By Susan Stevens
Up until recently, I’d seen the “abortion debate” as between those who believe, as I do, that human life begins at conception, and those who define the embryo based on their feelings about a particular pregnancy. As I’ve grown increasingly progressive, and seen that the candidates and movements that I’m most aligned with overall are also pro-choice, I’ve moved, first, into the camp of accepting that abortion is like the thorn that comes with every rose — something I just need to shut my mouth about to be able to collaborate with people whom I share so many values with – to, second, understanding that it’s all about reverencing the personal privacy and bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman.
Most Americans agree that there are certain dire situations in which abortion is the most compassionate option. Most would feel, for example, that a rape victim should not be forced to carry the resultant pregnancy. What many don’t realize is that the only way for her to have speedy access to the needed medical care is for any pregnant girl/woman to have that same immediate access. The least-risky abortions are performed as early as possible, so creating a bunch of legal hoops to jump through, such as, for instance, requiring a police report to be made accusing a man of rape, or hearings to take place, can delay things and lead to much greater health risks — not to mention false accusations being made by some desperate individuals. We must respect the person closest to the situation, by entrusting them with the space and resources they need to get themselves onto a path of living, breathing and thriving.
Abortion is the “moral” coat of paint that the right keeps slapping onto their fences erected to divide the 99% who would otherwise unite around our common economic interests. They hold themselves up as defenders of “the sanctity of human life,” while rejecting lifesaving and life-affirming policies like healthcare, food, and housing as human rights, protections against all forms of discrimination, free childcare and public higher education, student loan forgiveness, and good public transportation. This does not mean that none of the individuals identifying as “pro-life” have compassion for people once they’re born. Having grown up in fundamentalist Christianity, I personally know conservative Christians who practice radical hospitality and sacrificial giving towards single mothers and others who are struggling. While I disagree with their defining as sinful anyone who doesn’t adhere to certain Stone Age SOPs, it’s dishonest and unhelpful to dismiss them as lacking in compassion.
What’s honest and helpful, as social democrats, is for us to uphold policies that are rooted in, and flowing from, a trust in human beings. Access to comprehensive sex education and birth control greatly reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Implementing all the aforementioned lifesaving and life-affirming social and economic policies expand the array of options for people grappling with unplanned pregnancy. Lastly, social democracy is all about a concept I was introduced to by New York Assemblywoman and Congressional candidate Yuh-Line Niou: giving those closest to the pain the access to the tools to effect the change.
I have been out engaging with my neighbors in my State of Kansas, urging them to vote NO on an amendment that Republican legislators have added to our August 2 ballot. If passed, the amendment would remove the right to abortion from our state Constitution and empower legislators to impose restrictions — such as the restrictions that recently forced a ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio to travel to Indiana to terminate the resultant pregnancy (https://www.newsweek.com/shes-10-child-rape-victims-abortion-denial-sparks-outrage-twitter-1721248). If this little girl had not had the means to travel, she would have been forced to bear her rapist’s child — and there are Indiana legislators eager to enact their own restrictions, so she made it just in the nick of time!
The heartening thing is that most of my neighbors here in my working-class community already understand both the need to allow those closest to a painful situation the space and privacy to decide their next steps and the need to entrust these individuals – and not those attempting to rule over them — with the power of choice. Indeed, several powerful pieces of good that may come out of all this craziness is a return to solidarity among the working people and a sense of urgency about voting and being politically engaged. If all these blatant attempts to strip us of our most basic power lead us to fully reclaim them and make them an inseparable part of who we are, then I’ll be glad for whatever it took for us to hear the alarm and wake up!
Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of Social Democrats USA.