(Today is NARAL’s eighth annual “Blog for Choice” day. This year, participants are being asked to share their stories about why they’re pro-choice.)
I have an unusually copious and accurate memory, and I retain a vague but definitely real recollection of being at Catholic Mass, as I was every week with my family, the Sunday morning after Roe v. Wade was handed down. I was eleven, and in the congregation; it wasn’t my turn to be an altar boy, that week. And while I certainly can’t reproduce his words, I know that there wasn’t shouting and ranting on the part of the priest. A grim determination, to see this purported horror righted, and soon, was what came through.
I don’t think that I really knew what was going on, with the abortion thing. But if conservatives were against abortion, than so was I, because I was definitely a hard-nosed little conservative. I eagerly read the Reader’s Digest and the American Legion magazines that were delivered monthly to the door, and spent many fascinated hours piecing together those little plastic models of warplanes and battleships. Your typical small-town boy from the Upper Midwest, I suppose, except that I read a lot more, and without much of an understanding of editorial bias.
More below the fold.
My political views didn’t make their great leap leftward until my junior and senior years of high school, and though I’ve thought about it long and hard, I can’t precisely say how and why that happened. I do know that it had a lot to do with a growing realization of how things really work in this world, and of the vast chasms between the pious platitudes that many proclaimed in church and elsewhere, and the ways in which they really behaved. But a lot of it was probably more or less subconscious, grounded in a general sense of compassion and indignation at unfairness. Over the years, plenty of other progressives who grew up conservative, with whom I’ve discussed this matter, reported similar experiences.
The point of these autobiographical notes, in this context, is that I can’t identify a particular experience or realization that made me the (vehement) pro-choicer that I’ve always been as an adult. Some of it certainly has to do with my scientific understanding of how bizarre it is to claim that an insensate lump of protoplasm is somehow endowed with “rights” surpassing those of the woman in whose uterus it happens to be. And another part of it is grounded in an understanding of the horrors that result when full reproductive choice is not legally available.
But there’s no “eureka” moment that I can share and – this is the real point – that might work to persuade others. I think that it’s mostly just believing in basic human rights, like those of women and girls not to be used as man-serving baby boxes, or those of anyone not to be forced into wars. (I drew that parallel deliberately; both are grounded in “I/we control/own everything of yours; your life, your health, your reproduction, everything.”) And I don’t know of a way that works, on a large scale, for getting through to reactionaries with all of that. Crude dogmatism and cognitive rigidity, in unfortunately massive quantities, really are among the greatest challenges of all to overcome. But, progress has been, and is being, made.