Rethinking Abortion

A friend of mine recently told me that she used to be strongly pro-choice but now, because of experiences she’s had in her own life and seeing what other women have gone through, she’s decided that she’s pro-life. She said she’s concerned about the psychological damage to women who have abortions. She also feels many women have abortions for selfish reasons and there are very few good reasons for having one.

To tell the truth, I was surprised at how much I agreed with her. I’ve never felt comfortable about women having abortions just because they don’t want to be inconvenienced or stressed out. I’ve even wondered if there’s ever a good reason to abort a baby other than rape, incest, severe birth defects or the health of the mother. I have four children myself and two grandchildren (with one more on the way) and I know how precious a new life is.

The problem is, the abortion debate forces you to pick sides. You’re made to feel that you have to be pro-life OR pro-choice. You can’t be both. But as I listened to my friend, I realized that I am both.

I believe that abortion should be a last resort. No woman should use abortion just because she was too lazy or irresponsible to use birth control. (However, this belief doesn’t address the issue of what to do when a mistake has been made.)

I also believe that once a fetus is viable (i.e., it can live outside the womb without heroic efforts to keep it alive), it should not be aborted. If you’ve gone eight months with a baby inside you, what’s another month? That child has a right to live; even if you don’t want to be its mother, there is almost always someone who does. Let’s face it: newborn babies are in demand. It’s the older child who is harder to place. So if you don’t think you want to be a mother, don’t “give it a try” for a few years. Make the responsible choice while the baby still has a chance to grow up from birth in a loving home.

When I had my abortion at the age of 19, I was a freshman in college, I didn’t want to marry the father and I was afraid to tell my parents. I was also pretty sure that I couldn’t give the baby up for adoption and I knew my life would be changed irrevocably if I kept him or her. I thought I’d have to drop out of college and depend on my parents even more than I already did (and which I hated). And I didn’t want to have to deal with custody and visitation issues with a man I didn’t want to be with.

Also, this was 1971 and unmarried mothers were not as accepted as they are now.

None of these reasons justified my “killing” my baby, but they added up to a compelling argument at the time. And since the man who’d gotten me pregnant was completely supportive of my getting an abortion, I have to believe that he had similar reasons.

So how did I feel after having the abortion? Was I overwhelmed with guilt and grief? No. I can honestly say that all I felt was relief, especially since I pulled it off without having to tell my parents.

But now that I’m almost 60 and can look back on a long life of mistakes and regrets, I realize that just because something feels right doesn’t mean that it is right. I was a moderately religious person, but I didn’t have a well-developed sense of morals or ethics. I didn’t approach the problem from that perspective at all. I didn’t go to a counselor or a trusted adult. I felt like I got myself into this mess, it was up to me to get myself out.

I have had feelings of guilt and grief over the years, but they’ve never been overwhelming. My main feeling was that the abortion was regrettable, but the right thing for me at the time. But I had some bad moments during each of my subsequent pregnancies, especially once the babies were born. I couldn’t help but think that I would have had another child three years older than my oldest daughter if I hadn’t been so selfish. Who knows what that baby might have been like? Was it the boy I never managed to have later on? He or she would have been forty years old this year. Would I have had other grandchildren? How would he or she have turned out?

Having an abortion puts you in a tricky situation. You can ask God for forgiveness, but you can’t ask your aborted baby to forgive you. Some people get around this by not believing that the fetus was a baby. Technically and medically, the fetus isn’t a baby (that is, it can’t live outside the womb). But is it a life?

One debate surrounding abortion is over whether life begins at fertilization or implantation. Medical science has always favored the latter. You’re not pregnant until implantation occurs and you can’t be carrying a new life until you’re actually pregnant.

People who hold the former view have arbitrarily decided that life begins at fertilization.  Some pro-life advocates are against birth control because they think that the contraception itself causes abortions. But what happens when a fertilized egg passes out of the uterus naturally? Is that an abortion? Carry that a step further: does that mean that even God “murders” babies?

Strong words, I know. But the point I’m trying to make is: Is it ever right to make decisions that only God used to make? If the answer is no, you might as well do away with medical science and research. No more transplants, no more medicines, no more fertility treatments, no more heroic measures. Who are we to decide whether someone should live or die?

The Bible says that God gave man dominion over the earth. You could argue that this doesn’t just mean that he is supposed to tend plants and animals. It could also mean that God gave us jurisdiction over questions of life and death. He gave us the intellect to develop those things that help to extend life. But the flip side is that we’re also allowed to decide when things can or should be prevented from achieving viability, or life.

There are many good reasons for not allowing an embryo to develop into a fetus, or a fetus into a baby. What about when the number of children a family has prevents those children from having a good quality of life? What if the resources and support systems don’t exist to ensure that a child will be raised in a loving environment?

And that’s not even taking into account the health of the pregnant woman. What if she has other children she needs to be there for? Is it right to allow a woman to die just to allow the birth of another motherless child?

There is no consensus about these issues. That means is there is no one position that is more popular than the others. And for that reason, I believe it is against everything this country stands for to allow one group’s opinion to prevail.

Being pro-choice doesn’t mean that women will be forced to have unwanted abortions. But being anti-choice does mean that some women will be forced to have unwanted babies.

Which is right: force or freedom?

For a doctor’s views of when life begins and the abortion debate, go here at “The Moderate Voice.”








Court Allows Wal-Mart to Get Away with it Again

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court did not find that Wal-Mart routinely discriminates against its female employees. That doesn’t mean that Wal-Mart is innocent. All it means is that the Court refused to hear the case. It seems that the 1.5 million plaintiffs in this class action suit have experiences that are too disparate and don’t show enough commonality to qualify for class action status.

Excuse me? Of course their experiences are disparate: you’re talking about 1.5 million women. And what could be more in common than the fact that they were discriminated against because they were all women?

This is the problem with proving sex discrimination in this country: it happens to women, one at a time, whenever a woman is passed over for a variety of types of promotions: better hours, more hours, positions of greater responsibility, higher pay. But the result is still the same: a woman is denied the opportunities that are routinely offered to men. And she can’t do a damn thing about it.

Because that’s the other thing about sex discrimination: it’s carefully packaged as something else. The discriminators don’t say that all women lack ambition or the requisite managerial skills and personality traits. They don’t say that women don’t work as hard or as long. Instead they pick out one reason and match it to one woman and voilà, it’s not discriminatory policy, it’s the manager’s “informed” opinion. And we all know that every manager is free of sexual bias.

Wal-Mart covers its ass by saying that its policy is equal employment opportunity for men and women, but then allowing its supervisors wide leeway in how they interpret that policy. All a supervisor has to do is show that he had a “valid” reason for promoting a man over a woman and the big wigs at Wal-Mart are satisfied that their non-discriminatory stance is being promoted. They don’t look over their supervisors’ shoulders or second-guess his decisions.

The Supreme Court therefore ruled that since a non-discrimination policy is in place at Wal-Mart, there is no case. Period. Any deviations from that policy are to be handled by Wal-Mart internally. Well, I’m sorry, but I thought the main reason a suit is brought against a company is to get them to do something they aren’t already doing.

The fact that the Court dismissed the complaints of 1.5 million women is an outrage. Does it think these women are delusional? That they all imagined that they were being discriminated against? Surely out of 1.5 million plaintiffs there was enough evidence to warrant hearing the case. Instead, the Justices who voted for dismissal said that there wasn’t enough evidence; only “about 1 [anecdote] for every 12,500 class members.” I’m sure the women could have come up with far more if they’d realized that the Justices were going to consider 120 anecdotes “insignificant.”

The most troubling aspect of this ruling is that it will undoubtedly make it even harder for class action suits to be successful in the future—especially when they’re filed against huge corporations. All the Justices have to say is that the company is too large to hold it responsible for the actions of all its managers.

The women filed a class action suit expressly because it would have been cost-prohibitive for each woman to file a suit against each manager. And why should they when it’s clear that Wal-Mart condones discriminatory practices by its managers by looking the other way?

Maybe we shouldn’t be blaming Wal-Mart for sexual discrimination in the workplace. Maybe it’s actually our society that should be on trial. Because Wal-Mart’s climate exists within a larger system. One in which comments like, “Everyone knows women don’t like to work long hours” are common.

One commenter said that Wal-Mart couldn’t be guilty of sex discrimination because if it was “why would it hire women at all if they’re such poor workers?” Apparently this idiot isn’t acquainted with the practice of hiring people for the “grunt work.” Who better for those positions than women who don’t care about getting ahead anyway?

[Source: New York Times]

Also check out Room for Debate: “A Death Blow for Class Action?


Off the Grid

I just spent four full days without Internet access. The whole time I had this niggling feeling that I was missing out on something, that the world was passing me by and that everyone was wondering where I was.

Turns out I’m not as important to the Internet universe as I thought I was. It only took me about 15 minutes to catch up on my email. I still had the same amount of visitors to my blogs and a couple of comments. And no one even noticed that I was gone on Facebook.  (I’m not the type to broadcast my status five times a day.)

It’s hard to remember what my life was like pre-computer and Internet. I got more done around the house, but I rarely knew what was going on in the world. I regularly missed bill payments and overdrew my checking account. I had to go to the library whenever I wanted to research something (which meant that I hardly ever researched anything). My books were always overdue at the library. I rarely had any contact with old friends or made any new ones. Shopping was always stressful. Making international phone calls was prohibitively expensive.

Now I can do all these things by logging onto the Internet (including Facebook and Skype). So when I sit down at my computer I’m under the illusion that I’m being productive, merely because it’s so easy to do so much more than I ever could have done before. But in reality, it takes me hours to get these things done, because the Internet is so seductive.

I found when I was off-line last week that I didn’t know what to do with myself without the Internet to structure my activities. I didn’t find it liberating. I felt lost and listless. I compensated by reading, but even I can do only so much reading in a day. One of the things that surprised me was that I found it so difficult to fill up my time with other activities. It’s as if I live through the Internet.

It might be interesting to go off the grid for a much longer period so that I can see what it’s like to be in charge again. I have to admit that I worry about myself sometimes, when it seems like the only thing I can think of to do is to sit at my computer. (I’m not always surfing the Net; I also use my computer for writing.) I’ve lost interest in almost everything else. I used to garden and sew and take pride in how I kept the house. Now I have to tear myself away from the computer to go to the gym or to spend time with my kids or friends.

They say that you can tell when you’re addicted to something not only by how hard it is to stop doing it, but also by how much it affects the quality of your life. The thing is, it takes a lot of willpower to fight an addiction. You have to really want to lick it.

And the truth is, I don’t want to. I’m back on the grid and I feel like I can function again. What I can’t figure out is: is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Things I Just Don’t Get

Here are some of the things I don’t get about modern life:

War. You’d think we would have learned our lesson by now. I really thought that Vietnam would change the way Americans looked at war forever and that we’d be dead set against getting involved in another one. The fact that the leaders are old enough to know better only makes it worse.

Attitudes toward women. I thought men would be more fair toward women than they were before the feminist movement. Although there has been outward improvement, I think it’s all too clear that inward attitudes are the same. Men just don’t like women to have the upper hand.

Attitudes toward feminism. People are still uncomfortable with the concept. They still picture feminists as angry, hairy, ugly, bitter men-haters.

Speaking of hairy, I don’t get Brazilian waxes. I mean, seriously??

But then I don’t get how women can feel comfortable wearing the teeny-weeny bikinis that make it necessary to remove all that offensive hair.

Some people’s reluctance to marry. What’s so bad about marriage? True, if you never marry, you never have to go through divorce, but break-ups are always painful. Or is it just that divorces cost too much? It’s cheaper to stay single. Less entanglements should something go wrong. And yet …

People will complicate their lives by having babies  outside of  marriage. If you’re not still with the father, that’s one thing. I don’t have a problem with having babies out of wedlock (what an antiquated term!) when you don’t want or have the father around. But if he is there, and he wants to be with you and you with him, then why not get married? How does it make your children feel when one or both of you refuse to make that commitment to stay together? And don’t tell me that your relationship is just like a marriage. If it is, why not make it official?

Over-the-top weddings. Some people put off marriage because they can’t afford the wedding they want to have. Why not live within your budget? Why saddle yourselves (or your parents) with debt?

Destination weddings to far-away places. How many people have the money to fly thousands of miles just to get to your wedding in some exotic location? And then you still expect a wedding present?

Texting. Why do people go out of their way to avoid hearing each other’s voices? I can see texting when you don’t want to disturb other people, but why are you texting during a meeting or a class anyway? Shouldn’t you be paying attention instead? Besides, not everyone has unlimited texting and I resent people costing me money when they’re the ones sending the text. (Of course, this is probably something to take up with the cell phone companies.)

Noisy libraries. What happened to the sanctuaries dedicated to learning? Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting that libraries are little more than video stores these days.

Unwillingness to fund libraries. I’ve been in countries that don’t have free libraries. We take libraries for granted in this society. No, they aren’t completely free, since they have to be funded through taxes, etc. But they are well worth the expenditure. Just imagine not having the ability to access all the books (and records and movies) you want for free. I could never feed my addiction to reading if I had to buy every book I read. Or even pay to check them out of the library.

Reality shows. Are people so desperate for fame that they’re willing to become sideshow attractions? And are we so desperate for entertainment that we’re willing to watch other people live their lives in excruciating and often boring detail? I guess the real question is: why aren’t our own lives enough to live through?

The war against clutter. I know, some people let clutter get out of hand. But I like my stuff. I like knowing it’s there, just waiting for me to want or need it.  I know that most of it will be thrown away after I die, but while I’m still here, keep your hands off of it!

E-readers. It’s not that I don’t like the idea, it’s that I can’t decide which one to get. (Plus they’re expensive.) Besides, I’m not used to buying my books; I use the free library.

The technology gap. There’s a widening gap between those who have computers and Internet access and those who don’t. If you don’t you are at a distinct disadvantage and it’s only getting worse. I’m especially concerned about students. But it’s hitting older people as well. Personally, I think Internet access should be a public good, like basic television, but I know that’s not going to happen. If anything, it’s probably going to get more expensive.

The technology race. Ever get the feeling that you’re always running behind technologically? New gadgets are coming out so fast no one can keep them up with them. And if you do try to stay ahead of the curve, you go broke. I don’t know the solution for this; I guess you just have to get to the level you can afford and you feel comfortable with and stick with it as long as possible.

3-D movies. It’s the rare film which is truly enhanced by 3-D technology. For the most part, it just seems like a gimmick to get you to fork over at least four dollars more per ticket. It’s just not worth it. And it really pisses me off when the only choice is the 3-D price-inflated version. What a rip-off.

HGTV shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love HGTV. I watch it almost every day. But at the same time I worry that it gives people an unrealistic idea of what they can or should spend on a house. The worst of it is, watchers end up dissatisfied with their humble abodes and feeling like they should get something bigger or fancier. What’s wrong with being happy with what you’ve got?

Materialism. This isn’t exactly new for mankind, but it seems to have gotten worse in recent decades. People used to be satisfied with so much less. Young people think they should start out with huge flat-screen TVs and SUVs, stainless steel appliances and granite counter-tops, the latest in fashion and furniture, $30,000 weddings and “starter” homes that cost a quarter of a million dollars. No wonder they’re staying home longer with Mom and Dad. They can’t afford the lives they think they’re entitled to.

Extreme Home Makeovers. I have a love-hate relationship with extravagant houses. I love to see them (I used to go on home tours at least once a year), but I usually end up shaking my head at all the excesses. And when a home makeover show saddles a family with a house that will cost them a fortune in utilities and taxes, I wonder who the winner really is.

What are the things you don’t get?

Here are 130 Pet Peeves identified by Columbus Alive! (a free paper in my home town).


I’m celebrating Thanksgiving a little differently this year. On the actual day (which is tomorrow), it will just be my husband and me because my kids are all going to be with other relatives. However, I will be participating in a Thanksgiving luncheon at work today. (See my post on I, Muslimah for details.) But no matter how I celebrate it, I welcome this time of the year because it reminds me to be thankful.

One year when my kids were little I had them write out what they were thankful for on slips of paper and then we read them during Thanksgiving dinner. I kept those slips for the longest time in a keepsake box my children had given me. We should have repeated it every year. In fact, I would like to do that now.

So, in lieu of slips of paper, here is what I’m thankful for:

  • First and foremost, I’m thankful for God, because without Him there would be nothing else to be thankful for.
  • I’m thankful that I have had a rich and exciting life (I’m even thankful for the bad parts, because they make me appreciate the good!)
  • I’m thankful for my children, because they changed me for the better.
  • I’m thankful that I had all daughters who are now beautiful women inside and out.
  • But I’m also thankful that I got to experience a grandson.
  • I’m thankful for my sons-in-law and their families for expanding my family so wonderfully.
  • I’m thankful for my husband for showing me what true love really is.
  • I’m thankful for my mother- and father- in-law for raising such a wonderful man, and for my sister-in-law who always keeps him honest!
  • I’m thankful that I am a woman so that I could experience pregnancy and childbirth—yes, even that!
  • I’m thankful for all my friends and relatives who make me feel like I’m part of the human race.
  • I’m thankful for the faith path that God has led me on, from Christianity to Islam.
  • I’m thankful for my Muslim brothers and sisters and the love and guidance they give me.
  • I’m thankful that my parents were amazing people who always loved, accepted and supported me.
  • I’m thankful for my sister, my only sibling and my compatriot through life.
  • I’m thankful for my two cousins who make me feel connected to that side of the family.
  • I’m thankful for my home, which has nurtured me and been my safe haven for over a decade.
  • I’m thankful for technology for opening up my world immensely.
  • I’m thankful for my psychiatrist!