While I don’t really want to drag this issue out too much longer, I wanted to post some more thoughts about Elyse’s excellent post yesterday, especially because of the string of comments that post inspired. The following is part of an exchange we Skepchicks had before the post, and I wanted to share it with the rest of the an exchange we Skepchicks had before the post, and I wanted to share it with the rest of the crowd.
In a nutshell, I think it’s entirely possible, even likely, that Bristol’s family pushed their ideology on her and forced her “choice.” But no one who isn’t involved can say that for sure. And I don’t see how a strange man forcing (or bribing) the opposite choice for an opposite ideology makes the landscape better for supporting women to make their own informed choices about their lives, bodies, and families.
Here’s where I’m coming from: my own pregnancy was unplanned, and I considered both abortion and adoption. I was still in college, I don’t come from a great family situation in the first place, and my daughter’s father was not supportive at the time. I didn’t have anywhere near the financial and familial support Bristol has. I chose to keep my baby, and I have worked my ass off ever since keeping us afloat. I still work my ass off, in fact. But my daughter is the best thing that ever happened, or will ever happen, to me, hands down. I can’t even begin to describe the difference she’s made to me. I would have gone through times ten times as hard as I did if it was to have my little girl in my life.
(Can I use this as an excuse to link to adorable pictures of my spawn? Sure I can!)
It’s also worth mentioning I have also had an abortion. I’ve been in both places, and I made two different choices depending on the circumstances I was in.
I don’t think Stanhope is wrong in this case because his “joke” just isn’t funny (even though it isn’t). He’s wrong because he’s publicly implying, if not straight out saying, that judgment should be passed on Bristol for doing what she’s doing. Or if she does something else, that another, more favorable judgment should be given to her. And that’s what I have a problem with.
I’ve been on the other side of judgment. I am an unwed mother, and even though I am now with my daughter’s father, I still choose to remain unmarried. People judge me for that. I have been on public assistance. People judged me for that. I work very hard at my career, because I won’t allow myself to ever be in a position again where I can’t take care of myself and my daughter on my own. People judge me for that. My partner stays at home and takes care of our daughter. People judge us for that. People (including my own family) judged me for keeping my daughter instead of giving her away, or maybe they judge me now for not aborting her. I don’t think that would be fair, considering both my daughter and I are healthy and happy and doing well now. But if someone doesn’t know the whole of my situation (and who really knows it but those closest to me?), they could easily pass an unfair judgment. Even unfair judgments can hurt, and, even if they don’t particularly hurt, they don’t do anything to help women in these kind of circumstances who need help. I don’t let them hurt me, not anymore. But I get really pissed off when those kind of judgments are leveled at others.
Because I went through the experiences I have, I made a promise to myself that I would never judge another woman dealing with these choices. Ever. I am strongly, strongly pro-choice, and the reason is because I believe that no one knows exactly what it’s like to live that situation unless you’re the one living it. I know I didn’t until I lived it. And I believe that only the one who knows exactly what it’s like deserves to make choices about it. I think what this guy is doing is judgmental and disrespectful, and I think it’s not only disrespectful of Bristol, it’s disrespect to every woman who has faced a similar difficult choice and took a different path than the path he thinks should be taken. And since I’m one of those women, I take it a little personally.
I’m not saying that Bristol keeping her baby is the right decision, or that abortion would be the wrong decision. I’m saying it’s not my place, or Doug Stanhope’s place, or Sarah Palin’s place, or anyone else on this planet’s place, to say, even jokingly, and especially in a public forum, either way. To only translate a choice that ends up with the result we want as an actual choice doesn’t even make any logical, much less ethical, sense.
In case this doesn’t seem relevant to this site – well, I think it is. It’s the same thing we talk about when educating people about skepticism. It’s not about telling them what to think, it’s teaching how to think. It’s not about telling any woman what choice to make, it’s about making sure women are able to make choices themselves. When it comes to applying critical thinking, you can’t come to a conclusion using only your own personal anecdotes, or your family’s or friends’. You can use your own knowledge gained from experience as part of your evidence, but that doesn’t follow that because your abortion was the right choice for you, it’s the right choice for everyone, every time – or if your adoption was successful, or not, or if your giving birth at seventeen was successful, or not. We also can’t make assumptions based on our own opinions about what choice actually did take place with Bristol. We can have our opinions, sure. I have mine. But I’m careful to keep that separate from my judgment. Only the one in that individual situation knows all of the facts. And that’s the only one who can and should make the judgment and the choice. Everyone else need to back the fuck off, as far as I’m concerned.
When it comes to Bristol Palin: here’s a young pregnant woman who we’re only seeing as an errant nail sticking up, and everyone is so intent on using his or her own particular hammer to slam her back down, it seems like we’re forgetting that what we’re swinging at is still an individual woman, who deserves as much respect and compassion as any other. That’s what the religious fundamentalists do, folks. We’re supposed to be better than that.
This guy may be well-intentioned when it comes to trying to level the political playing field. I see his point, and, essentially, I agree. I think that donating money to make abortions available to low-income women is a great thing. I’ve done it myself. But he’s doing it in such an offensive and disrespectful way that I think it’s going to do more damage than good. I don’t care if it influences policy – what good is legislation if we’ve forgotten the value of what that legislation is supposed to protect? If it’s a choice between making a pro-choice statement in the media and respecting another pregnant woman as a woman and not a symbol or helpless pawn … I’m siding with Bristol.