had done more, but I am not sure what was my rightful place to do beyond put forward earnest prayer for her.
Admittedly, abortion is not ideal. Ideally, abortion would not be necessary as women would not be subjected to rape and only persons physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially prepared would bring children into the world. Ideally. But here, in reality, women are raped (the ambiguity of the term sexual assault is a patriarch’s attempt at softening the harshness of what rape entails—please excuse my decision to call a spade, a vile spade) and people who are totally ill prepared (in all aspects) to have children get pregnant and then what?
I am sure it makes everyone feel warm and cozy at night to think that unprepared parents, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, make the necessary sacrifices, and raise amazing children in fantastic environments. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. For the small portion of unprepared parents who are able to allow the blessing of a child to catapult them into magnificent parents, I am thankful for them, their experience, and their ability to excel in spite of challenges. However, my concern lies with masses who, for whatever reason(s), are not equipped nor prepared to raise a child into abundant life. What happens when an ill prepared person brings a child into this world? Why is it okay to force an unborn being into a potential life of poverty, educational ignorance, and overall hardship? That is why I am pro-choice: rather, pro abundant life.
No individual wants to bring a child into the world where they cannot give that child the basics. When I reference, ‘the basics,’ I am reaching beyond the baseline food and shelter requirements. I am speaking of purposeful nurturing, in-depth teaching, varied life experiences, a caring familial atmosphere, instilling a dedicated sense of worth/self esteem, among other basic abundant life requisites. Jasmine said she was not ready. Why would we, as a society, not listen to Jasmine? She is well aware she does not (yet) possess the tools required to raise a child into abundant life (however, I would like to note that recognition of her current capabilities is indicative of a self-aware and intelligent kid), so why should she be forced into giving her child something less than what she wishes for the child? Because of religious fanaticism? While I should end that discussion with the simple phrase“Separation of Church and State,” I am not so foolish as to end there; plus there is a better point to be made!
Religion is no excuse. We are free-willed beings. Because the apple is there, does not mean we MUST eat the apple. We have a choice. If someone, for whatever reason, chooses an abortion, that is a decision for which that individual must harmonize with their God (provided they are believers). Who is man to over step boundaries into the personal decisions of each other? If you want to start the line-stepping let’s start with BIG business: fast/overly high caloric food, alcohol, pornography, weapons, cigarettes. Oh, what’s that you say? Those industries are different and do not present any threat to the moral compass of this society. Insert crisp sarcasm.
The reality is we all make unplanned steps. We have all succumb to desires and urges that are best left alone. Not one of us is free from piss poor decision-making, at one time or at present. We are human. However, to take away the freedom of choice is an unequivocal infringement on our distinct right to make a better decision in response to poor decision. Moreover, the denial of the freedom of choice is an extreme display of massive hubris: to decide, with sweeping generalizations and reckless abandon for individual rights, what a woman can and cannot do with her body is a depraved abuse of power.
For those who say, “there are other options” I ask, for everyone? Let’s take adoption, for example. Even a cursory glance at the Department of Human and Health Services report for the foster care/adoption data (reporting data for FY 2010), shows that it will take, on average, upwards of three years, before a child will be fully adopted, if they are ever adopted at all. Do you know what can happen in three years? Well, someone could complete law school, an administration could save the United States economy from the likes of a Depression-like annihilation by allowing the government to back mainstay business institutions, or a child could be crushed with defeat as they hope and pray someone will “love them” all the while growing cynical and becoming hardened by life’s hand. But, hey, that is how the cookie crumbles. Chin up, chap!
Let’s take another option, foster care. The kids who never get adopted are likely to remain in foster care until they age out: group homes, private homes run as group homes (often with four or more children at one time), or worse, abusive private homes run as indentured servitude camps. Neither option is likely to prove helpful for a child who will, undoubtedly have some emotional challenges (let alone the normal issues relegated to childhood). Forcing a parent to choose this reality for their child is equivalent to forcing a parent play Russian Roulette with their child’s life.
So, let’s say the parent keeps the child but is financially, among other ways, unprepared to raise the child. Who takes care of the child? Baby has got to eat! Generally speaking, those who are Pro Life are, also pro small government: to be read anti-HELPFUL government programs such as food stamps, Medicare, welfare etc. So, let me get this straight, people are all for bringing a life into the world, they are not willing to help support. Talk about a Catch 22! So, you take away the freedom to choose when you bring a life into this world but conversely, you are against providing adequate support for people when they are forced to bring a child into the world. How is that pro life? Sounds like pro cyclical despondency, if you ask me.
I am not professing to have all the answers. Quite on the contrary, I am more perplexed about this subject now than I was when I began writing. But, the right to choose is sacred. Being Pro Choice is really about being pro abundant life. For those who, despite their readiness, decide to press forward and bring life into this world, with the hopes of providing abundant life to that child, I applaud them and I hope they are able to complete the task. However, for those who know, at the outset, they are unprepared for parenthood, the right to choose is precious and it is their right. Now, I am not naive enough to believe there are no limits to the right to choose. The right must not must not be abused (if abortion is your birth control, then we have yet another display of depraved abuse of power) nevertheless, the rules cannot be made for the outliers as only the middle suffers at that point.
The truth is, the right to choose is more than making what appears to be an easy decision, it may ultimately be the most agonizing decision one ever makes. However, it is theirs to make. To the Moral Mollies condemning being Pro Choice, being Pro-Choice is not about supporting the action but rather supporting the right to choose.
Jasmine did have a choice and I hope the next Jasmine has the same choice: the choice to choose abundant life for her child.