There is only one thing I have done in my life that I have truly regretted, and it is a choice I made back when I was in high school (as so many of these things are). I went to a Catholic high school, and while I wouldn’t say that I was staunchly pro-life or anti-gay marriage, I was taught these sorts of opinions in my classes at school and I have to admit that I didn’t think to question them at the time. I want to say that this was because of my age or naïveté, but those are just excuses – the truth is that I was just ill-informed, and didn’t have the urge to make myself better-informed, which is without doubt very sad. One day, back when I was in grade 11 or 12, my English teacher approached me and asked if I would be willing to write an essay for a competition my school wanted to enter. I had very high marks in English, so I knew the teacher was coming to me because he hoped I would write an essay that would win the competition and bring some sort of recognition to our school in a relatively small town. When I asked what the essay had to be about, my English teacher told me that it needed to be a pro-life essay – basically an essay that was anti-abortion and argued for why abortion was wrong. I do remember feeling a bit uneasy about this, but I didn’t want to disappoint one of my favourite teachers and my entire school, so I agreed to write the essay.
That was the hardest piece I have ever written in my life. Again, it wasn’t because I considered myself pro-choice at the time (I like to think if I did, I would’ve had enough backbone and self-respect to decline writing the essay altogether). My difficulty came when I sat down in front of my laptop and realized I didn’t have any good arguments for why abortion was wrong other than, naturally, what the Bible (which I hadn’t even fully read, to be honest) told me. I wished that I never agreed to write the essay – something I wish even more fiercely now – and I wrote several drafts that were, to put it mildly, pitiful. Eventually, I turned to my dad for some guidance and he suggested I take the angle that the unborn child could turn out to be the next Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King, and focus on the lost potential that abortion precipitates. Of course, the unborn child could also go on to be the next Hitler, but we didn’t think about that too closely.
(It is worth noting here that my father is firmly pro-choice now and his opinions altered significantly at around the same time mine did.)
I really wasn’t all that confident in the essay but I ended up winning the competition. To say my teacher and my school were very proud is an understatement. When they stated that I had won over the morning announcements, I recall feeling some embarrassment, but I’m not sure if that was because of the subject matter of my prize-winning essay or because the announcement revealed me as the high achiever that I was in front of all my peers. In any case, I was then asked by the association who ran the competition to attend one of their meetings and read my essay in front of several hundred of their members. Somehow (surprise, surprise), I didn’t have the courage to turn that down either, and a few weeks later, I found myself surrounded by a room full of hardcore Catholics (as well as my parents and grandparents) reading words that I wasn’t exactly confident in.
It didn’t take long for me to investigate the topic of abortion again and come to a totally different conclusion than the one I spouted in my essay. Two years later, I was in university in downtown Toronto and was exposed to a whole lot of things I didn’t get to see or hear about in my tiny Catholic school. And I knew within months of being at university that everything I had been taught was absurd and outlandish – at that point, I became adamantly pro-choice and I have been so ever since.
When I think about it now, writing that pro-life essay, and apparently writing it pretty well, is a source of shame because it so radically conflicts with what I now know to be true. I don’t want this post to come across as accusatory of those that are religious or are pro-life for whatever reason. I am not trying to criticize these viewpoints because my main stance is that I am pro-CHOICE. This can easily become conflated with being pro-abortion, but that is completely erroneous, false and unjust. I have never professed the opinion that a woman must or should have an abortion – on the contrary, I have always believed the opposite, that a pregnant woman should be free to do whatever she chooses, whether that be to keep her unborn child or to have an abortion. I believe in the choice and in the fact that every person, male or female, deserves to be able to make their own decisions about what happens to their own body.
Obviously, abortion is a hot topic right now, hence this very post. I have recently come up against the opinion that my position on abortion should be different now that I am pregnant, and I wanted to set the record straight that my opinion has not and will not ever change. I am and always will be (PROUDLY!) pro-choice, and having a child inside of me does not alter that fact. On the contrary, it makes me more firmly pro-choice because I now realize the magnitude of being pregnant and the challenges that I face in raising a child. If a woman does not feel she is ready for that responsibility, is not in a relationship that will allow her to comfortably raise a child, or has been forced into the circumstance of pregnancy because of a horrific incident such as rape or incest, then that woman should absolutely, without question have the right to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. It is that simple and straightforward, and this is an opinion that is scientifically and medically supported. In my opinion, religion should not enter the picture here – we should be looking to doctors and medical professionals to assess when abortion is safe and allowing them to do their job, in conjunction with the circumstances of their female patients. If a religious woman (or any woman for that matter) chooses not to have an abortion herself, again, that is totally fine because, being pro-choice, I believe that woman should get to do exactly what she wants in that situation. The circumstances surrounding abortion are so subjective and so dependant on the individual woman and the scenario she is faced with, and I think it is dangerous to make blanket statements and blanket laws that apply to everyone across the board without understanding the subtle nuances at play.
I also firmly believe that no one has the right to tell me when I should become pregnant – not my family members, not my friends, not my employer and certainly not my government. My husband would have a say, certainly, but he should not be allowed to make that decision himself, without my active participation in it. Just as I believe no one can or should dictate when I choose to have a child, I feel strongly that no one should force me to have a child if I do not want it, and that is what is at stake here. I am not a politician and I haven’t read enough to know every minor detail of the laws that are being put forth recently, but I do know that the right to have an abortion is a human right. That makes this a question of human decency and compassion, and I personally cannot imagine being the type of individual who would subject a woman to carrying a baby to term that she does not want. That seems cruel and unjust to me in every sense, and I like to think that if there is a god, he or she would support those of us who protect and fight for the rights of ALL humans, not just a select few.
If this opinion offends any of you, I do apologize for that – but it may be worth remembering that your opinion may equally offend other people out there, and so no one is completely spotless or innocent when it comes to these sorts of debates. I go to bed each night feeling like a very good person because I try to be sympathetic and empathetic toward all of my fellow humans…and that is all I can really hope for when I turn out the lights at the end of a long day…
Janille N G
Girl with a Green Heart