Life is full of difficult choices. Everyone agrees on that. Should I enlist in the military? Should I get a divorce? Should I have surgery? No one can make these difficult choices go away. They are part of life.
In our country, the decision to end a pregnancy is not only a difficult choice but also a controversial political issue. But one thing is clear. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is legal in America. Women have a right to make this decision.
Of course just because abortion is legal doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the right choice. We all wish that every child born could be a wanted child, but we know that this is not always the case. For a variety of reasons, including the woman’s age, her physical or mental health, her ability to care for a child, her financial circumstances and, unfortunately, the possibility of rape or incest, termination of a pregnancy might be the best choice available.
Would making abortion illegal solve all the problems? The evidence doesn’t support that conclusion. We know that when abortion is banned, many women will find a way to have an abortion anyway, and that means a lot of unsafe and medically incompetent abortions will take place. Some women will die from these unsafe procedures and abortion will not disappear.
The best way to lower the number of abortions has been shown to be contraception and comprehensive sexuality education. Ironically, those who oppose abortion are usually against contraception being widely available and against comprehensive sexuality education. They tend to advocate the abstinence only approach which has been shown not to be effective. How sad we cannot all join together to support programs that would actually reduce the number of abortions.
I know that some people believe abortion is against their religion and that may be true. But many religious traditions support choice, including the Union for Reformed Judaism, the Episcopal Church, Catholics for Choice, the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Women, the Methodist Federation for Social Action and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Many religious people are pro-choice.
Abortion is not something that most of us take lightly, but just because it’s often a difficult choice doesn’t mean it should be illegal. Sometimes ending a pregnancy is the right choice. No one should be shamed, harassed or persecuted for any role they play in this legal activity. And obviously, the violent assaults on Planned Parenthood and other organizations are completely immoral. Those who commit such violence should be arrested and prosecuted.
The recent political attacks on Planned Parenthood using highly edited film footage obtained by impersonating legitimate organizations do not prove that Planned Parenthood committed any illegal act. Anyone who watches the Daily Show or other comedy shows knows that it is easy to edit film footage so it seems to show something that is actually not true. How unfortunate it is for such misleading videos to be used for political purposes.
The bottom line on abortion is that the choice belongs to the woman. I certainly hope women will involve their partners and family, if possible, as well as their physicians and trained counselors or clergy persons, but the choice is up to each individual woman. A thoughtful moral decision making process can conclude that termination of a pregnancy is the best choice.
As for the women struggling with these tough decisions, we should give them our counsel, our best information and our compassion. We should do everything we can to help them make wise choices that avoid unwanted pregnancies, but when they are faced with this difficult decision, let us not turn them away in judgment but offer them safe, caring treatment and hope for their future.