An amazing amount of simple factual truth has not dawned upon many of us or is generally actively denied since we all have a strong tendency to believe only what we want to believe, what we feel we must believe, what we have been manipulated and indoctrinated into believing, what we think will win favor with important others if we believe it, what we believe is good and proper to believe, and/or what we have a compelling emotional need to believe, and to resent and defend against acknowledgment of anything that threatens or runs counter to such belief - all in the service of believing that we know we are "right" - so "right" that everyone else in the world should think, feel, and behave just like us, and be made to by force if necessary.
• Trouble is, no matter how fervently one believes that one knows what one merely believes, one merely believes it and one might be wrong - very wrong.
I don't believe in evolution. I am convinced by the evidence. The implied converse should be equally true, i.e., to quote Mark Twain, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." (Well, if you don't know it "ain't so," based upon the complete lack of evidence of its being so, you should, because this is the 21st century, and you have every opportunity to either educate yourself or shut up - please pardon the arrogance. I’m fed up.)
There is perhaps no area of human behavior in which clear rational thought and understanding of factual reality is more obscured by emotionally charged irrational belief and misinformed opinion, and in which the consequences of this failure to face and accept factual truth are more catastrophically cruel, than in matters concerning sexuality and reproduction, even among some physicians and others who have had every opportunity to know better. I will lay out here a few factual truths that are so unpleasant or threatening to some in all walks of life that they are commonly denied and smothered by contradictory belief and even blatantly lied about by those fanatical enough to strive to force their unfounded beliefs upon everyone.
The current Supreme Court is composed of five devout Roman Catholic believers: Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy, making up the 5 - 4 majority in the 2007 Gonzales vs. Carhart decision that, under the rubric of a made-up scourge termed "partial birth abortion," ripped complex medical judgments out of the hands of experienced physicians and placed them into the fickle, untrained, and inexperienced hands of politicians and makers of broad-brushed and ambiguous criminal law.
What is happening to religious freedom in this nation? Oh, I know the stock replies, such as  this is a Christian nation and  freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion. As appealing as the former is to some who want so much to believe it, it is abundantly demonstrated not to be true by knowledge of the varied religious persuasions of the founding fathers and reading of the public records of what they said and wrote about it, including the United States Constitution. As for the latter assertion, of course freedom of religion means freedom from religion. How could one be free to be Baptist without the freedom from Roman Catholicism and vice versa? How could one be free to be Christian without being free from Islam and vice versa? Could anyone be free to be atheist without freedom from all religions? No, of course not. Enough said. The last time I checked there was no legal requirement in this state or nation that I be a Roman Catholic, a Southern Baptist or any other variety of Christian, a Jew, a fundamentalist Muslim, an Aztec believer in Huitzilopochtli, a worshipper of Thor, or a believer in any religion, or that I conduct my life according to the dogmatic teachings of any religious belief system and I am not and I don’t.
Simply and clearly stated, those who refer to themselves as "pro-life" are pushing to create conditions in this country and around the world in which many women (and their children) and teenage girls are sure to suffer and die because of the imposition by law on them of the religious beliefs of others. Does it get more un-American than that?
Laws to force you or me into such compliance with dogmatic religious belief, however cleverly camouflaged, are profoundly inappropriate in a country that truly values individual freedom as reality, not pretentious jingo.
However, I do not believe abortion rights are right. I am convinced by the evidence.
As an abortion care provider I performed a first trimester abortion on a college senior some years ago. Prior to meeting me she had told a clinic counselor that she was the president of her campus "pro-life" organization. Think about that. That must mean that she was one of their most committed and hardest workers against legal and safe professional abortion care for several years, but when she got pregnant herself, she was in the clinic having an abortion within a week of her positive pregnancy test.
Just after I completed her abortion, I asked her what she was now going to do about her affiliation with that campus anti-choice club. Startled, she gasped, sat abruptly up on the operating table, and with horrified expression and popping eyes blurted out in a tremulous voice, "You're not going to tell them, are you?" I, of course, assured her we were not going to tell anyone. She likely returned to her (now unequivocally hypocritical) role of being the champion antiabortionist on her campus - unalterably opposed to safe, legal abortion for every woman in the world but herself.
Many "pro-lifers" believe abortion should be outlawed with only four exceptions: endangerment of the life of the pregnant woman or girl, rape, incest, and "me."
Many others would omit the first three.
We see that degree of hypocrisy, and worse, regularly. However, it is not always simple hypocrisy. Many women (and men) just don't "get it" until they are personally faced with unexpected and unwanted pregnancy in themselves or in someone they care about. That's just often the way it works - it's often hard to relate to or understand until you experience it personally in yourself or in someone close to you.
Abortion is a decision that's very easy to judge when you're not in the position of having to make it for yourself. For a not uncommon example (I see several women who fit this description every day in my work and don’t see many more who never get to me due to inability to pay and lack of funding assistance or by being tragically defeated by the draconian legal obstacles that have been strewn in their paths by state and federal laws drafted and passed by lawmakers endeavoring to cram their personal religious beliefs down the throats of all of us), when was the last time you were a young single mother and sole support of one or more young children and facing losing your low-paying job in a faltering, inflated economy because of unintended and unwanted pregnancy? Who are you to judge and deny these women and girls moral agency over the contents of their own insides?
Abortion providers, and thus the personal liberty of American women and teenage girls, are being regulated and restricted under false pretenses. In their effort to write the dictates of their religious beliefs into laws requiring the obedience of all to those beliefs, while falsely claiming they are not, the lawmakers behind such regulations and restrictions are striving to deny, on purely sectarian ideological grounds not related to the false justifications they claim, religious freedom to any who disagree.
"Abortion hurts women!," they proclaim in a sweeping generalization. That is as untrue as saying up is down or left is right or 2 + 2 = 22 but this does not mean that those who proclaim it are lying. By and large, they are not lying at all, because they really and truly believe it to be true. Why do they believe it to be true? Because it is what they desperately want to believe. Why do they want to believe it? Because they are so habituated to pleasing, and fearful of displeasing, those they regard as authority figures, whether their concept of a supreme being, or just their pastor or favorite TV evangelist, or their father, or their supervisor at work, or the prevailing attitudes of their political party, or merely what it takes to get funds and votes in their district and/or to succeed in politics or business. At their core they tremble in fear of losing the approval of such authorities and others of like mind. Their sense of self-worth, and indeed on a deeper level their sense of survival, relies upon this approval - they need those feathers in their caps, those merit badges of approval - those trophies on their tables and walls - and those dollars in their coffers - not that they are likely to admit it, insisting as they do on framing it in the more abstract and mega-authoritarian terms of supernaturalism and spirituality - of religious belief.
REMEMBER: No matter how fervently one believes that one knows what one merely believes, one merely believes it and one might be wrong - very wrong.
In actual fact, legalization and availability of abortion, comprehensive sex education, and effective contraception have represented probably the greatest advances in the history of the world in bettering the health and lives of women and teenage girls. There is no doubt about this to be debated by lay ideologues and demagogues in government cynically pretending to know and understand enough about modern medicine to micromanage medical practice from under the ivory towers of capitol domes. However, the cruel deception is prevalent that reality (e.g., science) should be trumped by belief.
Well then, what about reality? Following are some examples of what really hurts women.
The World Health Organization has estimated that in those parts of the world in which abortion is illegal, about 70,000 thinking, feeling, desperate women and teenage girls die every year from illegal attempts to abort unwanted pregnancies. That is more than one every 10 minutes DEAD because they are prohibited by law from accessing a reputable legal clinic for safe, legal, professional abortion care. Many times that number are seriously injured and maimed for life.
In addition, every minute, night and day, no holidays or weekends off, around the world
• one woman dies of complications of pregnancy and childbirth (every minute),
• ten teenage girls undergo unsafe illegal abortions (every minute),
• thirteen infants under twelve months old die (every minute),
• fifty seven people contract an STD (every minute),
• eleven people are infected with HIV (every minute),
• and the already-burgeoned-beyond-the-planet's-capacity-to-sustain human population increases by one hundred fifty more people(every minute),
all sanctioned, encouraged, and even required by our callous right-wing-dominated government through international interference with and withholding of funding from worldwide reproductive health programs.
There are 525,600 minutes in a year. You do the arithmetic. The numbers are so huge as to be virtually impossible to contemplate, but those are the kinds of numbers we deal with when describing events in a world population of 6.5 billion individuals that is growing exponentially toward the point of severe degradation and destruction of the biosphere upon which all life depends.
In the United States we are vastly more fortunate. Almost 4,000 women every day obtain high quality abortion care in the United States that is legal, professionally provided, and therefore extremely safe. Approximately 40% of all adult women in the country have had an abortion. 40%. Maybe your sister - the teenage girl next door or down the street (yes, no matter how perfect her Sunday School attendance) - your daughter your best friend's daughter - your wife - your mother - your teenage son's girlfriend! You just aren't likely to hear about it because they fearfully keep it secret. Its one of those taboo subjects most people don’t feel free to discuss. Nor do many people want to hear about it, preferring to bolster their comforting false beliefs that it just couldn't be so by screening out and denying factual knowledge of it.
Abortion was not always so safe in the United States, because it was illegal in most states here, too, until January 22, 1973, when the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Roe vs. Wade. Prior to that momentous decision, which declared unconstitutional, and therefore unenforceable, all state laws prohibiting abortion, the statistics in the U.S. were similar to those quoted above for illegal abortion forced underground in the third-world, and many major U.S. hospitals were forced to provide entire (and often overflowing) wards for the victims of injuries from illegal abortion attempts - those who didn't wind up on slabs in morgues. Even so and so tragically, there are today those willfully ignorant and misguided persons and their narrow and uncompromising political, legal, and religious organizations in this country who are fervently struggling to throw history into reverse and turn the clock back to those horrific times. They strive to create a modern edition of the blood bath and the wrecked lives that existed prior to Roe vs. Wade as one especially pernicious plank in their ardent campaign to transform our free society into a religious tyranny motivated by much the same sort of fervent and uncompromising beliefs that moved other religious fanatics of a different religious persuasion to guide large airliners full of people into large buildings full of people on September 11, 2001. (I'm merely connecting the dots.)
Incredibly, those obsessed individuals who strive, contrive, and deceive in order to criminalize abortion and throw us all backwards into the suffering and death illustrated by those statistics quoted above call themselves "pro-life." To emphasize the absurdity of this I never use that misguided, hypocritical term outside of quotation marks.
Those politicians who believe their personal political ambitions and those of their party will be favored by further restricting women’s access to professional abortion care and who are callous enough to value their political ambitions and agendas above the lives and well-being of women and teenage girls and their families - have a rude awakening ahead as the body count in dead and injured women and teenage girls mounts in direct proportion to their tragically misguided legislative "successes." Oh, to be sure, they might continue to succeed in mercilessly oppressing the human rights of women until the tally in wrecked and extinguished lives grows large enough that it can no longer be ignored or covered by denial, pretense, delusion, and lies, and falsely justified by beliefs, but a time of reckoning is inevitable.
You can't fool most of the people all of the time.
I continue to believe that an assertive, truthful defense of abortion rights would be a winning political strategy. (Yes, I have beliefs, too, but I don't delude myself that my beliefs are demonstrable factual reality.)