Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blog For Choice: Trust Women

I remember being about seven and asking my mum if abortion counted as murder. I don't know where I had first heard the word abortion and was probably really fuzzy about the concept (as you would imagine a seven year old to be) but I know the question was sparked due to a Sunday School lesson on the Ten Commandments. The Sunday school teacher was trying to impress upon us that even if we didn't think we were sinning, we well could be. She used the typical examples of a white lie, she asked if we ever wanted a friend's stickers (OMG guys, do you remember sticker books in primary school? No? Just me?) really badly, she even asked what we did with the rest of our Sundays once we got home from church (although she never really explained what keeping the Sabbath holy entailed...just implied heavily that watching TV wasn't part of the deal).

So it got me thinking. Which other commandments could be violated by otherwise well-meaning people? What about the one about not killing - does it extend to animals? Does it extend to plants? I started thinking about whether it was ambiguous when it came to people, and that must be how I chanced upon abortion.

My mother lit up like a tree on Christmas and enthusiastically took the opportunity to explain that yes, abortion is murder. That god (it was capital-G God back then) was clear on not killing people, and babies even in the mother's womb were people. Not satisfied that her answer was comprehensive enough, she then started telling me about the IUD and how it prevents tiny babies from holding on to the mother's womb (no, seriously, she even mimed grippy motions with her hands at this point) and how that was abortion too. She told me that there was a couple at church (a well-respected couple that I admired quite a bit at the time) who used the device, and that's why their only son was in a wheelchair - as punishment for all the little babies they killed with the IUD.

I'm gonna pause here for a bit so you can appreciate just how fucked up that was.

As amazingly ableist and scientifically inaccurate that was, it was my first introduction to abortion (and contraception, really). I understood that it was wrong, and that there were no circumstances under which it was ok. My mom took the opportunity over the years to use abortion as a method of slut shaming. She told me about how my dad's colleague's wife procured an abortion because the due date conflicted with a planned trip to Japan (and why those godless people were cursed with only one child). She told me tales of classmates who had abortions every other month while bitterly discussing how they were popular anyway and were quite mean to her. She told me these stories with an aim to impress upon me how the world has a dirty, unseemly underbelly, how even people who appear good HAVE ABORTIONS and therefore ARE MURDERERS. Sort of like this:

Slowly, after each of these narratives, after each consequence and moral was revealed, I began to realize that underpinning all of these fables was the throbbing drumbeat that to be a good woman all the choices you make must be externally transparent - that onlookers will be judging you for what you do and blaming your misfortunes on your transgressions. And the worst, the absolute worst action you can do is to kill your "baby" because there is nothing in the world that can justify MURDER. Because there is no one in the world who would give you the benefit of the doubt, who trusts you to make the right decision for yourself and your family. Because if you have an abortion, you are automatically discredited as an active, responsible agent.

Because the world at large does not trust women.

I trust women. I trust that decisions are not made lightly. I trust that women are the only people who can know everything about their individual circumstance and with the information they have can be trusted to make the best call for their lives at the time they have to make it. I trust women and that's why despite my mother's best efforts, I am pro-choice.


  1. I see. So you don't believe that human beings, and especially within a socio-economic system such as this, aren't generally compelled to do what they do by self-absorption, selfishness, self-centerdness and so on?

    Personally, I wouldn't trust the women of these days as they seem to be worse than the men of those days. They seem to embody the worst traits of men and do it far better than them as well. And in a confucian milieu, they serve as the 'party whip' keeping men in line for the government by their 'pragmatism', etc.

    And where does the choice of the child come in mate? I thought you were pro-choice? I'm all for abortion, but that is provided that the women's life is at stake, or under extreme psychological duress.


  2. Wow, that really is a lot of sweeping generalisation in 3 paragraphs.

    At the end of the day, it's the woman who, and her body which is carrying the foetus. I just believe she ought to have both the option of terminating the pregnancy and the option of carrying it to term. It's about a woman having autonomy over HER OWN BODY.

    Oh and a foetus? Isn't a child. Colour me confused over here.

    Not entirely sure what you mean to say in your 2nd paragraph other than the fact that you seem to be blithely compartmentalising possibly universal characteristics by gender.

  3. ed: You have basically illustrated the point I was making - that people in general don't trust women to make the right decisions for their bodies and their lives.

    What I mean when I say that I trust women is that I trust that as individuals with intelligence and agency, a woman is the best person in the world to make the right decision for herself. Your scrutiny of her actions and the resultant judgement thereof shouldn't have any purchase on whether she is able to acquire an abortion if she feels she needs one.

    The use of the word "child" in your comment is quite disingenuous as well. It is also rather unnerving that you would value allowing a cluster of cells to continue dividing over the ability of a free-agent in the world to make her own decisions about her life, body and circumstance.

    Finally, you mention when you're "all for abortion". I'll provide you a convenient paraphrase here:

    "I'm ed and I think women should only be allowed to have a legal medical procedure performed if I approve of their reasons for doing so because I don't trust women and don't seem to have a problem with my deep misogynist streak."

  4. This seems like a good time to suggest that BYC give serious thought to an anti-troll comments policy. There are plenty of FAQs out there which people like ed can be directed to if they are truly interested in these "issues" they raise. No reason why everyone else has to be subject to their spew again.

  5. Nicholas:

    Good point. We did have initial discussions about comment moderation when we first started this blog, but it may be time to take it up again.

    Thanks for stopping by nonetheless :)

  6. I second Nicholas's comments; there should be a healthy dose of Feminism 101 links around here to hit people on the head with. :D

    Also. The UR TOTES MISSIN THE POINT card someone mentioned round here sometime back? That too.

    I (*embarrassed*) missed Blog For Choice day. But thank you for this post.

  7. *stands up and applauds*

    Beautiful :)

    Our mothers are most definitely related......


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