The first political position I can remember having is pro-choice. I have this vivid memory of coming out into the backyard one day when I was in elementary school to see my mother putting a bumper sticker on our newly-cleaned car that read “A World of Wanted Children Would Make a World of Difference.” I didn’t understand. She explained to me that there was a procedure that allowed doctors to stop a baby from being born, if the mother wanted it. Some people didn’t like this procedure. “And you do, ” I said, content in my childhood vision of all issues as binary. “It’s more complicated than that,” she replied.
It’s more complicated than that. If there’s one phrase that sums up the horror of the politicking, opinion-mongering, slurs, reducto ad absurdum images, and vitriol of the abortion battle that’s it. Somewhere in all this mess is often lost that each woman who considers terminating her pregnancy is her own unique story – none of them straightforward. She may want that child desperately, but know she’s unable to care for it at this moment in time. She may be adamantly anti-choice, a strong political pro-lifer, but know that being pregnant or having a child right now will dramatically alter her life for the worse. She may be adamantly pro-choice, but still feel that she has some responsibility to her partner, her parents, her potential motherhood to carry to term. It’s more complicated than that.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the women who made these choices could tell us about the confusion, the guilt, the sadness, the relief, the anger, the frustration, or the comfort of their processes? Wouldn’t it be better if we could agree that no one plans to get an abortion, and we could focus instead on making them as comfortable and non-scary as possible? Shouldn’t we, as future medical professionals, learn to create a safe space for airing all these thoughts and issues – no matter the end decision? At the very least, as we commemorate the struggles behind us and the ones still to come, let’s acknowledge that this is, finally, about choices women make mostly alone and mostly after much painful and difficult thought. It is a choice that is very, very much more complicated than that.