In terms of pro-choice and pro-life, Conor Lamb, who won the March 13 special congressional election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, demonstrated how to win office, in Trumpland, no less, by being pro-choice and pro-life at the same time:
Swear on your faith that you’re devoted to the dogma that states that life begins at conception, but present yourself as a person dedicated to the rule of law, and therefore upholding of the decades-old Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
But there’s always been something surreptitious about the two-sided debate. Lamb’s motive was to be elected to office. Even now, pro-choice is synonymous with empowerment while pro-life is synonymous with righteousness. That’s an oversimplification of a complex topic, but not necessarily inaccurate.
And neither side addresses the impact of poverty and race on abortion in any meaningful way.
But in 2014 the Guttmacher Institute found that 39 percent of women having abortions identified as white. Minority women accounted for 61 percent of abortions performed that year.
And 75 percent of women who had abortions lived at or below the federal poverty level.
For this group, choice meant having no choice at all. They came into the abortion arena poor, and left the abortion arena poor, and for those championing the cause, the victory was in the abortion itself.
And without debating the right or wrong of it, the optic is bad, with white women and those at higher income levels cheering for mostly poor, minority women who now have access to abortion.
Hillary Clinton is fiercely opposed to the Hyde amendment, which forbids Medicaid dollars from being used for abortion.
At a fundraising event in January of 2016, Clinton said, “Any right that requires you to take extraordinary measures to access it is no right at all.”
In other words, for those already in the top tier of women getting abortions—the poor and women of color—more legislation may be required so they can get even more abortions.
It sounds more than a little like infanticide.
And Roe v Wade began with this exact scenario.
Norma McCorvey, “Roe” of Roe v. Wade, was a ninth-grade dropout who was sometimes homeless, sexually assaulted and married by the age of 16.
At age 22, she was pregnant for the third time, when she met two lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who had long sought a woman wanting an abortion, someone they could wrap a case around.
McCorvey never testified on her own behalf; in fact, although she was the defendant she never attended court at all.
And pro-life advocates are just as blind to poverty and race, the impetus for abortion, and the outcomes of women seeking or having an abortion.
Based on the cycle of poverty that exists for women of color it almost seems that the sanctity of life ends at birth.
Even the Catholic Church, being at the forefront of the pro-life movement, could do more. The most recent post on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was a three-page intercessory prayer for those contemplating abortion.
Without questioning the power of prayer, shouldn’t the richest religion in the world do more? Maybe buy every unwed mother a house? (I’m being slightly facetious.)
On the flip side, in the 1960s, the pro-choice movement resembled the red carpet on Oscar’s night: Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Germain Greer, who was described as a “public intellectual,” and Robin Morgan, “poet, author, political theorist and activist, journalist, lecturer, and former child actor.”
For these, choice means privilege; not so much the instinct to survive, but to thrive, and there is a difference.
Not to acknowledge this difference and approach it as a problem to be solved represents women failing women on a grand scale. To ignore what brings women to such levels of poverty and what sustains the cycle of poverty in spite of having had an abortion, or chosen life, is to remove the human element from the cause either espouses.
And so from those less fortunate, the questions for pro-life advocates and pro-choice advocates alike, becomes, “If all life is sacred what about my life?” And “Now what?”
Gloria Johns is a freelance writer living in San Angelo, Texas.