For the longest time, I’ve gone back and forth over whether I’m pro-choice or pro-life. At first I sat on the fence. “Well, it’s okay if the woman was raped or it was incest.” Looking back, I think I was afraid of the conflict and to voice my true opinions. Then I was strictly pro-choice. “A man (read: white man) cannot tell a woman what to do with her body!” I still firmly believe this. Then I wavered over to the pro-life side. “I’m a vegetarian. If meat is murder, then so is an abortion.” While I still believe this, one thing is for sure: after reading Cristina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, I will never align myself with the pro-life side.
While the book does talk about abortion to a fair extent, it talks more about preventing the need for abortion, stopping or reducing the amounts of unwanted pregnancies, and providing comprehensive sex education and health care, among other things. Page’s thesis is that the pro-choice movement has done more to reduce the need for abortion than the pro-life side, who works toward stopping people from having sex if its purpose is not for creation.
In every chapter Page presents a testimony to the different ways the pro-life movement is fighting to completely stop anyone who is even remotely thinking about having sex for fun. Page starts with the horrifying cases of women going to get their birth control prescription filled only to be turned down by a righteous pharmacist who is against abortions. This is completely absurd and Page backs up my feelings toward this. First of all, what pharmacist is to say what is best for this woman? That is what her doctor is for. Maybe she is getting birth control pills because she has had heavy, irregular periods and terrible cramps for the past 10 years and the pill will help alleviate the pain and control the timing and flow of her period. This woman may very well be waiting until she is married to have sex, but the righteous pharmacist just jumps to the conclusion that the pill is for pleasure and not at all for medical reasons. Second, the pill does not abort a fetus. It is scientifically impossible for it to do so. What it does do is help prevent pregnancy, but does not terminate a pregnancy should one occur. Unfortunately, as Page points out, some pharmacists (and other right-winged extremists) do not see a difference: preventing a pregnancy is the same as killing a child that God has created. If you are on the pill and having sex that is not pro-creation, you are obstructing God’s plan and are therefore evil.
Another chapter includes why even condoms are bad, according to the right-winged extremists who, incidentally make up statistics about the failure of condoms in order to scare kids into thinking it isn’t safe to use. Ironically, what ends up happening is that kids think that it is pointless to wear a condom and then have sex without one, which severely raises the risk of an unwanted pregnancy and the need for abortion. This also ties in with the abstinence-only sex education that W so widely promotes. Our children are only being taught one thing: wait until marriage. So those who don’t wait (and what a staggering statistic that is) don’t know what the phrase “safe sex” means, again raising the risk of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Should it solely be the school’s responsibility to teach sex? No. Parents need to get involved, too, but many parents are too afraid to approach their children about this so if the only information these kids are getting is from the school, and the school does not provide them with what effective birth control is (ie: how to wear a condom properly) then they’re going to just have sex anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the people who wait until they’re married. But I’m a realist and know that not everyone will wait. I also firmly believe that to cut back on the amount of STDs and teenage pregnancies today, we need to be telling our children everything there is out there on sex, not just, “Ignore those raging hormones. They’ll go away in about 20-30 years.”
The scariest chapter (they were all quite terrifying to me), was how the pro-life movement in America has drastically changed how people live and are treated in countries all around the world. The most staggering story was how one American-based group comprised of just six people stopped $34 million in funding to UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund, formally United Nations Fund for Population Assistance) who, among other things, provides safe health care for new mothers and infants in third world countries. By getting the president’s attention with fraudulent accusations, the small group Population Research Institute changed thousands of people’s lives. One calculation was that $34 million could have prevented “4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant deaths” (page 138) world wide each year.
To this date I still go back and forth in my head as to whether I’m for or against abortion. Perhaps you do, too, or you know you are one or the other. Wherever you stand on the debate, make sure you know you are behind it a hundred percent. If you’re pro-life, be sure you are also against sex outside of the marriage, comprehensive sex education, and many, many other things that would prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions in the first place. Take a look at this book and decide whether you can stand for all of that when you say you are pro-life. Before I read this book I thought I could say I was pro-life, but seeing what pro-life really stands for, I will not say that any more. I’m going to say I’m pro-alternatives and pro-education. Ask me if I’m against abortion and I’ll tell you that we need to have an alternative first for everyone, not just privileged white women, before we eliminate abortion all together.
How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and War on Sex by Cristina Page published by Basic Books ISBN: 0465054897