The Women’s March vs. Pro-Life

Gender design
This Saturday, I participated in the Women’s March in Philadelphia. Since the march, I’ve seen a lot of backlash for its exclusion of anyone supporting the pro-life agenda. As far as I could tell, there was no one policing who could and could not attend the march. Anyone that wanted to could simply walk up and join the crowd. However, the platform of the march was explicitly “pro-choice” and therefore intended for those that share this perspective. I also believe that a pro-life organization was declined partnership with the march. This makes sense to me, as the pro-life message is in direct contrast with a primary principle of the march: women’s reproductive rights, and the right to make our own choice about our bodies.

For many of us, reproductive rights are inalienable from women’s rights – and one intention of the march was to demonstrate how many people share this specific perspective. The backlash has inspired me to share a little bit about why I see reproductive rights as a fundamental aspect of women’s rights, and why I think organizations like Planned Parenthood are crucial for women, and for our country in general.

Pro-choice Planned Parenthood demonstration holding two signs

No one wants to be in a position to get an abortion, but it’s an important option to have. I’m comfortable sharing that I’ve depended on planned parenthood for next day contraception because my primary birth control method failed. This was despite my loving/involved family, my private school education, my involvement with the church throughout my adolescence, and my decision to wait until I was 20 years old and had been in a committed relationship for a year before I had sex.

It was a difficult moment, that I’m neither proud nor ashamed of, but I am extremely grateful I had this option. I’ve been granted the ability to postpone motherhood until a time when I feel I can be the best mother possible, and offer the best life for my children. I’ve been able to continue pursuing my education, and will be receiving my doctoral degree this spring. I’m no longer with the man I was with at that time, who ended up cheating on me several times. Instead I was able to date, discover who I am, discover what was important to me in a partner, and am now engaged to a better partner than I could have imagined.

Without this contraception, it would have taken much longer to pursue my education  (if possible at all), as raising my child would have become my primary responsibility. Without a degree, I’d be unlikely to find as well paying of a job. Without a well paying job, I most likely wouldn’t be able to afford living in the neighborhoods with better school districts, meaning my child might not have access to a quality education. Due to earning less money, I might have to work more hours to make ends meet. Longer hours at work would mean less quality time with my child, especially if I continued trying to pursue my education on my off-hours. Less time with my child means I’d have less opportunity to talk with them about values, decision making, and healthy sexuality.

Studies have shown that children from lower income households are exposed to about 250,000 words in the span of one year, compared to about 4 million words that children from higher income families are exposed to – putting them at an average 2-year disadvantage in language skills when entering school. This is partially due to their parents’ additional stresses and limited time.

Maybe I would have tried to make things work with the father, and stayed in an unhealthy relationship. Maybe we would have broken up anyway, leaving me to raise my child as a single mother. The child (at best) might have seen their father occasionally, as we never lived in the same state and wouldn’t have had the means to move and live independently. It’d be more difficult finding time to date, or finding another man my age interested in a woman with a child, meaning I’d likely be living in a single income household for longer; another barrier in my ability for economic mobility.

Sad woman sitting in the corner of a room, head on the knees, face is hidden, black and white

This is how my life could have been very different without reproductive rights. This is even with all my privilege of growing up in a middle class white neighborhood, private school education, and religious involvement. Unfortunately, many young women haven’t had the same privileges. Their mother’s are working several jobs to make ends meet, and aren’t home to have conversations about healthy sexuality, or protect them from risky situations. They might not have fathers around to model respectful behavior towards women, and help foster their self-esteem. They’re less protected from increasing cultural messages (including those from our president) that their sexuality is the most valuable thing they have to offer others.

When they fall for a boy (similarly deprived of positive role models) who makes spontaneous and irresponsible decisions… the boy can walk away. However, without reproductive rights, the girl is left to bare the responsibility for the rest of her life. She’s left to try to do better than her own mother, until she realizes that her own mother was doing the best she could, and the cards are stacked against the girl to do any better. She might begin to notice how many other girls in her neighborhood are in the same situation, and that their daughters eventually find themselves in the same situation, and it might begin to dawn on her why it’s so difficult for anyone in the neighborhood to get out. Then it might dawn on her how women’s rights are so inextricably connected to human rights, social justice, improving poverty, decreasing crime, public health, and accessible quality education.

Don’t get me wrong, I know some mothers are able to overcome all these barriers, make the best of a difficult situation, and do a wonderful job raising their children. They are absolute heroes – but because of how difficult and important this task is, I don’t think any woman should be forced to take it on without deciding it’s what SHE WANTS. I also understand that a woman can choose to follow through with her pregnancy, and then decide to give her child up for adoption. Expecting a woman to carry a child in her womb for 9 months, give birth, and then give that child away also seems like an extremely unfair physical, practical, and emotional toll to force upon a woman, without her ability to choose. I am very much pro-life, in that I think if a woman wants to follow through with a pregnancy, she should have as much support available as possible. I simply don’t think she needs the government to make that decision for her. To me, a fundamental element of female empowerment is acknowledging that NO ONE is better able to make a life changing decision for a woman than the woman HERSELF.

This is why, for many of us, reproductive rights are inseparable from women’s rights.

* I understand the argument that an unborn child is a human too, and also has rights…. I really do… but there simply isn’t a clear agreed upon point at which an embryo is a person. Hopefully, however, there’s no debate that every already born woman is definitely a human, so it seems reasonable that our human rights should take precedence.

** Let it be known that I have no official affiliation with the Women’s March and cannot speak on behalf of any of the organizers or protesters. This post is intended to simply share my take on the issue.
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Debate Isn’t a Dirty Word

Business challenge

When a tragedy such as the Orlando mass shooting occurs, an inevitable rise in debate follows. The debating can get nasty, and just add to the negativity of an already overwhelmingly awful event. I wish this wasn’t so.

I love a friendly debate. Probably to a fault, I’ll carry on a debate long past the time when most people become uncomfortable. Recently I’ve found myself in some lengthy facebook-commenting debates, and while I definitely don’t think Facebook is the ideal forum for such discussions, I’ve appreciated the exchanges. What I’ve noticed however, is that it makes other people uncomfortable. In these situations and many others throughout my life, I’ve been encouraged by friends and loved ones to “just let it go”, or “just drop it”. I’ve even carried on debates to the point that the other person involved gets upset, leaving me feeling confused and ashamed because I never intended to offend anyone.

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The truth is, I have a really hard time walking away from a debate, and I admit it probably has something to do with ego, but there’s definitely more to it than that for me. I find it interesting how uncomfortable debate makes people, and I think it’s a shame. I think it contributes to lack of progress on a lot of issues.

We feel uncomfortable when our thoughts and beliefs are challenged. It feels threatening, as if people are insulting who we are as a person. It’s natural, but it shouldn’t be this way. We are not defined by our ideas so long as we’re willing to be flexible in them. Therefore, a challenge to your beliefs shouldn’t be felt as a personal attack, and yet we get so defensive. When we get defensive, we get emotional, and we stop using reason to uphold our beliefs and start using more drastic measures like abusive language or even behavior to tear down the other person.

Another possibility is that we “just drop it”. We “just drop it” because we want to avoid the discomfort of disagreeing, or being challenged, or maybe because we’re accepting/assuming that the other person will never change their mind. But maybe you’ll change your mind. Would that be so terrible? If we “just drop it” then we lose the opportunity of following any conflict through to a resolution.

The reason why I seldom “drop” a debate is because I embrace the discomfort of having my beliefs challenged. If there’s a valid reason why I should think differently, I want to hear it! If I “just drop it” I might never get to hear that reason, and then how can I be confident in my beliefs? Discomfort is a signal to me that I’m emotionally tied to my beliefs, and I should look carefully to see if my emotions are clouding my judgement. Few of us are experts on all of the relevant issues that come up for debate. I’ll be the first to admit I have opinions about issues that I haven’t researched exhaustively . So I try to be open to influence.

I never want to make someone that I’m disagreeing with feel offended, and I never mean to attack you as a person. If I’m critiquing your ideas, it’s not to make you look bad, it’s only because I’m trying your ideas on for size and seeing how they fit within my reason. I’m challenging your opinions, because I’m curious. I don’t understand or agree with your perspective, but if it stands up to challenge, maybe I will. If we want to find our common ground, we might need to explore an issue completely.

So that’s my little explanation/disclaimer to why I rarely back down from a debate, even though it probably makes me look like an a-hole. I think a debate ideally ends when one person is convinced, or both sides have exhausted their arguments and agree to disagree (or when the food is delivered to the table, cause ya know, priorities). I think it would do a world of good if we all learned to tolerate our discomfort with conflict, detach our identities from our beliefs and our emotions from our reasoning.

As I discuss in other posts about healthy communication being key to a healthy romantic relationship, so too is healthy communication key to a healthy nation. As I encourage couples;

  • Let’s address issues, while avoiding blame and criticism.
  • Let’s share about our differences and try to understand each other without vilifying the opposition.
  • If the emotional intensity of a debate gets too high, let’s take a break until cooler minds can prevail and we can get back to the issue at hand. L
  • et’s entertain the possibility that we could be wrong and be open to influence.
  • Most importantly, let’s remember to focus on where we can find common ground and work from there.

If we can shift our perspective about differences of opinions to opportunities instead of attacks, then I think we might actually get somewhere.