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So when are we starting that revolution anyway?
I don't know, I feel pretty powerless a lot of the time -- I can give money or show up at a march or argue with people on the Internet, but I'm one person, so what effect does any of that have?
There's this thread I started writing back in January -- I decided to write it out FIRST because it's kind of personal but then it became just like my essays, sitting in a document file forever, unfinished.
I wanted to talk about what I learned, that one time I DIDN'T have an abortion. (Because I wasn't pregnant, not because I chose not to.)
I found out abortion was an “issue” in the early 80s when I was 13-14, after we had started attending the most extreme of the four churches my family belonged to while I was growing up.
I was at church camp and they showed us some kind of anti-abortion propaganda film, although I don’t think it was one of the famous ones. After that, I started hearing about abortion a lot, & also hearing a lot of the more aggressive complementarian patriarchal stuff.
Evangelical churches always had a weird “we all care deeply about THIS thing now” aspect, where you could have been raised in the church from infancy (as I was) & never heard of something before, but now all of a sudden it was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER
I know now that a lot of the time that stuff was disseminating out from far right religious think tanks like Project Blitz theguardian.com/world/2018/jun…
But as a kid I just found it disorienting & gaslighting. It was always presented AS IF the church had ALWAYS cared deeply about THIS (it’s in the Bible!) but somehow I missed it.
This made the evangelical anti-abortion movement a lot weirder than the Catholic anti-abortion movement, although @paulcarp13 tells me when he was younger, he didn’t get the “you’re murdering a baby!” rhetoric.
Catholics officially oppose all “artificial” contraception methods, including condoms and the pill. The stance seems to be that sex is inherently dirty & must be “sanctified” by both het marriage & the attempt to produce a baby.
I don’t agree with this view of sex and contraception, but at least Catholics have been fairly consistent with it over time. On the other hand, evangelical Protestants used to be okay with abortion, much like they are now about divorce. patheos.com/blogs/slacktiv…
I don’t remember hearing about abortion back then, but I do remember my mom taking birth control after my youngest brother was born & this being considered a bit controversial, but not a deal-breaker. Eventually my dad got a vasectomy.
As a teenager in middle and high school, I was sure the abortion issue would never apply to me personally, since I was such an extremely awkward nerd, I didn’t think I was ever going to date ANYBODY EVER. I put it in a mental box, didn’t think about it.
I opened the box when I was in college. This was 1984-88. I had started to date & was 99% sure I was no longer a believer of the type I was raised to be, but was 50-50 on whether I was any kind of believer at all & what that should mean re: sex.
Also, during the later 80s abortion as a political issue seemed to keep getting bigger, so I felt like I had to make up my mind about where I stood.
I didn’t do any new research into the history of abortion or the biology of coception & pregnancy at that time. All my thinking on the matter was based on treating it as a Chidi-style ethical question. A kind of trolley problem, if you will.
First: the anti-abortion message had originally come from the same wackdoodle church culture that believed in creationism, satanic ritual abuse, backmasking, Christian patriarchy & anti-LGBTQ bigotry
While the “keep abortion legal” message was coming from places like Planned Parenthood, which were pro-science, pro-woman, and pro-LGBTQ.

Score one for abortion rights.
The question — is abortion ethical? — hinges largely on whether a fetus can be considered a person. If yes, then all the trolley problem “killing to save lives” questions apply, but if no — what are we even arguing about?
Even without researching the details, I knew that over the course of roughly 9 months a fetus goes from being a literal single fertilized cell (no reasonable case for personhood) to being an actual baby (unambiguous personhood)
So, at what point in fetal development is that ineffable quality of “personhood” conveyed? I felt like the only way to argue for it without resorting to metaphysical concepts (such as the soul) would be brain development.
And again, without doing any additional research, I figured full brain development happened sometimes after the first trimester, while most abortions for other than serious medical conditions happened within the first trimester. Another one for the pro-choice side.
But, okay, since there wasn’t actually a good and agreed-upon way to establish when a fetus becomes a person, what if, as an ethical question, I assumed the fetus was a person right from the sperm-invades-egg moment?
I ran into problems with that right away. Because I had read Brave New World, I knew about the blastocyst — the stage when the developing fetus is a clump of identical cells that could still develop into multiple people (as in, twins)
Most people assume twins, even identical twins, even JOINED twins, are two DIFFERENT people. So if you’re going to grant “personhood” to a blastocyst, how many people is that, exactly? Especially when, in typical development, only one person eventually results?
The personhood question remained ambiguous. Score another for the pro-choice side.
The other problem I ran into, ethically speaking, was the presence of at least two UNambiguous persons: the (actual) pregnant person, and the (potential) baby.
Even if you decide, for the sake of argument, to convey full personhood to a blastocyst, that blastocyst is still essentially a parasite on a different full person.

Yes, I know “parasite” is a loaded term. So is “murder.”
There is simply no way of getting around the biological fact that a fetus requires a human host. And that host — if they don’t have the right to end a pregnancy — is essentially enslaved to whatever entity holds that right.

Score a big one for the pro-choice side.
And what of the second unambiguous person, the potential person represented by the hypothetical baby? What rights do they have?

Well, the anti-legals claim: a right to be born. But how does that work, exactly?
Do ALL potential people have the inherent right to be born? That’s a heck of a lot of people. Like, multiple infinities of potential people.
Plus, every ACTUAL person beats out an untold number of POTENTIAL people. Your grandma could’ve married a totally different guy & had the same number of children & grandchildren, but none of them would be YOU.
But, okay, let’s say that you grant full personhood to a blastocyst & assume that full people have the right to be born (even though sometimes they devour each other in the womb)

Is being born inherently a good thing?
As a child, I frequently expressed “I wish I’d never been born” sentiments to my mother, and it was my clumsy childish way of talking about depression, but also damnation.
I was raised in a religious tradition where the instant you’re born, your default state is to suffer, die, & be tortured eternally, which honestly makes not bringing somebody into the world at all an act of mercy.
By the time I was thinking this through, I no longer really believed in eternal damnation, but I still believed the “gift” of life was, at best, complicated.
Even if you assumed there was an ethical burden attached to having an abortion, there was also clearly an ethical burden attached to bringing a child into the world.
Human children need a lot of care in order to grow up into successful functioning adults. Is a baby born & abandoned in a dumpster to die by a teen parent who just can’t deal with anything better off than a baby who was never born in the first place?
Imagine a person who has an abortion because they’re not ready to raise a child & has a child a few years later when they have a stable job & healthcare, vs. a person who gives birth to the first baby & they both struggle for the rest of their lives.
So far, everything was adding up on the pro-choice side, but a little cautiously, a little hesitantly. I was fairly sure I believed abortion should be legal, but I still wasn’t sure I was “pro choice” because that seemed like a big step.
This shows you how the anti-legal side has really dominated the LANGUAGE because even though I had concluded that abortion should be legal, which made me LITERALLY pro-choice, I still wasn’t ready to define myself that way
Because I had been subjected to propaganda that relentlessly depicted the pro-choice side not as people who thought abortion should be legal and private, but rather, as AGGRESSIVELY MILITANT ABORTION PUSHERS
“A person should have the legal right to a safe abortion if they decide it’s the right thing for them” is literally the pro choice mantra, but I still thought you had to be like EVERYONE !!!MUST!!! HAVE AN ABORTION to call yourself pro-choice.
So, even though I was pro-choice, I didn’t openly call myself that yet. And I was still determined that it would never apply to me because if I had sex, I would definitely use contraception.
Fast forward a few years. I was in my 20s & had been dating @paulcarp13 for a while & we had finally decided to try having sex. This was a really hard decision for me to make.
I was pretty sure I was in love (whatever that means) but the shame of religious purity culture had sunk deep into my bones. I WANTED to get beyond it, but I didn’t know how.
We’ve been married for 21 years & I still don’t know how.
A lot of the discussions in #Exvangelical world, and the book Pure by Linda Kay Klein, are really driving that home. I honestly didn’t realize how broken I was in that area of my life
On paper everything looks normal. I “lost my virginity” to the guy I eventually married & we are still married. On paper, we’re totally beyond the religious shame we were raised with. We go to burlesque shows and sex toy shops and Pride marches together.
But I always get choked up when I get to this part, where I tell you about that time we had sex when we weren’t married yet
It was probably only our second or third time & we used condoms as contraception, and I don’t know if you know this, but if you don’t put condoms on just right, they can come off during sex.
This is where things like the “morning after” pill can really come in handy, but I’m not sure if that was approved yet. They didn’t suggest it when I called Planned Parenthood to ask about how soon I could get a pregnancy test.
It turns out, there’s a big long gap — maybe two weeks? Where they can’t even tell you if you’re pregnant. I think it was the longest two weeks of my life. I kept thinking about what I would do if it came back positive.
Would we get married & I would have the baby? That seemed like the simplest, cleanest choice, but also tainted by coercion. How good of a choice is marriage, really, when you “have to” get married?
And also, how ridiculous is it to talk about “having to” get married when you’re already supposedly adults? With jobs & a college degree and all that?
Would I have an abortion? That was the option @paulcarp13 wanted me to take. When we first started dating, he had lingering anti-abortion views from growing up Catholic & being part of the evangelical world
But the instant it affected him personally, he became pro-choice.
Very much to his credit, he ACTUALLY changed his views, as opposed to doing that thing where only “his” abortion is moral and everybody else who gets one is still a deranged slut.
Which is absolutely a thing, in case you didn’t know. “The only moral abortion is my abortion” is a well-documented phenomenon.
But what about me? The actual human person who would, if pregnant, have to have either a baby, or an abortion?
I still wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to have a child, but I was sure that I hated feeling trapped by literally every choice that it was possible for me to make, including the choice to die a virgin.
I started to hate and resent my boyfriend, even though he was very supportive, because I knew he would never have to make any of these choices.
This next bit gets a content warning.

I didn’t even know whether I was pregnant yet, but I still felt so frustrated and upset and trapped that I sometimes thought about suicide.
(Content warning)

But in this case, suicidal ideation brought me to a new insight: I was clearly not troubled by the ETHICS of abortion. Otherwise, why would taking TWO lives seem better than taking one?
I realized that I had absorbed the idea that pregnancy was SHAMEFUL. And abortion was shameful. And dying a virgin was shameful. And having sex was shameful.
I realized, all at once, that in this patriarchy of ours, women are set up so that BEING A WOMAN is shameful. Full stop. No choices.
I became convinced that nobody on the right wing anti-legal side believed abortion was wrong because they truly saw the fetus as the moral equivalent of a born child.
They believe pregnancy and childbirth are supposed to be our divinely ordained punishment for sex.
It’s in Genesis. Eve gets cursed with painful childbirth & patriarchy:
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Adam gets cursed with agriculture:
“cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field"
"in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
(Incidentally, patriarchal Christians cite Genesis as the reason women OUGHT to be “cursed” with the burden of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, but they almost never argue that men ought to give up their office jobs and go back to toiling in the fields. )
Anti-legals frequently ACCUSE those of us who support reproductive rights & bodily autonomy of characterizing pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing as a “punishment” while they see it as a nonstop party of perfect golden blessed joyfulness.
Sometimes you can tell what people really think by observing what they accuse other people of.
Patriarchal Christianity paints an artificially rosy picture of pregnancy & childbirth as part of a view that women are inherently tainted creatures of sin that can only be redeemed by pregnancy, childbirth, and submission to a Christian man.
Patriarchal Christianity is, basically, a cult — invented in the 70s & 80s to support the anti-legal-abortion movement, itself invented to serve as proxy for a racist civil rights backlash
Nobody told me any of this when I was a teenager, of course.
But once I saw the anti-legal movement as being mostly about shaming and punishing women, I saw the evidence for it everywhere.
Argue with an anti-abortion activist long enough & they’ll end up slut-shaming. Sometimes this is done using grotesque misogynistic language & imagery,
But sometimes it’s more subtle — for example, constantly moving the goalposts back and forth between whether abortion bans are supposed to be “protecting innocent lives” or “encouraging personal responsibility.”
The “pro-life” movement is curiously unmoved by the fact that the US has the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy countries, AND IT IS RISING here even as it declines elsewhere.
I have argued: “if you’re so ‘pro-life,’ where’s your support for Black Lives Matter? Sensible gun laws? Affordable health care? And the goalposts always shift again.
Somehow, the innocent people slaughtered by cops are never innocent ENOUGH to be worth protecting. You know, they're “thugs” or were “acting out” or otherwise brought it on themselves.
Affordable health care is “socialism” and gun control is “anti-liberty,” and those things are too inherently bad to ever be considered, even if they would save lives, even if those lives are young children.
“Protecting innocent lives” is supposed to be so gosh-darned important that it’s worth depriving women of bodily autonomy, but not important enough to be worth depriving men of guns or billionaires of some money or cops of the freedom to kill with impunity.
But to me, the most telling thing about their movement is that anti-legals are so uninterested in actually PREVENTING abortions

Anti-legals justify abortion bans by claiming a fetus is a baby, but then claim that contraception is “abortion” and make that illegal too. Which means they are now claiming a SINGLE FERTILIZED CELL is the moral equivalent of a born child.
It’s such a ridiculous, indefensible position that it also strongly suggests they don’t sincerely believe the fetus is a baby either.
Anti-legals always talk glowingly about "life" as this big, abstract thing they worship with cultish devotion, but it doesn't translate to respect or care for actual lives of actual humans.
I don't think that's hypocrisy, exactly. I think they're telling a true story about how they feel -- deeply worshipful of "life" and "God" but very cavalier and careless about their fellow humans.
It feels natural to them to treat women, LGBTQ people, fetuses, babies, and single-celled organisms all the same -- as symbols and bargaining chips and wedge issues and rhetorical devices.
But I reject a moral system that worships imaginary people at the expense of actual people.

The end.
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