Monday, June 30, 2008

Unwanted vs unplanned pregnanies

Today Rev. Debrah Haffner, from the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, addresses Jim Wallis (from Sojourners and God's Politics) and some statements he made in Newsweek online.

Wallis said that although he believes abortion to be a moral tragedy, he doesn't think the best way to prevent abortions is to criminalize them. He asks, "The question is how can we actually prevent unwanted pregnancies, protect unborn lives, support low-income women, offer compassionate alternatives to abortion, make adoption much more accessible and affordable, carefully fashion reasonable restrictions, and thus dramatically reduce the shamefully high abortion rate in America?"

Haffner responds by suggesting that it's not unwanted pregnanies Wallis should be concerned about preventing, but unplanned pregnanies. She writes,
What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that the abortion rate is at its lowest since 1974, a year after Roe v. Wade. Abortions are coming down in the U.S. The abortion rate is down 100,000 since 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and that 62% of mainline Christians and 84% of Jews believe that.

What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that according to the Guttmacher Institute, placing retrictions, whatever "reasonable restrictions" might be, doesn't make abortions rarer, it makes them less safe.

And despite my reading his paragraph over and over again lest I missed it, what Rev. Wallis isn't calling for is hope for young women for productive futures through quality education and job opportunities (as was missing in last week's stories on the so-called pregnancy pact), sexuality education, and high quality family planning services. Rev. Wallis, as a pro-choice feminist and minister, I will do everything I can to work with you on assuring adoption services and high quality prenatal care and parenting support -- when will we see you working to assure women AND men have access to the means to prevent pregnancies in the first place?

If anti-choicers really want to prevent abortions, they should support easy access to birth control and family planning services because that's what prevents unplanned pregnancies, not misleading information and abstinence only education. Just one more reason that the anti-choice promotion The Pill Kills is more about imposing conservative sexual mores on society than it is about preventing abortions.

Last week, James Dobson from Focus on the Family said that Obama was "deliberately distorting" the Bible to fit his own theology. Haffner critiqued Dobson, writing,
"I find it almost laughable that Mr. Dobson (he is not a minister, he just plays one on radio and tv) doesn't understand that he too uses the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own theology. After all, the Bible is silent on birth control, silent on abortion, and silent on consensual same sex adult sexual relationships as we understand them today, yet Mr. Dobson says he is talking about a Biblical morality when he opposes them. And as a Unitarian Universalist minister, I understand that of course, we bring our own worldview and our own theology to understanding our sacred texts."
Exactly what I was thinking. If Dobson doesn't realize that individual experience and beliefs shape the way we see the world (including individual understandings of theology), then he's sadly out of touch with human experience. And because we all have different experiences and viewpoints, we must be able to make our own decisions for our own lives. That's the beauty of choice - I'm not fighting for abortions; I'm fighting for women to have the ability to make their own choices regarding their bodies and their lives.

Bookmark Haffner's blog and keep reading - she's consistantly proving that religion, feminism and choice can, and do, go hand-in-hand.

20 comments:

The Great American said...

With "Rev" Haffner being a Unitarian Universalist, how could you give her any credence? She is so far off mainstream christianity it isn't even funny. She claims that the majority of mainline christians support abortion rights, I will challenge on her faulty statistics and her clearly distorted definition of "mainline chrstians".

And as far as the whole Dobson thing goes (in her attempt at humor, Haffner uses the "i'm not a minister i only play one..." when in fact James Dobson has never claimed to be a minister). She once again is wrong, as are you. You don't use your own worldview to interpret the Bible, you use the Bible to interpret and define your world view.

Habladora said...

I just returned from a family reunion - with the conservative side of the family. We did discuss politics, and the caricatures of liberals sketched out during conversations really surprised me. There certainly wasn't any understanding that most liberals would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions, but that we believe that banning it or attacking broad access to birth control is counterproductive. Thanks for the introduction to a writer that my relatives might be able to relate to. My opinions are sometimes dismissed because I am, after all, a liberal blogger.

Tessa said...

There is one thing I am curious about. While I think Haffner makes some really excellent points, I have to wonder about why abortion rates are down so much in the US, given the current administration's lack of advocacy for real sexual education. I worry a lot that the reason the rate is down is not because there are fewer unwanted pregancies but perhaps because in many states, over the last eight years, it has become increasingly difficult for thousands of women to actually obtain abortions, due to greater restrictions and laws imposing on the lawful right of women to choose. Thoughts?

Renee said...

As much as these anti-choicers scream that it is about stopping abortion their position on abstinence only education makes it clear that they are only really interested in controlling womens bodies.

The Great American said...

tessa,

You've hit the nail on the head. Abortions have gone down because laws have made it harder to obtain an abortion, imagine that. Laws regulating abortion make the rate go down....who would have thunk it? And it seems that women really arent turning to "back alley" abortions with a coat hanger.

And about abstinence only education, if abstinence was put into practice I'm about 100% sure that it would drastically reduce the abortion numbers as well as the STD numbers. Maybe if we teach it to a wider audience. Because what comprehensive sex ed does is tells people it's still ok to have promiscuis sex as long as you wear a condom or birth control. But find me one form of either of those that have been proven 100% effective(besides surgeries), you can't. I say we go with the 100% fool proof method that will ensure zero pregnancies and zero STD's. Or does that make too much sense. And don't say that "oh, but people have to have sex, it's human nature". You know, i dated my wife for 3 years prior to marrying her and I managed to not have sex. And trust me I wanted to...all the time, but I didn't want a kid or a disease (which i wouldn't have gotten anyways) so I abstained from sex. So if you really do want an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, than you should be able to stop your self from having sex.

Renee,

No one cares two craps about controlling a womans body. get over yourself. We care about saving the life of millions of yet to be born children.

Amelia said...

Oh, TGA, you make me want to play devil's advocate, so I think I shall (even though this is something I actually believe):

You say that "We care about saving the life of millions of yet to be born children." And how do the anti-choicers go about doing that? By trying their best to restrict the choices women (already living women, mind you) can make regarding their bodies. That's control, if you ask me.

The Great American said...

What choices do pro-lifers want to restrict besides the "choice" to murder innocent babies?

Amelia said...

Argh. Comment didn't go through.
Anyway, I have yet to be convinced thtat early term abortions are really murder (and yes, this can be debated until both sides go blue in the face - in fact, I've done nearly that with one of the bloggers at Disagreeably Right).

So anti-choicers who call it murder want to deny women the choice of determining the proper way for them to deal with an unplanned pregnancy...even though the "murder" in this case is a hotly debated issue. Not fair if you ask me.

The Great American said...

so since abortion being murder is a hotly debated issue, we should just agree with the side that says it isn't muder...yeah, real fair...I'm gonna keep sayin it, if you don't want to risk being pregnant, don't have sex! I don't know why it's such a hard concept. Why should someone else have to pay for a mistake?! Abortion is a COWARDS way out of responsibility.

Amelia said...

Well, if we can't agree that it is murder, why should women have to face limitations as to the choices they have over their bodies? These women are already, for sure, alive. That can't be disputed. Why place restrictions on them over something that no one can agree on?
THAT isn't fair.

And also, I think that aborting an unplanned pregnancy is a way of taking responsibility. Although I don't think you see it that way because you seem to think that the only responsibility a pregnant woman can possibly have is for the unborn being she carries...

The Great American said...

abortion is not taking responsiblity, it's getting rid of your responsibility.

Go here and read the fetal development timeline: http://www.ncrtl.org/LifeLine.htm

5 minutes before a baby is born it is still considered unborn. So should it still be ok to kill it? Let's not stop there, if at some point during the kidss life mommy decides she doesn't want it anymore, she doesn't love it, she can't afford it, daddy walked out, she can't afford food shuold she be able to kill it then?

Lindsay said...

While I think Haffner makes some really excellent points, I have to wonder about why abortion rates are down so much in the US, given the current administration's lack of advocacy for real sexual education. I worry a lot that the reason the rate is down is not because there are fewer unwanted pregancies but perhaps because in many states, over the last eight years, it has become increasingly difficult for thousands of women to actually obtain abortions, due to greater restrictions and laws imposing on the lawful right of women to choose.

I completely agree. Especially with so much anti-choice legislation in different states right now, I think perhaps more research needs to be done into the reasons for abortion rates declining - in good news, however, lots of states have been declining federal funding due to its limitations to abstinence-only education.

So if you really do want an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, than you should be able to stop your self from having sex.

TGA, and now that you're married, do you abstain?

Abstinence-only education fails people by saying "just don't do it" as opposed to emphasizing making mature choices at an appropriate emotional level in tandem with teaching about birth control. Comprehensive sex education isn't just about slapping condoms on bananas - it teaches about important aspects to relationships like communication as well as focusing on the nitty gritty bits of preventing STIs and pregnancies.

The Great American said...

lindsay,

No I do not abstain from sex, but at this point in my life I am prepared to bring a child into the world. But I also feel that sex was something that God created to be shared within the bounds of marriage, which was the main reason I abstained prior to getting married.

Lindsay said...

But I also feel that sex was something that God created to be shared within the bounds of marriage, which was the main reason I abstained prior to getting married.

I'm glad you were able to live up to your own convictions, however, I'm wondering about people who are married but who don't want to have children right at that moment. Are they supposed to abstain?

I think a lot of times people talk about sex education with teenagers in mind - it makes sense because that's the age we would be doing sex ed - but the thing about education is that it lasts much longer than just the time we're in school. So while it's important to give information that pertains to adolescents, it's also important to prepare people for life post-school, when they're adults. If they don't know about birth control when they're 16, we can't expect them to know about it when they're married a few years later.

Abstinence-only education proponents say that sex is a gift from god that needs to be cherished and restricted within the bounds of marriage, so there's no need for comprehensive sex ed. However, this viewpoint disregards 1-people who don't believe in god or don't live their lives within the structures of Abrahamic faith traditions, 2-people who are infallible and make mistakes (which is everyone, even fundies admit that), and 3-people who wait till marriage to have sex but who don't necessarily want a(nother) child at that moment.

wakemenow said...

What's always bothered me is how religious-right, pro-life folks (clergy or otherwise) focus only on the women's rights angle and virtually ignore the children's rights and quality of life perspective. They can condemn abortions and women who have them, yet offer up no alternative way for us as a society to care these unwanted children. If we don't want them, they certainly don't want them.

They're not the ones advocating that we limit the number of natural births and instead opt for adopting children desperately in need of loving homes. They're not the ones opening their homes up to children in the foster care system (many of whom are the unadopted black and Hispanic children in our country).

They don't care to discuss the declining quality of life experienced in this country, particularly among those lacking means and only compounded by neglect and/or abuse in non-nurturing home environments. They claim all life is sacred but then do little to protect the "sanctity" of the lives of the living.

Yes, I too agree that it's ideal to provide alternatives to abortion, particularly by using preventative measures, but the buck doesn't stop there. Until we're each willing to do our part in this proverbial village it seems awfully hypocritical to demand that all pregnancies be carried out to full-term.

How sacred can a life be that lacks quality?

The Great American said...

Lindsay,

I'm gonna come clean...I've kinda been playing devils advocate. I do 100% support comprehensive sex-ed. But I do like it with a strong emphasis on abstinence (not necessarily from a religion standpont) because i don't think there is any arguing that it is the best birth/STD control out there. I like comprehensive sex ed because if people aren't going to stay abstinent, they should at least take some of kind of precaution.

But my personal example of staying abstinent until marriage was basically to say that it's not impossible. I mean if a very typical male horndog like myself can abstain, then I think pretty much anybody can. Because there are people who say, "well its our nature, we can't not have sex" I just think that is a completely LAME excuse.

tessarae said...

tga,
"Let's not stop there, if at some point during the kidss life mommy decides she doesn't want it anymore, she doesn't love it, she can't afford it, daddy walked out, she can't afford food shuold she be able to kill it then?"

this is exactly the kind of situation that pro-choicers want to avoid in the first place. suppose a woman lives even by your personal moral code and abstains until marriage. she and her husband, then, might be struggling financially, one of them might have health problems, etc. - there's a plethora of reasons to wait to have kids, pick any one. should that married couple then abstain from sex? or should it be okay for them, as a married couple practicing safe sex, to have an abortion if the woman gets pregnant even with methods of birth control?

along these lines, lindsay, i agree 100%. sex education occurs when we're teenagers but should prepare us for adulthood. you wouldn't believe how many girl friends i have who know virtually nothing about even their own birth control pills and how they work! people could be SO much better informed, and that's my main concern. i think abortions would be much less common if people were just better educated about how birth control methods actually work.

Lindsay said...

Tessa, be my soul mate.

The Great American said...

Like I've said, I support abortion in NO situation (unless the life of the mother is threatened). If you can't handle the responsibility of raising a child, then why punish the child? It's not their fault they were concieved, if someone doesn't want a child they have the adoption option. So you think it would be better off dead than poor? Thats absurd if you ask me. And you know what, if a couple truly does not want a child, abstaining is always an option. Married or not, abstinence is a feasible thing and as far as I can see, 100% effective.

With that being said, like I previously stated, i do support comprehensive sex ed, as long as it has a STRONG emphasis on abstinence. I think that seems pretty reasonable.

The Great American said...

Wakemenow,

Better off dead than poor. Now there is logical thinking......