Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Ultimate Hot Topic: Reproductive Rights--Abortion, Birth Control and Freedom

One of the greatest differences between us and the rest of the Animal Kingdom is the ability to control our reproductive future. Unfortunately, so many of the issues surrounding reproductive health have been marginalized and politicized instead of remaining the highly personal issues they ought to be. Instead of teaching our children about ways in which to safely engage in sexual activity if they so choose, we've started teaching them first that abortion is wrong, above all else.

There's one thing that conservatives and I can agree on: freedom isn't free. In a society like ours, how are we to dedicate ourselves to freedom if we don't allow ourselves the basic reproductive freedoms that should run tandem with being a free citizen?

I was raised Catholic. My family was not a strict fire and brimstone Catholic family, but rather one of liberal social justice. To this day, there are many things that I can find common ground with the Catholic church on--we're both against the death penalty and war, we both believe in workers' rights, we both believe poverty is a crime against humanity. But sadly, the Christian world, including the Catholic world, has turned against these basic beliefs in order to form an opinion on the most basic of rights in a stunning turn of events.

So if I were to create a world of my own, what would the reproductive rights look like, you ask? Here is my simple three-part Reproductive Health Bill of Rights:

1. Comprehensive, age-appropriate, sex education shall be provided to all children.

It's amazing to me that children these days aren't presented with the same set of facts that I was presented with even twenty years ago. I never felt bombarded with information or that sex education urged me to procreate or engage in acts of procreation, so I'm unsure what the hullabaloo is about.

Comprehensive sex education teaches our youth the things they need to stay safe. While it's a nice fantasized notion that we can urge our youth to refrain from sexual activity until they are ready, it is just that--a fantasy. Children do not hear "no" when it comes to things they want to do. In fact, it's part of growing up that we test our boundaries by doing those things we were told were bad--whether it be touching a hot stove or having sex. What abstinence-only education does is it just tells us the stove is bad, it doesn't tell us why it's bad to touch a hot stove and what we can do to prevent touching the stove, or if we chose to touch the stove from burning our hand.

It's a fact that before the average American teen reaches age 20, he or she has had sex. So odds are they are going to do it whether anyone tells them abstinence only or not. And instead of being prepared, they are going to lack knowledge of proper ways to protect themselves.

If we want to avoid abortion (and I think everyone would rather avoid it than not), comprehensive sex education is the only proven way to do it.

2. Birth control shall not be a taboo subject, but should be discussed and used freely.

An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. So if that old adage is true, and I believe it is, why don't we heed it when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies?

Birth control is basic health care. If every sexually active person were knowledgeable about birth control and it was easily accessible, the need for abortions would diminish. The argument that pro-choice is pro-abortion is nonsense when you consider the amount of effort organizations put into promoting safe sex and contraception.

Instead, the powers-that-be have taken it upon themselves to limit access to contraception. Not only do we not talk about it in a safe, educational setting, we cut funding for it, we allow insurance companies to refuse to cover it and we allow pharmacists the privilege of refusing to fill a prescription for it. Nothing is more absurd than these tactics.

Contraception is basic health care, but more importantly it is basic common sense.

3. Prevention shall rise above all else, but abortion shall always be an option.

Facts are facts--even in a perfect world with prevention and comprehensive sex education in place, unwanted pregnancies will arise. The Conservatives call for a culture of life to be developed wherein women are forced to carry pregnancies to term and either keep the child or give it up for adoption. These consequences are unacceptable.

Abortion is a safe medical procedure to end a pregnancy. Abortion is not murder because embryos and fetuses are not born yet, and therefore are unable to be murdered. If a heartbeat is recognized as a human life, then a seed must be recognized as a full grown tree. It is an absurd argument.

But more improtantly, the question of when life begins is an unnecessary one. Abortions are a necessary part of life because some women are not fit mentally, physically or otherwise to have children. Abortions are a necessary part of life because some women did not chose to get pregnant and are not proper candidates for carrying a child to term and/or raising one.

The fact is that even if you think abortion is morally wrong and not for you, the access to one is a right that is ingrained in our culture and in our Constitution. It is a medical procedure--one which should be between the patient and the medical provider. Being pro-choice means that you accept and respect the fact that there is the option of abortion--not that you would have one yourself.

Furthermore, unintended pregnancies which are carried to term often lead to worse consequences. Children are given up for adoption and end up in a foster care system which cannot provide basic care and security for the children it is intended to protect. Children are born to families where they are not wanted and abused mentally, emotionally or sexually. Children are born to people who cannot afford their care, resulting in increased poverty and dependence on welfare programs. These are all of the consequences of abortion bans--none of them being good consequences.

Finally, medical concerns often come into the picture. No matter how hard McCain mocks, the health of the mother is very often a real and legitimate concern and anyone who disagrees with that obviously hasn't been in such a situation.

The fact is that in an ideal world, reproductive rights should not be a political issue at all. It should be a matter of choice for the person involved. Sadly, our world has become all to interested in the reproducitve organs of women, giving them secondary status when it comes to a fetus.

Sexism starts from the moment the doctor says "It's a Girl!" but it doesn't have to continue until she hears those words for herself--whether she wanted to, or not.

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