Sunday, June 23, 2013

Glad to Be Here: A Personal Opinion on the Abortion Debate

Me, aged 2

For most of my adult life I have lived with a strange, indescribable feeling. It is something that pops up now and then, swirling around in my subconscious making me pause and reflect. You see for as long as I remember I have known I have been adopted. There is of course nothing odd or unusual about adoption. In fact I find it one of the greatest things a person or family could ever do, to bring in to your home a child and give them unquestionable love and care. I will never be able to convey the huge gratitude to my parents for what they have done for me for the thirty years I have been on this earth and for sticking up with me.

However that is not the strange sensation I feel and wish to explain to you all. It is something else, which has been accentuated by current events at home and in the United States. Basically I keep thinking that if abortion were legal when I was conceived, what would have become of me? For when the Eight Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was being voted upon that constitutionally banned abortion, I was by then undergoing the process of adoption as a sprightly, over-active 6 months old baby. Being completely honest I have never felt a desire to discover my biological parents, a decision I made on my own. They have always been without question Margaret and Joe who adopted me. However at times I keep thinking about what were the choices and ideas my biological mother had when she was pregnant with me. Was she a young mother, maybe unwed in a still at times puritanical Ireland? Was she someone who just couldn’t afford to bring up a child?

What to do with an unwanted pregnancy is one of the toughest, heart-wrenching decisions a woman has to make and is never taken lightly. If Ireland had abortion in 1982 when I was conceived, could I have become just a statistic in a clinic; having never had the chance to take my first steps, go to school, see the world and become the man I am today? It is an unexplainable concoction of guilt and fear melded with other emotions that has always been in me. What has made me write this little piece was to convey a personal opinion on the abortion debate that swirls like a tempest right now here in Ireland and in parts of the United States.

Now you might think from my perspective that I am anti-choice or to use jargon we hear in the debate ”pro-life”. I am not. Nature has created a situation in which a woman bears the weight of conception and gestation. A woman, like a man should have the right to determine what they want to do with their bodies, whatever that may involve. I know some rabid anti-choicers will jump at me for having some sort of twisted hypocritical view of things and my reply to that is, funnily enough, it was the “pro-lifers” who led me to this view.

My dad Joe and I
What I see today is an argument blown out of proportions, fuelled by the most vicious animosity I have ever seen. But what has sickened me the most has been the actions of some of the anti-choice faction here and in the US.  In America anti-abortion is I feel the last vestige of a conservative agenda in decline after the battle against such things as gay marriage have been lost in the arena of public opinion. In Ireland in many ways it is the same. I have no doubt the people who are anti-choice have strong convictions in their belief against abortion but it is misguided and has been hijacked by an abhorrent minority that has pushed many like me who in their minds could be persuaded either way in to the pro-choice camp.

What I see now is the demonization of the woman who decides whether to terminate a pregnancy or not; a woman in need of help, advice, care and attention. No one, man or woman, regardless of their situation should be made to feel this way, to be branded a murderer or criminal for making a decision over their own bodies. Countless hours and vast resources, mental and financial have been wasted over the years in basically assailing women. But attacking the only person naturally capable of bearing the child is utterly misguided because fundamentally it is about the woman. To force a woman to have a child is a monstrous attack on personal liberties plain and simple.  To do this to a woman pregnant due to incest or rape, prolonging for nine months that attack on someone is unfathomably sickening and inhumane. Yet today this is what is happening.

We live in a world where protecting the unborn we cause mental and physical harm to others. In any other situation it would be unquestionably wrong but to even have a hint of a pro-choice agenda you are fair game to have bloodied dolls resembling fetuses mailed to you, to be physically attacked or unjustly made in to a pariah. This makes me seethe with anger. In the very act of trying to save some humanity you degrade it with actions like these. Now I am not letting off the hook some of the rabid pro-choice campaigners but the actions of a small minority who are against abortion have led me to be pro-choice but within some parameters.

I will admit, I have for a very long time been sitting on the fence in relation to abortion, not just because of my own personal experience that I gave earlier. At conception, some form of life is created but it is not whole. Until that fetus can live independently from the mother it is ultimately up to the woman, that individual whose body the fetus can only survive on to decide. I therefore am in favor of term limits after which abortion should not be allowed unless the woman’s life is in danger.

With my parents and sister, August 2011
But what this whole argument needs is greater understanding of the whole situation, the creation of an environment for a woman to be given proper care and consultation on options. My biological mother if abortion was legal could have terminated me and I live with that feeling all the time. I am glad she did not. I hope that she was given the proper care and advice, told that she could give the greatest gift imaginable to others such as my mother and father, Margaret and Joe. Sadly we are living in a time of budget cuts to welfare to help women make the proper choice, actions ironically enough taken by politicians who are themselves against abortion.

This debate is not just about abortion. It is about pregnancy, about choice and understanding of which abortion is just one but very important part. We need to look beyond abortion and allow pregnant women to have a conducive environment to decide what is best for them. I’m obviously glad my biological mother never decided on abortion but I respect her, like others to make that choice and we should be doing more for women to make that big decision rather than throwing weapons at them and at each other.

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