Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | February 17, 2011

Why The Right To Choose Should Stay Put

Conservatives in America say that they want the government to keep their paws out of peoples’ business, but when it comes to reproductive rights, they seem to go against what they preach, since many legislators (both at state and federal levels) are doing everything to restrict women’s access to clinics such as those run by Planned Parenthood, which provide not only abortions but an array of services, including support during pregnancy, HIV testing, birth control and much more.

Ever since Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States) passed, the religious right has done everything to try and reverse the ruling. However, even three consecutive Republican presidencies were unable to do so, and more recently the woman’s right to choose has come under attack in more discreet manners – say, limiting the Federal budget or adding provisions to the new Health Care law to make access to abortions more difficult.

Before I go on, let me state my personal position on this: although I would never encourage anyone to have an abortion (I admit I had a different position in my youth), I strongly oppose any laws that prevent women from having a choice in the matter. The first is based on principle: we live in a country where there is official church-state separation, and the reasons that the Right-To-Life movement have to oppose legal abortions is mostly based on their religious beliefs. The second is that women who want an abortion will get one even if it means going to the back alleys or finding unprofessional butchers to do the job – the kind of situation depicted in the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, when dancer Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes)  seeks a ‘doctor’ to get rid of her accidental pregnancy.

In Brazil (where I lived for many years), abortions are officially illegal due to the strong Catholic sentiment there. However, anyone with the means can find a suitable clinic where the job can get done efficiently and with no more than reasonable risk of any minor procedure. The only reason  – I think – that it hasn’t been legalized there is simply because of political hypocrisy, since the Catholic church yields great pressure over Brazil’s government – to a point that during the last election campaign, then-candidate Dilma Rouseff had to meet with church officials (of various denominations) and vow not to propose any pro-abortion laws in the country.

There are basically two reasons why I wouldn’t personally encourage anyone to get an abortion is because for many women, it can be a traumatic experience that leaves a sentiment of ‘what if’ that can linger for years. Also, as a Catholic I think that life is an important thing. However, I would never allow my personal religious beliefs interfere with secular laws – and that is where I draw the line. Also, I oppose the Roman Catholic’s stance on a couple of issues – for instance, in case of risk to a woman’s health or rape, I would totally support the procedure to be done. Actually, if a woman I knew was sure that she wanted to terminate her pregnancy for whatever reason she might have, I would not be the one to stop her from doing so, simply because it is a woman’s right to choose.

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