But then I announced that I needed to speak out on behalf of the many women present in the crowd, including myself, who had had abortions, and the women whose daughters might need one in the not-too-distant future — people who must know that teenage girls will have abortions, whether in clinics or dirty backrooms. Women whose lives had been righted and redeemed by Roe vs. Wade. My answer was met with some applause but mostly a shocked silence.
Pall is a good word. And it did not feel good to be the cause of that pall. I knew what I was supposed to have said, as a progressive Christian: that it's all very complicated and painful, and that Jim was right in saying that the abortion rate in America is way too high for a caring and compassionate society.
But I did the only thing I could think to do: plunge on, and tell my truth. I said that this is the most intimate decision a woman makes, and she makes it all alone, in her deepest heart of hearts, sometimes with the man by whom she is pregnant, with her dearest friends or with her doctor — but without the personal opinion of say, Tom DeLay or Karl Rove.
I said I could not believe that men committed to equality and civil rights were still challenging the basic rights of women. I thought about all the photo-ops at which President Bush had signed legislation limiting abortion rights, surrounded by 10 or so white, self-righteous married men, who have forced God knows how many girlfriends into doing God knows what.
Once again for the record: I think abortion is tragic in any situation. I would rather there would be none at all. But I truly believe that in some situations it is the lesser of evils and, regardless of the relative merits of the desired good that is to come from having an abortion, it needs to be the woman involved who decides. We will not stop abortions by criminalizing them. We will merely drive them underground where they will not be safe and countless numbers of women will die or be rendered infertile as a result. If we really want to reduce the number of abortions, we will do something about improving the social conditions that are often so untenable that desperate women resort to desperate measures in order to survive.