"He values life, so you know he has good morals."
|Don't trust crazy-eyes here.|
But Steve King isn't the only example of a politician who can hang on to his political power by claiming a pro-life agenda. We see hundreds of examples of politicians who oppose abortion, citing the need to protect the sanctify of life, but then turn around and support the death penalty, fight gun regulation, cut healthcare to those in need, criminalize immigrants, demonize refugees, slut-shame sexual assault survivors, and work to defund our educational system. These people are not truly valuing life. They just know speaking out against abortion is going to get them votes.
I am a Catholic woman, and I consider myself pro-life. How I define pro-life, however, probably sounds different than the rhetoric you're used to. I am not politically pro-life. I do not beat the drum and shout from the mountaintops about the need to protect unborn babies, but then turn my back on and ignore the needs and the sufferings of people once they've entered this world. If a person claims to be pro-life, but doesn't bother to try to understand the complexities of the human experience, the differing perspectives that color and shape the choices and beliefs of individuals, then they're not really pro-life. If a person claims to be pro-life, but refuses to acknowledge the sanctity of the environment, ignores the need to protect the planet rather than exploit it, then they're not really pro-life. To be truly pro-life means to act with compassion towards others, to try and understand the thoughts and beliefs of those different from yourself, to care just as much for the poor and for the immigrant as you do for the unborn. To be pro-life means to be an advocate for those in need, to be a good steward of the earth, to be a voice for the voiceless and stand up against injustice. I am pro-life because I care about the lives of all those around me, and I work to make life better for anyone I can.
As a Catholic, pro-life woman, I support Planned Parenthood. Congress is currently making moves to take away all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. They claim to be doing this out of a pro-life perspective, in an effort to stop the organization from providing abortions. The fact of the matter is, it's already against the law for federal money to go towards abortion services. The Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1977, makes it illegal for abortions to be paid for by Medicaid, except in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother's life is threatened. What then would it really mean for Planned Parenthood to have their government funding taken away? It would mean millions of people, many low-income who rely on government services to afford basic healthcare, would be without such vital services as cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, access to contraception and safe sex education, prenatal treatments, and pregnancy tests and screenings, just to name a few. The potential defunding of Planned Parenthood isn't simply an issue of pro-choice vs. anti-choice. It's a matter of the health and wellness of millions of people vs. the political agendas and manipulations of a privileged few.
There is a great danger in allowing politicians to use morality as an excuse to police and control the personal choices and beliefs of the people they are meant to serve.
In all honesty, though, I stand with Planned Parenthood because I don't care about the politics or moral debates. I care about people. I care about the girl seeking judgement free birth control, because her religious upbringing has made her ashamed and scared to talk to her parents about sex. I care about the single-mother receiving breast exams and care because she can't afford to regularly go anywhere else. I care about the young pregnant couple, just starting out on their own, who are able to find the prenatal care they need without having to stretch their already tight budget. I care about the young man seeking treatment for a sexually transmitted disease he didn't know his partner had. And I care about the young woman who needs a safe place to go for help because she has no where else to turn.
The simple truth is making abortion illegal or harder to acquire isn't going to stop it from happening. It's just going to make it more dangerous for those who do seek it. I can understand the conviction those who are staunchly against it have, and their desire to eliminate it as a choice once and for all. I appreciate the deeply held beliefs many of those people have, and I know that the majority of people who stand against abortion are good people just doing what they believe is right. I don't see abortion as a good thing, necessarily. I would like nothing more than to live in a world where abortion is no longer seen as a needed option, but I know making it outright illegal isn't going to accomplish that goal. It's only a band-aid solution to a host of deeper, more systemic problems in our society.
You want abortion to go away? Then push for more holistic approaches to safe-sex education that accounts for the emotional responses as well as the bodily ones to sex, and doesn't shy away from the topic of contraception and reproductive healthcare. Make churches talk more openly about sex as a good given to us by God, and not a shameful, sinful act that we should hide or remain close-mouthed about. Throw out abstinence-only education and recognize that, ultimately, people are going to make their own choices, follow their own conscience, and if they do have sex outside of marriage, they need to be safe and educated about it.
Start teaching boys and young men not to sexualize girls and woman. Teach boys not to rape instead of trying to teach girls to not draw attention to themselves. That only leads to victim-blaming and slut-shaming in the end. Stop reducing girls and women to their appearance and policing their bodies and dressing choices. Stop portraying girls as damsels or lesser in strength and value than boys and men, and start recognizing and nurturing their power and tenacity. Stop thinking that feminism is a bad word, or means anything other than equality among the sexes.
Pro-lifers, don't demonize the women who receive abortions, and start to try and understand the reasons and circumstances surrounding their decision instead. There are women who choose it freely, but there are many who seek abortions because they simply don't feel like they have any other options.
I care about the defunding of Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood is pro-life. Planned Parenthood is pro-life because pro-life means more than anti-abortion. It means caring for those in greatest need, sympathizing with those in greatest pain, and showing compassion to those in greatest distress. It means recognizing that not everyone is going to share your beliefs, but that everyone has a conscience and is able to make choices for themselves. It means recognizing that, sometimes, we make sacrifices in our own lives so that other people can receive the care and support they need to not only survive, but to thrive.
Ultimately, I stand with Planned Parenthood because I know it's not just about me. My thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and perspectives are not the only ones that matter in this world. Just as I wouldn't want anyone to force their beliefs and opinions onto me, I have no right to force my beliefs and opinions onto anyone else. I can walk with people, I can and should care for people, I can support people, but I can never control people. And I shouldn't want to. No one should. Our government is meant to serve, not to control, and in those times that it does try to step over that line, people of faith, those who are truly pro-life, should be among the first to stand up and push back. We shouldn't be the ones clearing the way.
Until next time,
P.S. In case you need a little more convincing as to why stepping back and broadening the picture around abortions is important, I highly recommend following this link to watch the video from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Abortion Laws