(This is a post I’ve actually been sitting on for a while, but recent events have only reconfirmed and heightened my convictions on the issue.)

I am pro-choice and pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-transplant surgery. As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing, choice is a part of the set of tools that help adult couples to form the families they are equipped for. I believe that choice can only be a positive social good. I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing, or would when they were truly confronted with it. And I think it’s time society said so with a bit more conviction.

Choice is about who gets to make the decision. The question of whether and when we bring a new life into the world is, to my mind, one of the most important decisions a person can make. It is too big a decision for us to make for each other, and waaaaay too important for perfect strangers to have a single opinion or comment about.  Particularly that dangerous breed, the white-middle-class-conservative male.  Often repulsively arrogant and ill-informed on the rights of any person who isn’t exactly like them.  To quote the ever-wonderful sitcom, ‘Friends’, “No uterus: No opinion”.

But independent of who owns the decision making process, I’m pro the right to make an informed and adult decision, YES, that decision can ABSOLUTELY come about after advice from experts/doctors/family/church, but those institutions should NOT be the final decision makers on any case.

Here are the reasons why:

1. I’m pro-choice because being able to delay and limit childbearing is fundamental to female equality. A woman who lacks the means to manage her fertility lacks the means to manage her life. Any plans, dreams, aspirations, responsibilities or commitments – no matter how important – without adequate pro-choice materials – have a great big contingency clause built in: “Until or unless I get pregnant.”

Think of any professional woman you know. She wouldn’t be in that role if she hadn’t been able to time and limit her childbearing. Think of any girl you know who imagines becoming a professional woman. She won’t get there unless she has effective, reliable means to manage her fertility. In generations past, nursing care was provided by nuns because avoiding sexual intimacy was the only way women could avoid unpredictable childbearing and so be freed up to serve their communities in other vital ways.

2. I’m pro-choice because well-timed pregnancies give children a healthier start in life. We now have ample evidence that babies do best when women are able to space out their pregnancies and get both pre-natal and post-natal care.  Wanted babies are more likely to get cuddles and developmentally appropriate stimulation, to be welcomed into families that are financially and emotionally ready to receive them, to get preventive medical care during childhood and the kinds of loving interactions that helps young brains to develop.

3. I’m pro-choice because I think motherhood should be taken seriously. Most female bodies can carry a baby, and thanks to antibiotics, cesareans and anti-hemorrhage drugs, most are able to survive pushing a baby out into the world. But parenting is a lot of work, and doing it at all decently takes twenty dedicated years of focus, attention, patience, persistence, social support, mental health, money, and a whole lot more. This is a life-transforming thing, not to be undertaken lightly. The idea that women should simply get on with it when they find themselves pregnant after a one-night-stand, an assault, poor contraception or emotional immaturity, completely trivialises motherhood.

4. I’m pro-choice because intentional childbearing helps couples, families and communities to get out of poverty.

It is no coincidence that the middle class as we now know it, rose along with the ability of couples to plan their families, starting at the beginning of the last century. Having two or three children, instead of eight or ten was critical to prospering in the modern age. Today, unwanted pregnancy is declining for everyone but the very poorest people and communities.  Sometimes, strong, determined girls and women sometimes beat the odds, but their stories are the exception to the rule. The rights of a woman living in a civilised society dictates that the full range of contraceptive tools, and should it come to it, the most humane and safe termination care, should be available to all those who need it.  Not just the privileged, educated few.

5. I’m pro-choice because reproduction is a highly imperfect process.  Growing a human is a complicated business with flaws and false starts at every step along the way. To compensate, in every known species including humans, reproduction operates as a big funnel. Many more eggs and sperm are produced than will ever meet; more combine into embryos than will ever implant, and more implant than will ever grow into babies.  This somewhat “touchy” system makes our very own bodies the world’s biggest abortion provider.

In humans, a high percentage of fertilised eggs fail long before becoming babies.  But the weeding-out process is also highly imperfect. Sometimes perfectly viable combinations kick themselves out; sometimes horrible, life-ending defects slip through.  Like any other medical procedure, therapeutic contraception and abortion complement natural processes designed to help us survive and thrive.

6. I’m pro-choice because I think basic morality is about the well-being of sentient beings. I believe that morality is about the lived experience of sentient beings—beings who can feel pleasure and pain, have preference and intention, who can live peacefully in relation to other beings, love and be loved, and value their own existence.

What is the pre-term foetus capable of wanting? What are they capable of feeling or understanding?  In this moral universe, real people count more than potential people or hypothetical people.

There is always an argument over when a person becomes a person…  But I believe that that the idea of “lived experience”, or “to-be-lived experience” trumps all.  In essence, what does the woman making the decision know?  And what does she know of the life she is expecting for her child?  Is she bringing a child into health, stability and love?  Or disability, in-stability and resentment?

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