After reading Igor Yanovich’s Sept. 9 column on the abortion issue, I felt that it was time to add a woman’s viewpoint to this debate. Quite honestly, I take offense when one characterizes the pro-life movement as an attempt to keep women “domestic, weak, and submissive to men.” I’m not so naïve as to think that the anti-abortion movement is without flaws. However, I would like to offer a different pro-life perspective for your consideration. Once you read this, you can judge whether the pro-livfe case is really all about control over women.
“Are you pro-life?”
Until recently, I’ve hemmed and hawed about this question. My favorite answer used to be this: “Well … I would never have an abortion myself … but it should really be the woman’s choice.” It’s wrong to kill babies, sure. When you’re a young student at a Catholic grade school, you can accept that logic without question. As I got older, though, the lines became blurry. After all, I am a woman. It’s not too difficult to picture myself in the shoes of a struggling expectant mother. If I were ever in that position, I would most certainly resent someone telling me what to do with my body.
Faced with this question now, though, I can respond with a firm “yes.” What changed? Surprisingly, it wasn’t the embryo argument, although this is one of the strongest cases for the pro-life movement. Life begins at conception; you cannot fabricate your own standards for personhood. Once you draw the line of life at some arbitrary number of days, you’re on a slippery slope when it comes to defining the human being. As Yanovich pointed out, however, the debate over the fetus’ vitality is a cover for a deeper, more controversial question — a question that arises before a child is even conceived. The underlying issue is this: what can (or can’t) a woman do with her body?
Before I attempt to answer this question, consider another: what are we made for? The responses range from the ordinary to the existential. Without becoming too philosophical, however, here’s one answer: we are made for relationships. Sure, relationships aren’t like food and drink — one can certainly survive without human company. For most people, however, loneliness is a type of starvation. No story illustrates this better than that of Genie, a feral child. Genie was a young girl whose parents kept her in complete isolation for 13 years. Even after she was removed from this environment of silence and abuse, Genie never developed the ability to communicate fully with others. Her case may be extreme, but it shows that we need people in order to develop as people. Indeed, the need for relationships is written in our bodies. We have organs that are designed to be compatible. Oxytocin and vasopressin run through our veins; these two hormones facilitate pair bonding. Studies have shown that happily married couples are less prone to pneumonia, cancer, and heart attacks. We humans are social creatures, and we naturally seek to form relationships with our families and friends. In essence, we all share a basic desire to love and be loved.
Given that desire, it’s no wonder we are fascinated with sex. Pleasure, intimacy, love … all of these may be part of The Reason We Have Sex. We look to sex as one way to add meaning to our relationships — which is a bit bizarre when you think about it. In purely biological terms, sex exists to diversify the gene pool. According to Darwin, it would be advantageous to mate with every person in sight — that’s what most members of the animal kingdom do, right? And yet we don’t. If I see a hot guy walking down the Infinite Corridor, I don’t automatically grab him and make love to him in the nearest closet. No. We are not ruled by our hormones. It may seem impossible, but ultimately we are capable of saying no to sex. And that is what makes it special. In a way, it’s fitting that sex is the act that begets life. Because sex is a choice, no other act can bring two people together more intimately. No other act requires more love and trust, because it is in the sexual embrace that we are most vulnerable.
“It’s just sex.”
For me, no three words are more heartbreaking than these. Too often, sex becomes a mere act of recreation. A one-night stand may bring a moment of pleasure, but in the end, it cheapens the value of the sexual act. More importantly, though, it devalues the human being. Sex is an incredible way to express love. When you reduce sex to an act of pleasure, what happens? Put simply, you are using each other. Once that fleeting orgasm becomes the primary goal of sex, a person becomes a means to an end — a sex toy.
At this point, it seems like I’ve made a huge, hopeless digression. I’m supposed to be talking about abortion, after all. The two subjects are intimately related, though. The pro-choice movement is based on the belief that a woman can do whatever she wants with her body. If that means having sex whenever she feels like it, then she should be free to do so. But I ask you: is that freedom? No woman should feel that she has to have sex in order to be loved. Unfortunately, sex is almost a necessary ingredient for a meaningful relationship nowadays. A celibate college student is viewed as an anomaly, or perhaps a social failure. But think about it. If a man who’s attracted to me can check his baser passions, then I know that he loves me for the person I am, not for the pleasure I can bring him. If he truly loves you, he will wait. Ladies, you are worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
That, more than anything, is what changed my mind. We can talk about abortion as murder — an action that violates a fetus’ right to life. It’s more than that, though. Abortion is a way out. All too often, a woman’s fertility is treated as a disease. Along with STDs, unwanted children are a setback to having sex whenever we want. Abortion arose as one solution to this “problem.” The original intent behind this procedure may have been good; it was meant to give women a sense of control over their bodies. However, the effects are far more insidious. Now that we have a way to correct our mistakes, it is so much easier to strip away the deeper meaning of sex. We have no qualms about treating it as an act of pleasure. And while the pleasure derived from sex isn’t a bad thing, it shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. So when someone paints the pro-life position as a way of “making women less than full people,” I ask — what does it mean to be a “full person”? Some would say that it means I can have sex whenever I want. I claim that it means I can experience love in the best way possible. We long to love and be loved, and unfortunately, abortion allows us to corrupt that desire.
I suppose I envision a world where abortion will be completely unnecessary. After all, abortion is really a symptom of a more fundamental problem: our view of sex, our view of love, our view of each other. If we truly recognize sex for the gift that it is, then we won’t need a way eliminate “problems.” Until then, though, I am pro-life.
Maita Esteban is a member of the Class of 2013.