Blog for Choice: Celebrating 40 Years of Roe v. Wade

Today, January 22, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. NARAL Pro-Choice America is inviting  pro-choice bloggers and activists to participate in their eighth annual Blog For Choice Day. Details can be found here.

I took place in my first abortion debate in sixth grade. That was the year that George W. Bush first ran for president. I wasn’t paying attention to the election at that point, but I guess the girl next to me was because one day she got on the school bus and started talking about abortion and how it was always wrong, and didn’t I agree with her? I had never given it much thought at the time, but I went home and asked my mom about it. She explained why she was pro-choice, so I went to school and told that girl all my new-found reasons for being pro-choice. Her only response to my reasons were, “Well, there’s always adoption.” I went back home and asked my mom about that, and she gave me her response, and I went back and told the girl on the bus. Eventually we stopped talking about it, and I pushed it from my mind.

It wasn’t until I reached high school that I started paying attention to politics. I started reading books like The War on Choice and A Question of Choice. I stopped needing to go to my mother for my arguments and actually became more liberal in my views than she was. Reproductive rights became one of the few political issues where I knew exactly where I stood, and no amount of arguing would convince me otherwise even for a second.

My body, my choice.
I believe that we as people have the right to decide what our bodies are used for. This includes whether or not we have children. There seems to be this idea out there that the only choice we have a right to make is whether or not to have sex, and that once we agree to have sex then we should accept the consequences. That logic is so flawed that I barely know where to begin. For one, I can’t think of anyone who only has sex for procreation, although that seems to be what anti-choice people are saying. If you don’t want kids, don’t have sex. Yes, because that sounds like a good life. For another thing, women don’t always choose to have sex. Now, I don’t believe that that makes these women more entitled to abortion than other women, but it’s still true. (For more on my views of rape exceptions, read this post.)

But the most important argument I have against this one is this: Children should never be a punishment.
Life is hard enough even if you grow up surrounded by people who love you. It’s even worse when you grow up surrounded by people who never wanted you in the first place. That is no way for a child to live. Anti-choice people seem to think that everyone will eventually grow to love the child, but that’s not true. Sure, maybe some people didn’t want a child but eventually changed their minds, but I’m sure just as many always regret it. And you know what? If you don’t want children, and if you don’t love children, you shouldn’t have children. Mothers should love their children unconditionally. They should be willing to risk their lives for their children. If you don’t feel that way about your own child, you probably shouldn’t have that child.

Quality, not quantity.
There’s this belief, mostly in the Republican party, that the quality of your life doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you are born and that you live for a really long time. I don’t know where we got this idea that life is so wonderful. Sure, some people have great lives, and a lot of people have decent lives. But not everyone has a good life. Being born and then living in pain and misery for your whole life doesn’t sound like a good life to me. I’d rather not be born than be born and grow up in an unloving environment. And you know what? Women are capable to deciding for themselves if they are capable of raising their children up in an unloving environment. If they know they can’t provide for their child, they should be allowed to choose not to have that child.

Adoption is not always the answer.
Are there some people who choose adoption? Of course, and if that’s what the woman wants to do, then by all means she should be allowed to do it. But it’s not for everyone. I know that I wouldn’t want to have my child grow up somewhere else. How do I know that those people will take good care of it? Plus, there are already so many unwanted children in this world. There aren’t enough homes for all of them, and they’re frequently placed with foster parents who don’t really care about them. Plus, the children still have to deal with the pain of knowing that their birth parents didn’t want them. Obviously adoption isn’t all bad – I’m just saying it’s not for everyone.

You can’t be anti-abortion AND anti-birth control and anti-sex ed.
This is one of the most frustration parts about dealing with anti-choice people. If you don’t want people to have abortions, you should be all for education people on how NOT to get pregnant. You should want condoms and birth control pills and all those other forms of contraception to be easily available. You should want people educated on how to use them. Will mistakes still happen? Yes. Is any birth control method 100 percent effective? No. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not still valuable. If more people knew how to have safe sex and realized how important it is, then maybe they wouldn’t need abortion.

People say that teenagers shouldn’t be having sex and that teaching them how to have safe sex sends mixed messages. This isn’t true. Even if we tell them to wait until marriage, they still have to learn sometime. Let’s say they do wait until marriage. Do you instinctively know how to use birth control when you get married?

And even if it did send mixed messages, it’s better than the message we send kids now, which is this: using condoms is a waste of time. Birth control doesn’t work. That is the message that we are giving kids in schools, and then we wonder why so many people get pregnant when they don’t want to have kids.

In the perfect world, we wouldn’t need abortions. We would get pregnant when we wanted to get pregnant, and we wouldn’t get pregnant when we didn’t want to get pregnant. But the world isn’t perfect. You can do everything right, and you can still get pregnant accidentally. And even if you do everything wrong, having a child shouldn’t be your punishment. We shouldn’t take a bad situation and make it worse.

If someone’s house catches on fire, do we just sit and watch while their house burns down? Do we tell them that that’s the consequence of using fire and that they should have known that might happen? Of course not. We call the fire department and stop the fire from getting worse. That’s what abortions are for – for preventing a bad situation from getting worse.

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“Even in Cases of Rape”

“Even in Cases of Rape”:
Anti-choice Arguments Parading as Competent Ones

Introduction

One of the most divisive issues of the twentieth century, abortion has been regulated in the United States since the 1860s. Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case everyone credits with overturning these regulations, guarantees women unrestricted access to an abortion within the first trimester of her pregnancy and in all cases where her life or health is at risk. That has not stopped many states from passing laws restricting access to abortion. After “to protect the life of the mother,” the most common exception to such law reads “except in cases of rape or incest.” Many people condemned Sarah Palin for her belief that abortion should be illegal “even in cases of rape.” Indeed, many states’ abortion restrictions can only pass when rape exceptions are added. Such arguments are dangerous to women, however, because they focus not on protecting the supposed life of the fetus—the only “pro-life” argument that has any viability—but on punishing women for having sex. By claiming that rape victims have a greater right to abortion than other women do, people reinforce the notion that women who have sex know the risks involved and should therefore accept the consequences.

Becoming an exception

Before examining the ramifications of such exceptions, one must think about what the exception is saying in the first place: women can only get abortions if they have been raped. What exactly does that mean from a legal standpoint? Does a woman simply have to claim that she was raped? If that is the case, anyone seeking an abortion would just have to claim that they were raped. However, doing so would not only make the exception pointless to begin with but would also make it even more difficult for women who have been raped to be taken seriously than it already is.

The only other option, however, would be to make a woman prove that she was raped. Does someone have to go jail to allow the woman to have an abortion? What happens if she is unable to prove that she was raped as opposed to merely having sex? Does that mean that she cannot get an abortion? And even if she can prove that she was raped, even if she does win the case, so many months will have passed by that point that she will either already have given birth or be too far along to get an abortion anyway.

Why such exceptions are dangerous

Even if the rape exception made sense, though, it would still contradict the entire pro-choice movement. The argument for the rape exception is that the victims did not choose to have sex; therefore, they should not be forced to deal with the consequences. That argument implies, however, that the women who do choose to have sex should be forced to deal with the consequences. The regulation, then, becomes more of a way of punishing women for having sex than it does a way of ensuring fetuses the right to live.

The abortion debate should really come down to one question: when does personhood begin? If it begins, as many supposedly pro-lifers say, at conception, then abortion should always be illegal. If it begins, as Roe v. Wade says, at viability, then abortion should only be illegal in the late-second and third trimesters. If it begins at birth, then abortion should always be legal.

Which moment one deems most important—conception, viability, or birth—is a question for a different essay. The point here is that no matter where you draw the line, it does not (or at least should not) move depending on the circumstances surrounding the conception. If personhood begins at conception, then abortion is murder whether the woman wanted to have sex or not. If personhood does not begin at conception, then the woman should be able to have an abortion whether she wanted to have sex or not.

Conclusion

People are often condemned as being extremists if they feel that a woman who was raped should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term. Such people are viewed as cold-hearted and merciless. In reality, though, these are the only people whose arguments make any sense. These are the people who truly feel that abortion is murder and that murder is wrong. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with them, one must at the very least respect that they are honestly doing what they believe is right: protecting the life of an innocent baby.

The people who believe that abortion should only be allowed in cases of rape are the ones with the extremist views. These are the people who believe that any woman stupid enough to have sex should be forced to deal with the consequences. These people are clearly not concerned with the life of the embryo; their sole concern is making sure that the woman accepts responsibility for the decision she made to have sex. Presumably, such people believe that sex should only be used for reproductive purposes—a rather extreme belief in this day and age.

Being raped is undoubtedly a terrible experience that no woman—or man, for that matter—should ever have to live through. That does not mean, though, that a child conceived by such means is any more or less real than one conceived by two consenting individuals. Therefore, whether a woman was raped should have no bearing in deciding whether or not she is allowed to have an abortion. Either every woman should be able to have an abortion, or no woman should. Until we stop thinking of “except in cases of rape” as an acceptable compromise, we are just making this world a more and more dangerous place for women to live.

A Tale of Two Masterchefs: What our TV shows say about us

I like cooking shows. I used to watch them all the time when my aunt was over. At the time I rolled my eyes whenever she turned on Food Network. Now I look for cooking shows. My boyfriend’s mother introduced me to Chopped and Masterchef. She was watching season 2 of the American version at the time, and I had already missed several episodes, so I went to the Internet to find previous seasons.

I ended up finding season 2 of Masterchef Australia. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but I decided to give it a shot. My boyfriend and I grew to love that show. We enjoyed the Australian accents. We enjoyed the way the contestants supported each other. We enjoyed the way the judges encouraged the contestants.

We also enjoyed the fact that a single season of the Australian version was about 80 episodes while the American version was about 20. At first, that was the main difference I noticed. Well, that and the fact that every third episode or so was a “Master Class,” where you got to learn about cooking alongside the contestants. That was an awesome idea, though we didn’t really care, so we skipped those episodes.

We ended up watching the following season of Masterchef Australia. Once again, the people were really nice and supportive of each other. Were there disagreements between contestants? Sure. Did a contestant occasionally mad-mouth a fellow contestant? Yes. Did the judges sometimes get mad and yell at the contestants and tell them what a horrible job they had done? Of course.

But they were still nice overall. It felt like the judges wanted everyone to do well. They never set anyone up to fail or look stupid. They offered advice and criticism, but even the mean comments were meant to help the person learn. They were simply stating facts, and more often than not they sounded disappointed when a contestant failed, not angry.

One of the other differences I noticed between the two shows was that the American version shows people cooking to get onto the show. They start with (I believe) 100 contestants and then have 3-4 episodes where all we do is watch to see who gets invited to the next step. After that, they slowly cut them down to about 18 contestants. With the Australian version, we simply start with the best 50 and then watch them fight it out to see which 24 get to stay in the competition.

It might not sound like those first 3-4 episodes are that important, but when you stop to think about it – it really is. M-US only has 20 episodes. That means about a sixth of the episodes are there just so you can watch them make fun of the people who don’t do a good job. It’s like the beginnings of American Idol, where everyone laughs at the horrible singers and listens while the judges make fun of them. I used to find that amusing, but now it just seems mean (well, you know, and staged, but that’s a different matter).

The first episodes of M-US aren’t really my problem, though. I could have just skipped those and moved on. It’s what happens in the rest of the episodes that I have a problem with. The judges are just mean. And I’m not talking about “I’m going to be hard on you so you can learn” mean. No, I’m talking about brutal, “I’m going to ask you something you don’t know just so I can put you down” mean. They ask who thinks they belong in the top three just so they can tear that person down when he says that he belongs there. They single people out and say that what they’ve cooked is the most horrible thing they have ever seen. And the contestants are just as bad. They’re constantly talking about how arrogant the other chefs are, even though 9 times out of 10 the person saying that is just as arrogant as the person they’re complaining about.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – that it’s just a TV show, that it’s all staged and scripted. Or that they choose the people who the most hot-tempered because they make for the best TV. But you know what?

That is the problem.

That is what we consider good television in the US. We like to watch people put other people down. We like to watch people get yelled at and humiliated, often for no good reason. We like to watch people compete against people they hate. And if someone complains about it, they’re met with eye rolls and a patronizing, “It’s just TV. They have to keep people interested.”

But why is this the only way to keep Americans interested? Because it’s not needed to keep the Australians interested. In Australia, the contestants are there to learn to cook. They want to win the money and the cookbook, too, of course, but they seem like they’re there to learn. When a team captain led his team to a failure, he and the other person responsible for the team’s loss actually volunteered to be put up for elimination. They did the right thing. Another episode featured a woman who had won immunity but was struggling to use that immunity because she didn’t want to send someone who had done well to the elimination round. She still did, but she was crying about it, and they made it into this huge debate.

There would have been no debate on the American version. In the American version, friendships can quickly turn to fights, and they only really care about themselves. Everyone’s trying to push the responsibility to someone else. No one wants to take credit for the bad things, though they’d climb over each other to take credit for something good.

After the Sandy Hook shooting, there was a lot of talk on the Internet about gun control. People in Australia were saying that after their last big massacre, they banned guns and haven’t had an issue since. They didn’t know why those in America weren’t doing the same thing, but I did. I knew taking away guns would never work in America.

We’re too aggressive. We like fighting. We like humiliating other people. We like tearing them down. We like to feel better than everyone else, and then we wonder why so many people turn to violence. As much as I hate guns, I really don’t think guns are the problem.

Americans are the problem.

And if you don’t believe me, just look at the sorts of shows we find entertaining.
Masterchef US
Masterchef Australia

If Running Were Like Education

Okay, so it’s been almost a year since I posted in this blog. One of my goals for this year is to start writing in this thing more. The first I’ve decided to write is a short story about the education system. This came about because I spent two hours in one of my education classes today being lectured about how horrible it is to have a gifted program. I was going to write an article about it, and I most likely will in the near future, but for now, I leave you with this story instead.

If Running Were Like Education

Johnny loved to run. As soon as he was old enough to run, he was unstoppable. Whenever he had a free moment, he was out running. He ran in the yard. He ran at the park. He ran when they went to visit family. When he was stuck inside, he even started to jog in place. His family made fun of him.

“There goes Johnny,” they’d say, shaking their heads. “Always running.”

His family didn’t understand him, but he didn’t care. Running made him feel alive. He wasn’t good at reading or writing, but he could run, and that made him happy. He might not be able to recite the entire alphabet like his older brother could, but he could run really fast without stopping, and that made him feel good about himself.

Of course, his family didn’t see it that way. They told him that he was wasting his time running. They called him a jock and an athlete and other insulting names like that. Their name-calling made Johnny sad. He tried to read like they wanted him to, but he just didn’t find it interesting. He didn’t know why his parents kept trying to force him to hang out with the other readers. He just felt like an outsider.

The only time he really felt happy was when he was outside running. Sometimes he even found other kids who liked to run, and they would run together. Then, when they were done running, they would talk about how fast they could run. They made competitions out of it and had fun. One of Johnny’s new friends had an older sister who was in school, and she told them all about how great it was.

“There’s this class called gym,” she explained, “and all you do is run around the whole time. In fact, you even get a grade based on how fast you can run, and if you get a really fast time, you have the chance to go to a special running school, and you could spend your whole life running and helping other people learn to love running.”

“Wow!” said Johnny. “I can’t wait to start gym!”

That night, Johnny went to bed dreaming about this wonderful class where he would finally be surrounded by other people who understood him.

Johnny was ecstatic when he was finally old enough to take this gym class. He was finally going to get to show off something that he was really good at, something that the other people he knew made fun of. This was his chance.

As the teacher checked off the names of everyone in the class, Johnny looked around, hoping to see some other people who were as excited to be there as he was.

“Calm down, jock,” snapped one of the guys. “What are you so excited about?”

Johnny slumped down a little, embarrassed as a bunch of the other kids laughed. He had hoped that now that he was in gym he would be around other people who liked to run, too, but apparently he was just as out of place here as he was at home. He looked up at the gym teacher and reminded himself that at least the teacher cared. He would be able to show off for his teacher.

“Okay everyone,” said the teacher. “Today, we’re going to have a timed run. You all have to run twelve laps around the court, and you’ll get graded on fast you complete the course. And remember – you have to get a good time if you want a future career in anything running related.”

Johnny couldn’t wait to start. He lined up with everyone else in the class, and when the teacher blew the whistle to start, Johnny took off running as fast as he could. He managed to finish the first lap before most of the other students even finished half a lap. He was about to start his second lap when the teacher held out an arm to stop him.

“Wait, Johnny,” the teacher said. “You can’t start the second lap until everyone else in the class is ready to start the second lap.”

Johnny looked over at the rest of his classmates. “But some of them have barely moved,” he complained.

“That doesn’t matter,” said the teacher, sounding annoyed. “We have to give everyone a fair chance.”

So Johnny waited. A few of this classmates finished shortly after he did. A lot of them stopped running about halfway and started walking instead. When they had regained their energy, they started running again. There were a few, though, that weren’t even trying. No matter how much the teacher called out encouragements, those students never picked up speed. They had been walking from the start, and nothing would make them pick up their paces. Johnny couldn’t believe that he was being forced to wait for students who didn’t even care about running.

After what felt like an eternity, everyone finished the first lap. The teacher didn’t say a word to Johnny but instead complimented the boys who had finished last. “That was a great effort, boys! Way to stick with it!”

Johnny was confused. He thought he had done a good job, but the teacher didn’t seem to care. Maybe that would change after the next lap.

Johnny finished first the next five laps. Still, the teacher said nothing to him, focusing instead on the kids who were barely putting forth any effort at all. Johnny didn’t understand why he was being punished like this. He thought that in gym of all places he would be encouraged to run as best as he could.

For the seventh lap, Johnny slowed his pace a little. He still came in first, but he didn’t see what the point was in finishing as fast as possible if finishing first just meant that he would have to sit around doing nothing the longest. For the eighth lap, he even came in second. For the ninth lap, he jogged at a fraction of the speed he normally ran. He finished at the same time as a bunch of other students, one of which was one of the boys who normally came in last.

“Way to go, Paul!” said the teacher when Paul finished. “I’m so proud of you for improving!”

Johnny was even more confused. He finished at the same time as Paul had, and yet Paul was being complimented for finishing. Why was he being congratulated for being average when Johnny hadn’t been congratulated for being excellent?

By the time the last lap started, Johnny didn’t care about running anymore. What was the point of doing your best if you were just going to be ignored in favor of someone who didn’t even care? He started this lap jogging but slowed to a walk after the first turn. At the second turn, he slowed even further. He was now in last place. Maybe now the teacher would care about him.

Johnny was the last to finish the race. He looked to the teacher, expecting the same sort of praise the other boys had gotten.

“Wow, Johnny,” said the teacher, “you were doing so well in the beginning. I don’t know what happened.”