There are two issues I don't usually discuss with people: abortion and Chief Illiniwek. People get crazy and hostile about these topics. When emotions get that high, there is no chance of being heard, so I don't waste my energy in pointless debate. (How does Chief Illiniwek rise to the same emotional level as abortion for people who don't have a single drop of native blood? Don't ask me. They are passionate about their entertainment, I guess.)
My gut response to abortion is this: I don't get it. I've tried--I've thought, I've read, I've listened--but I cannot wrap my mind around it. How can people think it's OK to kill the most innocent of human life? Don't women feel a sense of bonding or love toward the life growing inside? Do people think it's simply a mass of tissue, not much different in value from the snot that comes out of your head when you have a cold? I'm not being a smart ass; I really, honestly don't understand. If the child's life doesn't begin at conception, when does it begin? (I once sat across a table from a man who was promoting the idea that parents should be allowed to kill children up to the age of 2. It made me physically ill to listen to this monstrous proposition.)
I understand being poor, being frightened and overwhelmed, having too many pressures and obligations, feeling (and being) incapable of parenting. I understand all of those things on a deep, personal level. Yet, my desire to nurture and protect the tiniest and most innocent of life somehow seems to trump those fears. But serious illness, rape, and incest present entirely different emotional and ethical problems. Should anyone dictate to others how they must respond in such dreadful situations?
The answers aren't as simple as the Roe v. Wade debate makes it seem. This is not a black-and-white matter. Ultimately, we are collectively responsible for the well being of women and children in our society. Yet, each problem pregnancy involves difficult personal decisions. Abortion is both an individual and a collective matter.
The issues are complicated. The problems are cultural and systemic. We don't adequately care for and support women with crisis pregnancies. We are ambivalent about birth control. We don't adequately care for and protect our children. We make adoption difficult and expensive. In many ways, we are a brutal culture.
From my perspective, aborting unwanted children is not an answer for societal ills; neither is criminalizing the desperate acts of women who feel trapped and hopeless. But we aren't willing to take on the harder, more fundamental issues, the issues for which we are all responsible. Until we do, real solutions will evade us.