A Few Reasons Why I Switched from Pro-Life to Pro-Choice

Let me make a quick disclaimer and state that I consider myself politically homeless. After being raised in a conservative household and moving to a liberal college, I’m a firm believer in understanding both sides of any issue. (You can only imagine what a mess I was during the election). Raised Christian, I attended a private Catholic school from preschool through my senior year of high school, so after the same words were preached to me for years, the ethics behind abortion were something I never felt the need to question beyond what I was taught.

But enough about me. The topic of early-term abortion is a heated issue that’s constantly under debate (late-term is a whole different can of worms that I won’t get into), so let’s start with some common ground. Just about everyone can agree that every aspect of what makes us who we are is determined by both “nature” and “nurture.”

By “nature” we mean what we are predisposed to because of our genes, and by “nurture” we mean how our family, friends, ideas, religion, identity and experiences can change our body and mind. Whether its physiological health or mental stability, how you were born and how you were raised both come into play at some level, so there’s no denying that both nature and nurture are important concepts to consider in terms of human development.

A seemingly unrelated but equally as important topic is what causes a miscarriage. As anyone could have guessed, there are multiple explanations: mutated chromosomes in the fetus, unsuitable hormone levels in the mother’s body, medications, smoking, drinking, the list goes on. Put simply, “nature” is deciding the conditions aren’t right for a baby, so the female reproductive system can take over and terminate the pregnancy when appropriate.

Now the big question: why shouldn’t “nurture” also have the power to decide that conditions aren’t right for a baby?

There are countless reasons a mother-to-be might not be ready for a child. She might be in medical school. She might not have the financial resources or emotional stability to support another human being. She might be fifteen years old. She might be a sexual assault survivor. Call me crazy, but none of those conditions sound too great for having a kid.

Many argue that these women shouldn’t be having sex in the first place if they aren’t ready for parenthood, but the idea that sex should only be used for procreation is a stretch considering humans are the only animals with enough self-awareness to understand that sex leads to pregnancy. To deny sexual arousal and motivation is to deny human nature, which is why abstinence-only education leads to more teen pregnancies than comprehensive sex education that introduces contraceptive methods. Even when every precaution is taken, pregnancy also tends to find its way into short-term partnerships, abusive relationships and many other situations where there is no guarantee that the woman’s partner is going to stick around to support her during such a vulnerable time.

Here’s an interesting observation: in Chapter 4 of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics, they discuss correlation between a ban on abortion and crime in Romania. In 1966, abortions were declared illegal. Almost instantly birth rates skyrocketed, and it was only a matter of time until crime rates did as well. Years later, when abortion regained legality, crime rates sunk back down.

I think it’s reasonable to conclude that during a time period where women were forced to carry every pregnancy to term, many children were born into conditions that weren’t right for them, so “nurture” took over as they were often (but of course not always) put into arms that didn’t welcome them. Add together a heartbreakingly impoverished family, plus a child who wasn’t properly loved by that family, and you get the perfect formula for an emotionally scarring childhood that would drive anyone into a life of crime.

This introduces an ethical concern where we must weigh in protecting the potential life of an individual versus protecting the life of society as a whole, via the Consistent Ethic of Life that so many Christians proclaim so proudly. There’s arguably a chance in any given situation that carrying a pregnancy to term could either bring lasting harm or sincere good to the mother and those around her. As if that wasn’t enough grey area already, deciding when a fetus becomes a “person” seems to be an unending debate.

Many who oppose abortion use adoption as an alternative to raising a child. While it often can be an effective alternative for many women, there isn’t an alternative for being pregnant for nine months, plus post-labor recovery. If a woman can’t afford to have a child, there’s also a chance that she can’t afford take off work for the last month of her pregnancy, especially considering that Minnesota employers are not required to pay new mothers during their leave. On top of that, there’s often an unbearable emotional baggage that comes with having a baby that you won’t end up caring for yourself. Giving up a child is no easy feat. Many women struggle with depression after giving up their child for adoption. Imagine every heart-wrenching answer when someone asks them when they’re due or what they’re going to name the baby.

To be completely honest, I’m still not sure about my stance on whether or not abortion is ethical. Like I said, I’m a strong believer in understanding both sides of any issue, and I value potential life as much as I value autonomy. Scholars and philosophers debate about these topics endlessly, which is why, for the people who can become pregnant, possessing the right to a choice regarding their own morals is so important.

“Pro-Choice” is not “Pro-Abortion.” Pro-choice leaves the question up to the woman. Consider a mother who’s raising two toddlers on her own with almost no money, and has been sexually assaulted and becomes pregnant; however, she is a devout Christian who wishes to carry the pregnancy to term despite her circumstances. I believe she should have every right to do so, whereas if she resided in China, she would be forced to terminate the pregnancy.

Where science and philosophy cannot find the answer, many people turn to religion for the solution for any moral dilemma, and that’s okay—for those individuals. Humanity as a whole may never find the answer to what the most “humane” decision is, but until it does, don’t you think where ambiguity makes this topic an unending ethical puzzle is where autonomy should take over?