Blogging About Choice

Abortion (or more accurately the battle over legal access to an abortion) is the biggest red herring in the history of politics. Shortly before Ronald Reagan took office, conservative Christian groups (disappointed with Carter’s liberal form of Christianity, and reeling from the Nixon years) were looking for an issue to help galvanize their base and move them forward. They realized that abortion was the ticket. It not only created some great sound-bites (child genocide, etc etc) and helped define the “them” (evil secular humanists and liberal Christians), but it also helped erode the traditional Catholic support of the Democratic party (the modern Catholic church since around 1917 was soundly anti-abortion).

The current debate about abortion should be about issues of institutional poverty and racism, better social programs, and the real support of women’s health rather than the issue of the legality of abortion. The fact that it isn’t the debate surely makes several conservative factions very, very happy. As long as the “pro-life” movement is more concerned with the legalities than with what causes women to want abortions, then the issue will forever be in play.

The funny thing is that most people in America don’t feel the government should be messing about with the issue, and that it should remain a personal moral choice. Still politicians court the “Religious Right” by saying how they would overturn “Roe”, and once elected they might support a cosmetic measure or two (eliminating some funding, trying to push an unpassable bill, gag rules) to appease them, but would always fall short of the “goal” (overturning of Roe). Bush (the closest thing the RR has to a “true believer” in the White House) has come the closest with the appointment of Supreme Court Justices (Roberts and Alito) towards creating an atmosphere where serious long-term damage to national legal abortions could someday happen.

I personally believe that removing the option of a safe legal abortion from women in today’s America is a moral evil. You may even want to call me a socialist when I point out that the American mode of capitalism with its indifference to human life and drive for profit above all has helped created the current level of demand (it is a known fact that the better off we are doing economically, and the better supported we are the fewer abortions we have). Furthermore it is obvious that these conservative groups don’t actually care about eliminating abortion, since most of them also fight against all forms of birth control, family planning (except abstinence of course), and extensive social support. If the demand for abortion dried up and it was truly rare how would they use it to garner votes? How would they use it to create a wall between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death”? They would have to tackle the harder issues of poverty and war. They might then alienate themselves from their conservative power brokers. That can never happen. They need abortions. They need them far more than any Planned Parenthood advocate or doctor.

No real progress on the abortion question will happen until the conservative religious groups who have made this their pet issue put aside the legal challenges and instead come to the table to talk with pro-choice advocates about moving forward on addressing the demand – rather than the supply. That means free health care, that means open access to real family planning methods, that means addressing poverty and the dwindling government support for social programs. It means a social revolution from the heart.

For further reading, I think the PopPolitics blog brings up some very good points on the issue of forced pregnancy, sterility campaigns (and their inherent racism), and if we should ditch the term “pro-choice” as outdated.

Since this is a blog about modern Paganisms, I also re-present a post I did a while back on the issue of modern (and ancient) Pagan religions and the abortion issue:

Paganism and The Pro-Choice Choice

With all the recent talk about the “culture of life” in the news I figured I would shine some light on what most modern Pagans think about the subject of abortion. I think it would be fair to say that the majority of modern Pagans across the spectrum favor safe and legal access to abortions (and want it to stay that way). Most Pagans who don’t personally support abortions stay out of the “Pro-Life” camp since they feel that it is an ethical matter between an individual and their gods and not something the government (or religious groups) should be deciding for us.

A series of essays and a readers poll on The Witches’ Voice and a discussion thread on the Paganism boards at Beliefnet all point to a dominant pro-choice trend.

What follows is a series of quotations from individuals, groups and commentators within modern Paganism (and one from ancient Pagandom) giving their views on why a strong majority of us are pro-choice.

“Abortion is, as we all know, one of the most painful and controversial spiritual issues of our day. The Goddess religion has no hard-and-fast ruling on when a clump of fetal cells becomes a being. In fact I was taught that the moment varies greatly with individual pregnancies. Some women have a sense of new life even before conception. Others may not feel that the fetus in their womb has taken on a soul until the time of quickening. This is one of the mysteries. Is is in our encounter with the mysteries of birth and death, growth and suffering, pleasure and sorrow, that we meet the Goddess. So to take away our right to have that encounter, to face that often painful and difficult choice, is to deny a woman’s deepest spiritual self. For that reason, Pagans on the whole are strongly in favor of choice – although, of course (as with everything), individuals will differ widely in their opinions.”Starhawk, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying

“Through our own abortion experiences, we came to reject the dichotomy of abortion politics that would require women to choose between two beliefs: that pregnancy is a miracle, the fetus’s life is sacred, and therfore abortion is wrong; or that pregnancy is merely a physical event, the fetus is just a mass of tissue, and therefore abortion is insignificant. As feminists and Pagans, we believe that women are literally a gateway between worlds and that abortion is a responsible exercise of the sacred power of choice.”Minerva Earthschild and Vibra Willow, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying

“It is ecologically, psychologically, spiritually and politically indefensible to bring unwanted children into the world. We are pro-life, regarding the quality of life for all being to be of utmost importance. The CAW unconditionally supports the right of every woman to make her own decisions regarding her desire and ability to bear and responsibly raise a child. We declare and defend a woman’s right to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation of her choice, including a timely abortion if and when she should deem it necessary. We support the right of all women to access to appropri
ate health-care services that will enable them to safely through pregnancy with the best chance of bearing and raising healthy children. We work for the right so women to maintain and expand their own reproductive options.”
Church of All Worlds

“…most issues like abortion or capital punishment are up to individuals to decide for themselves. There may be tendencies toward certain opinions, and there may be historical or Brehon precedent on how to approach various issues – but these are not used to ‘preach’ a particular social agenda, each person is free, indeed encouraged, to use their own judgement and conscience in such matters.”New Tara

“Abortion was accepted in both ancient Rome and Greece. The Romans and Greeks weren’t much concerned with protecting the unborn, and when they did object to abortion it was often because the father didn’t want to be deprived of a child that he felt entitled to.”BBC Religion and Ethics

“…when couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun; what may or may not be lawfully done in these cases depends on the question of life and sensation.”Aristotle, Politics 7.16

“Wiccans have one fundamental ethical precept: ‘An (if) it harm none, do what you will.’ This honors the great freedom that each individual has to ascertain truth, to experience the Divine directly, and to determine how to best live her or his own life. With that freedom, however, comes a profound responsibility that none may be harmed by one’s choices and actions. As in many religions, individual Wiccans reach different conclusions when applying these fundamental precepts to such issues as vegetarianism, abortion, or participation in war.”H.Ps. Phyllis W. Curott, J.D. President Emerita, Covenant of the Goddess (COG)

“In an ideal world, pregnancy would be a gift and we’d have adequate support available for those willing to raise the next generation, but it isn’t and we don’t. Until we do, I don’t want women to die from illegal, back alley abortions; I don’t want women to bleed to death from trying to do it alone or with another unqualified person. I don’t want poor women enslaved by a power structure in which we have no say.”Morgaine Swann, The Goddess blog

“The ethics of Wicca are grounded in personal empowerment for the benefit of self and group empowerment, A careful study of the questions raised in the light of that grounding leads me to know and understand that access to abortion is truly a Witch’s issue.”Lady Lee, Feminista!

“Fertility and rebirth are two of the Gods?? greatest gifts, but everything has its time and place. Excessive or untimely fertility can have disastrous results. Our forebears understood this and had to deal with it. Overpopulation has been a problem in the Germanic homelands for many centuries, and was a significant factor in all three of the great Germanic migrations (??Dark Ages,?? Viking Age, and Post-Columbian Age). One reason that abortion is especially worthy of discussion is that a large proportion of contemporary Heathens live in the United States, where abortion rights are a hot potato to put it mildly and where a large, vocal, and conservatively Christian minority may well manage in the near future to at least temporarily restrict access to safe, legal abortion. My own view is that one is ethically obligated to do one’s best, using available technologies, to prevent unwanted pregnancies…The abortion dilemma is best avoided whenever possible. I think that we can all agree on that! When that does not occur, my own opinion is that in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, even one due to stupidity or irresponsibility, one should consider all options and do what is best for oneself and best for the other people concerned who are already born, up, and running so to speak. Compounding wrongful conception with wrongful birth solves nothing.”Jordsvin, (Norse Heathen)

“…among our Germanic and Celtic ancestors. Women were highly honored and were paid attention, people asked them for their advice and followed it, wisewomen (Witches) traveled through the land, and their intuition was valued, as they were welcomed as healers and prophetesses. Women had a choice of how they wanted to live and the housewife had the authority to make decisions for the household. Women could make their own decision on such matters as abortion. The hatred of the human body and human sexuality that Christianity brought was not present in Heathenism.”Geza von Nemenyi, ‘Women in Asatru’

” Abortion is not condemned, as there is no official doctrine; beliefs about abortion range the full spectrum. Views on divorce, homosexuality, and gender equality are generally very supportive of human differences, equality, and personal choice. Many believe that involvement in community action, especially regarding environmental concerns, is integral to the belief in human interdependence and worship of the Earth Mother.”Beliefnet (What Neo-Pagans believe)

“Every woman deserves the right to control her own body. No woman should be forced to bear a child she does not want. No woman should be sterilized against her will. The right to a safe, legal abortion is a basic human right.”Earth Island Angels

“We tend to believe in freedom of choice as much as possible for as many as possible and by as many as possible. We also believe in individual responsibility. Once again, it’s your call and your Karma.”soc.religion.paganism FAQ

“We find a rigid list of right and wrongs to not be realistic or useful. I’ve spent half of my life hearing arguments over what “Thou shall not kill” is supposed to mean. Does it include self-defense? War? Abortion? Animals for food? What about plants for food? There are also plenty of crimes that the 10 Commandments doesn’t cover, and no matter how many commandments you write, you will never cover every situation. Instead, we attempt to create a framework in which individual situations can be examined and judged, based upon the potential for harm. The result is a religion whose followers’ ethics do in fact generally fall in line with those of the rest of society.”Catherine Noble, Wicca: For The Rest of Us

This entry was part of Blog For Choice Day.