Who is entitled to “who-hood?”
I am afraid for women’s healthcare, indeed, all people’s healthcare, because we can’t agree on terminology. Who, in fact, is entitled to be valued by society and humanity?
When I was a kid, the slogan “Not the church, not the state, a woman should control her fate” was popular. I am sad that it has fallen away. It exalts the idea of freedom.
The phrase “pro-life” is one of the most effective sound bites in all of history. Who, in their right mind (or not) is going to come out as “against life.” The trouble, of course, is that life in this context is an extremely limited definition of “life.” It means unborn, human fetal life, exclusively. Pro-life does not encompass the life of the death row inmate, the life of a struggling, impoverished mother, the life of a combat soldier, the life of a sick child, the life of the planet Earth itself. It does not include actual LIFE, that is biology, and the biosphere that supports all actual life on Earth.
Enter the counter phrase “pro-choice.” Even more problematic. Where do I begin?
This phrase is so messy that it’s outrageous. Pro-choice is easy to frame as pro-murder, as if it is an individual, selfish woman’s prerogative to murder all her inconvenient “babies.”
We could set aside the notion that abortion is murder, but no. No, we can’t because the anti-choice side will always come back to that narrative. Always.
But there is an alternative universe. Pro-life means pro-lie, the lie being that many pro-life advocates actually care about the health and welfare of already born, living people. You can’t after all, be truly pro-life and pro-guns. But an issue that most Pro-life people do care about, and will defend to the death, is freedom.
What is freedom? Is it the freedom to refuse to wear a mask or a seat belt? To some, it actually is, but it’s a much bigger, and noble target than that. It’s about life being worth living. It’s about life being free of oppression, exploitation, misuse, or just plain marginalization. It’s about having a say, a voice, and a choice, in the life decisions that affect you most. Refusing to wear a mask to Walmart isn’t going to necessarily change your life trajectory. Having a baby most certainly will.
The phrase “Give me liberty or give me death” precisely, and concisely encapsulates the idea of the worth of freedom. The word “choice” does not do this. Even though being pro-choice is about actual autonomy, the word does not capture the same meaning. In other words, pro-choice, is not what pro-choice suggests, what it means.
It means, in every single sense, the idea that a full human being needs human rights to protect her freedom. Freedom to do with one’s own body what one’s conscience tells her to do.
Privacy before personhood
Roe versus Wade finally passed as a privacy issue. Counter protests rose steadily from those who see abortion as a “murder” issue which can’t be justified in the name of privacy.
But abortion is a human rights issue, always, if we consider the person with full autonomy a full human being who can protect her autonomy and ability to choose her life path. The trouble comes when a vocal few say that an incomplete human being, a fetus, or even a zygote, “Life begins at conception!”) is presumed to have more right to life than a pregnant human being.
Personally, I am anti-abortion. For me, this means advocating for women to have the freedom to access affordable, and readily available contraception. It has always struck me as ludicrous, that many people — notably Catholics like Amy Coney Barrett — are vague about contraception. Some, are outright against it. Some preach its evils. Some are the pope. Most all use it, whether secretly, or not.
Either they don’t know that contraception prevents millions of abortions, or they don’t want to know.
The right to choose eternal life
I was lucky to learn that the highest value in life is freedom. Please choose the highest value you can think of to make your own life meaningful. It all begins when we question what we are told, and why it is so contradictory.
Not everyone who objects to abortion is Christian. But, for those who are, I ask, Why does God give you a CHOICE about whether to choose salvation? Why have Jesus die for our sins if our stain is not purified by his blood? Why are we given the freedom for that choice? Why have an apple, a woman, or a serpent, if choice — better understood as freedom — is not relevant to our species? The word freedom encompasses more than choice because it includes a sense of exalted sublimity, an aspirational majesty.
The entire foundation of all theology, I would argue is set upon autonomy. Freedom to choose. Freedom to choose sin, or compassion, judgment or tolerance, forgiveness or resentment.
When framed in this way, that the value of freedom is a higher cause than life itself, there are few people on Earth who can successfully argue otherwise. Sure, there are still some crazy ass suicide cults out there, or some who would always put profits and greed before a higher quality of life, but even they don’t believe that is what they are doing.
Hate the sin, love the sinner
Can we not decide as a species whether human sexuality is good or evil? So far, we have not been able to arrive at a place where we see human sexuality as an overall good. There are plenty of people who see homosexuality as sin. There are some who see feminism, or even striving for racial equality, as sin. There are loonies everywhere who only think as deeply as the depth of their tissue thin scripture pages.
Evolution, (aka nature, aka God) invented sex. It allows life to propagate and flourish. It is one of our strongest instincts, like hunger, or thirst. But due to misogyny, it has also been imagined to be “sinful.”
Women were seen to be weak, lustful, devious and seductive. A man who associated with any woman, was therefore also weak. And homosexuality — as the bible teaches it — only finds fault with a man being with another man because he is behaving as if the other man is a woman.
Homosexuality, was identified early on as a way one man could dishonor, or denigrate another man. Treating a man as one would treat a woman (despicably) informed wizened elders and priests that it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 says the following:
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
Putting people to death for homosexual acts seems very anti life, very much not Pro-life, doesn’t it? But I would emphasize the phrase “as with a woman.” Other than penetration, is there another way to see what could possible be meant by this?
Other verses allude to how “you shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” Again, other than penetration, signifying “using another dishonorably” what could this possible condemn?
In the fewer number of verses that deal with lesbian sex, it is only alluded to as “unnatural.” That is, it was seen, falsely, as something that doesn’t happen in nature. Or as something purely evil, such as indoor plumbing, cell phones, or satellites.
We are instructed in much Christian teaching to hate the sin and love the sinner. But this assumes that we flawed, and sinful beings, are somehow capable of non-judgment of others. We’re told first and foremost to love one another, and then to not judge one another. But many of our paid employees are literally judges. We hire them to judge, and therefore to judicate.
We all must choose what we see as true
To this day, I am not sure if I still am a Christian, because I became fairly agnostic about the existence of the old, white patriarchal figure in the clouds. But I do believe in love and tolerance, forgiveness and freedom. Christ is literally in my name.
In addition, I am certain that most Holy Books are not written by all those who they purport to serve. But I was a fortunate Christian.
I was raised with a logical, reasoning and loving portrait of Jesus Christ the radical feminist who would have all races, genders, and living beings (life!) live in harmony.
This is radically different from judgmental Christians who, some say, cling to their bibles, guns, and gas guzzlers. If these are “Christians”, I am convinced they do this out of a sense that freedom is the highest good.
You cannot tell someone to “pry my gun from my cold, dead hands” unless you understand that their freedom to own guns is at a higher purpose than our freedom from gun hazards. Or is it?
All I think we need in this debate is to see a woman’s right to autonomy, freedom, as higher than any murky definition of life.
Therefore, the truth is, it has never been a woman’s issue, but a human rights issue, about the importance and meaning of freedom.
Aren’t you glad I fixed it for you?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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