R and I just finished watching the very interesting--and disturbing--documentary, "Unborn in the USA."
The film takes a very even-handed, non-judgmental look at the "pro-life" (this is not the term I use and will henceforth refer to them as anti-choice) movement in the United States. Basically, these extremely religious people stand on street corners, outside abortion clinics and on college campuses with graphic, horrifying photos to try to change the mind of pro-choicers and women seeking abortions.
I was very moved by the images in the movie, graphic disturbing images that are likely the real remains of abortion even if they are clearly lying about the gestational age. At one point in the film one of the "pro-lifers" holds up a pair of tiny legs and says it is an embryo at 6 weeks--an obvious lie not backed by science given that I know just from being pregnant twice that an embryo that young has only leg buds. Additionally, the photos lack context. It is a fact that most of the "partial birth abortions" (again, a term I would never use) are performed only to save the mother's life or when there is some grave danger to the fetus. Still, the images are deeply disturbing, especially when viewed in the context of my own child and developing pregnancy.
I was raised extremely pro-choice. I protested, held signs, attended NARAL and planned parenthood meetings, talked to women who had abortions. And yet, I was also raised in a fairly rural, conservative part of the Midwest (some would argue it is part of the bible belt) where 90 percent of my classmates were adamantly anti-choice and deeply religious (read: fanatic). As a child, when things were simpler, I just believed them to be stupid and uneducated. Truthfully many of them were the latter, if not the former. Still, having a child has deeply changed my views. Something that was once so simple for me and so knee jerk is no longer.
I had my first ultrasound with Sam at 6 weeks. She was a living being inside me, one who was deeply wanted and whose heartbeat was a blessing. So if she was alive, are the others? And if so, is it murder? I feel extremely lucky that I was never in a position to need an abortion. I am one of the few people I know my age who never had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. Most of the women and men I know who dealt with this issue had abortions. That is just what upwardly mobile young people do. In fact, I only know of one person who carried to term and kept the baby and that decision is one that hurts the father of the baby everyday since that would not have been his choice (a post for another day). I believe that even with the regrets I know people have, that abortion was the right choice for these friends of mine. Thank goodness all of these women had the choice to make.
And yet, the question remains, is it murder? I watched the film with an open mind and certainly was in agreement with some of what they said. The problem is that the anti-choice movement is mostly comprised of crazy zealots and white men over 40. I am not that interested in what an older man has to say about my reproductive freedom. Further, the images of young children holding these disturbing signs was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Basically, they care enough about other peoples' fetuses to stop them from aborting, but not enough about their young children to shield them from the trauma of these images. I would be pretty angry if Sam and I were walking down the street and some fat women in ugly flowered dresses and their fanny-pack sporting preacher husbands forced her to look at images of bloody fetuses (although I am not sure whether I was disturbed more by their fashion choices or their beliefs). But then, they do not care about my child's feelings. They only care about shocking her mother into not having an abortion.
There were points in the film where I stopped it and got upset, wondering if abortion should be legal. R had to bring me back to reality. The fact is, abhorrent and disgusting as abortion may be, it is an individual choice. Even if it IS murder, which is also an individual call, there are instances in our society (like in war time) where murder is ok. And as R said, it is perfectly legal to shoot an intruder who breaks into one's home and as a scientist, he was the first to say that an embryo/fetus is the very definition of a parasite/intruder. In our case, it was/is a wanted, welcome parasite, but a parasite nonetheless.
No matter how much I let those images get under my skin, no matter how thankful I feel that I never had to make that choice, I will always believe that it is a woman's personal choice and her right to make that choice for herself. The problem with religious zealots is that their arrogance and one-size-fits-all approach to everything is such a lie. There is no universal one right way to think and, in fact, I wondered if some of the people in the film actually had something a little wrong with them. They all seemed a little touched. In fact, one has to be a little crazy to believe that their values and beliefs are the one true way, the best way to be and that our laws should reflect them. So in the end, I remain unswayed. Still, the movie is worth seeing.