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In Part 1, I said:
The bottom line for me was that a woman should have the right to decide for herself what to do with her sexuality, her body, and -- if her contraception failed -- her pregnancy.
My pro-choice position arose from what I saw as a civil rights issue. Women, I believed, must have as much freedom and autonomy as men do. Anything else was unjust.
I still believe that. But I have a deeper understanding now of what authentic freedom is.
Back then, I thought of "freedom" as "the right to do whatever I want, whenever I desire, with whomever I choose, however I choose it." That was the male modus operandi (or so I thought) and in order to gain equal footing, women needed the same choices and the same freedoms.
I took exception to traditional notions of gender roles. Why were women perceived as sexual gatekeepers, while men were never blamed for constant conquering, since boys will be boys? The many derogatory names for sexually active women had no counterparts in the male world. I found the assumption that women were somehow more naturally virtuous grating. I felt no more virtuous than the guy sitting next to me in my History of Film class. Why should we not all be allowed the same freedoms, without the name calling? (And not just in the sexual arena, of course. The same was true in the work world. Ambitious women were -- and still are -- called names quite different from the cheering labels ambitious men receive. )
When the abortion question was framed by these parameters, it made sense to me to be pro-choice. It was about rights and freedom. It was about independence. It was about getting out from under the constraints of being the sexual gatekeeper. I wanted it all ... or at least, I wanted the freedom to choose whatever part of "all" I wanted, in the same way I saw men choose. I wanted control.
Notice the "I, I, I" of my definition. It was all about me and what I wanted, just as (I noticed, little by little) the men I held up as my models of social and sexual freedom tended to make the world all about them.
But what about a higher ideal? What about those people -- men and women -- who approached the world from a different perspective? What of the human beings who, before considering themselves, considered their responsibility (to themselves, their ideals, and other people) rather than proceeding from an assumption of the right to unrestrained action?
When I met people who lived their lives in that way, when I began to see the possibilities of that kind of world, my views began to change.
And do you see how, in all of my previous musings, I hadn't yet even dug into the territory of the reality or nature of the baby? And that's why I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all argument to the pro-life position.* Because until we know why the person we're talking to is pro-choice, we can't know how our reasoning will be received. Arguments about the baby, a right to life, fetal pain ... they bounced off me when I was twenty years old and obsessed with working out the details of what 20th century sexual freedom meant.
I had to start at a much more foundational place of basic human ethics and responsibility.
*That's not to say there aren't steadfast truths -- abortion is intrinsically, objectively wrong. There is a right to life. But I do believe culpability can vary wildly within individual circumstances of abortion in a confused and murky world.