Our theme for the month of February is “color.”
Click or tap to change.
Republicans have shown that there is no more room for compromise. Democrats must see that there is no more room for retreat. Every single vote for a Republican at the local, state, or national level is a vote to reduce born women to the status of medical incubators with mouthparts.
They hate us to the point that anything that gives them the feeling of victory, the feeling of having trounced us, that’s worth the standing ovation. “Us” being religion, God, the Catholic Church, Christianity at large, conservatives, the conservative movement.
After a few pregnancy scares earlier in life, I got a handle on birth control. I don’t have much skin in the abortion game these days.
I still care about it, of course. It’s living and dying, or at least living. I’m not sure where life begins. The science surpasses my long-forgotten high school classes and my single, lab-less BIO 123, and that’s what so much of this comes down to, isn’t it? Are we killing people?
Two of my high school friends didn’t see much difference between condoms, partial-birth abortions, and first-degree murder; as to be expected, they popped out a kid before I graduated college. Did their baby’s life start at fertilization? At heartbeat? At the end of his first trimester, or at the commencement of the third? Unlike some of my friends, I never had to run for Plan B at one in the morning, but I would have if a condom broke. Some of my family members might consider that murder, and others might consider it the only reasonable action. If my girlfriend’s late periods had never shown up back then, would we have terminated the alternative? I don’t know. I can skim inconclusive science and point out discrepancies in the law. It’s not personal for me.
I don’t understand why a pregnant woman carries an unborn child if a drunk driver crashes into her, but a fetus if she decides to terminate—and if she does the job herself with a coathanger, poison, or a different home remedy, prosecuting that is considered a state issue, a journalism issue, a bias issue. California charged Chelsea Becker with first-degree murder when she took enough meth to make her baby stillborn. But when an impoverished, 17-year-old Utah girl paid a man $150 to beat her in hopes it would induce an abortion, the judge ruled that she could not be prosecuted. This doesn’t feel right. Does life depend on intention? Method? Mifepristone, by any other name, would smell as lethal.
I wash my hands of it. I’m lucky and I can do that. From my armchair—safe and male, safe and born—I can call all sorts of plays like mandating comprehensive sex education, providing free contraception, and letting Medicare cover IUDs. What if the country improved adoptions, fixed the foster system, and supported single mothers who couldn’t afford to get knocked up (or raped) but it happened anyway? If people leech off the system and make babies just for the money, let’s address that, rather than selling compassion wholesale in exchange for a profitable bottom line. And what could churches do? Nonprofits? Fraternal societies? The options don’t start and end with big government.
These things make sense to me. Reducing the demand for abortions makes sense to me. Everyone wins: reproductive rights and fetal rights.
But when someone suggests skirting the battlefield instead of charging the enemy trenches, baby-saving demagogues suddenly start hawking sexual morality, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. But if millions of people are truly dying in utero, who cares about about slightly higher taxes? What lifeguard lets someone drown to teach his mother a lesson about always bringing a life jacket? When policymakers approach the conflict obliquely by proposing pre-abortion counseling (congruent with mandatory education before an elective joint replacement), hawkish columnists shout down questions about informed consent and long-term emotional wellbeing. But if choice matters, shouldn’t all choices make it on the table? Who refuses to feed a starving woman just because she doesn’t want their own ideal, five-course meal?
“The national conversation” sounds like a shouting match, and I feel like an eight-year-old kid who just wants someone to stop fighting and start parenting. Can we talk about whether reproductive freedom should extend to men, so if a woman lies about her birth control, or if an accident happens, or if the man just wants a childless future, he can waive his parental rights and get off the hook for paying child support? Or does that idea receive the conveniently amorphous stain of “alt-right,” no matter that it might also reduce the of rate coerced abortions? Can we insist on equal male-female representation in courtrooms and congressional committees that decide matters of abortion, or do headlines that cry “reverse discrimination” outweigh the peer-reviewed finding that gender does have a significant and independent effect on how Members of Congress vote on issues of abortion and women’s health? Compromise isn’t weakness. Nuance doesn’t undermine integrity.
My ballot comes with boxes. I pick one, color within the lines, drop it in the mail, and return to a complicated world. The problem comes when I don’t return. When I make that box my home, when I squeeze in there for the long haul and contort myself into a slogan. Red or blue, us or them, pro- or pro-. I’m not a professional. I don’t profit off clicks, outrage, or party loyalty. I have friends and family, and some use contraception and some don’t. Some are sex-positive but abortion-negative, and others some would terminate their own pregnancy but dissuade others from doing the same. Only a very few hate women or God, no matter what Rush Limbaugh and The Nation insist.
“This is the story of America,” wrote Jack Kerouac. “Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” In my spot on the sidelines, I think I’m supposed to listen when I want to shout, dignify those I want to deride, and keep questioning when I want to escape into an answer. I think if my position fits in a box, I’m supposed to change it. I think I’m supposed to be an amateur.
NPR called Josh “a modern-day Jack Kerouac” after he wrote about his 7,000-mile, no-money hitchhiking journey through the United States. Since hitchhiking, he’s found homes in the Pacific Northwest, the Episcopal Church, and the post calvin. He builds websites as the director of Branded Look LLC. Josh’s writing has appeared in places such as The Emerson Review, Front Porch Review, and Perspectives.