This was the question posed by Sun Media “journalist” Faith Goldy to a woman standing near to me at the anti-choice “March for Life” last week. I was participating in the pro-choice presence as I do every year. Goldy was working her way along the line asking confrontational questions and pushing buttons. Often they were based on incorrect information or false assumptions. Others, like the question she asked about legalizing rape were ridiculous and designed to elicit outrage.
I fell for her interview style. I was unprepared when she came to interview me. She jumped from question to question and each one was argumentative and often ignored what I had previously said. I did a poor job explaining why I was there and why I am pro-choice because my brain’s first reaction to every question was “WHAT?” I didn’t do as I should have and rejected the premise of her questions or take a deep breath before responding to her. Luckily I have this handy blog and can write the response I will give the next time I run into her or any other such troll.
To give you a little background, I have been attending the pro-choice response to this march for at least five years. The march itself starts on Parliament Hill and is typically in the 10 – 15k range in terms of the number of attendees. The majority of them are students form catholic highschools who are given the day off school to participate or are bussed in from other parts of the province to participate. They may or may not be opposed to abortion.
I have encountered a number of people over the years who have told me that they were one of those students when they were younger and they either changed their mind when faced with an unintended pregnancy or they participated for the day off school and the trip to Ottawa. I don’t presume to know the minds of those who participate in the march and it doesn’t really matter since they are free to express their opinion.
Often the media frames this march and the pro-choice response in terms of pro-life/pro-abortion. This is a characterization that always frustrates me. I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. The march is not about being pro-life it is about lobbying to deny choice to others. It is possible to be both pro-life and pro-choice. The media and the anti-choice groups try to set this up as a black and white dichotomy when really someone can chose not to have an abortion themselves while supporting the rights of other women to make their own choices.
I am not going to debate the morality of abortion. That has nothing to do with my position. Women who do not want to be pregnant will find a way to get an abortion if that is their choice. They will get an abortion whether it is legal or not. As it happens abortion is legal in Canada and women can access abortion services in some hospitals and some clinics in some provinces. Access is inconsistent across the country.
I am pro-choice because I trust other people to make decisions about their own lives and own bodies that are best for them. It is not my place to tell them how to manage their lives or govern their bodies. I am pro-choice because I support others making choices for themselves. As a pro-choice person I believe others should be able to have access to resources and information about all of their options. This is not restricted to pregnancy options. I believe that people should have accurate evidence-informed information about everything to do with sexual health and health generally. If I need to make a decision about my life and my body I don’t need someone else telling me what I can and can’t do. I need someone helping me to learn about the impact of various decisions will be. I need access to resources and information to help me make those decisions. I extend the same courtesy to women and their partners making decisions about pregnancy and to everyone else making decisions about their lives and bodies. If I can be helpful by providing access to information that will help them to make those decisions, I am happy to do so.
This is in part why I was a volunteer community sexual health educator for ten years. As I have written before my girlfriend and I faced an unintended pregnancy when I was 15. We decided to place the children (twins) for adoption. Abortion was not an option she was willing to pursue and parenting was not an option either of us were prepared to undertake so we made the decision that was best for us and for the twins. Part of the reason that we were in that situation in the first place is that we received insufficient sexual health education and the quality was ineffective and we did not get the information we needed to make better choices in our lives. When I discovered the opportunity to become a sexual health educator with Planned Parenthood Ottawa I jumped at it and after extensive training was able to provide the information and access to resources to others that was not available to me.
I am no longer a volunteer with PPO. However I continue to provide education and access to information about sexual health whenever I am asked or the opportunity arises. My focus these days is on providing that education to my own daughters so that they can make informed decisions about their lives and their bodies as they grow up.
I know that the youth who participate in the March for Life will make their own decisions about their health and bodies over and over again throughout their lives and I hope that their teachers and the adults in their lives will help them to access the information they require to make the best decisions for themselves.
We all make choices in our lives based on our backgrounds, our values, our spiritual beliefs, economic circumstances, the information available about our various options, our peers and parents and many other influences. Regardless of the course of action we take, it should always be our choice. We must live with the outcomes and consequences of that choice. Sometimes the choice we make might be a mistake, it might be something that we later regret. It could turn out to the best thing we ever did. Some choices will change our lives forever and others will result in eating the red smartie first. Life is about making choices and I trust you to make the best choice for you.
Thank you to Faith Goldy for forcing my to refine my thinking and further clarify my beliefs.