A Stone’s Throw Away From Compassion

I’m a little riled up over the continued erosion of the constitutional right guaranteed to women in 1973 courtesy of the Roe v. Wade decision. I can’t believe we are still talking about a woman’s right to manage what is going on in her own reproductive system. It’s 2021, but we seem to be moving in retrograde.

In 1973, there were nine men on the Supreme Court. Seven of them voted in favor of Jane Roe, and six of those men were Republican. But, for the past 48 years, conservative religious groups have made it their steadfast goal to overturn the decision of those men. And each and every year in recent memory, conservative states have worked to make obtaining an abortion virtually impossible despite its legality. From instituting mandatory counseling and mandatory waiting periods to discourage women, to slowly diminishing the number of abortion clinics (six states currently only have one abortion clinic) to create a logistical obstacle, women’s right to choose is slowly slipping away state by state. Outlawing abortion, however, does not solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies. We could greatly reduce the number of abortions in this country if we made reliable birth control widely available and affordable. But since many religious groups also believe any form of birth control is anathema and instead promote an abstinence-as-birth-control stance that simply does not work for most humans at sexual maturity, it seems to me that abortions must remain legal.

At its heart, the current abortion debate centers around the religious views of some being imposed upon all women, whether or not they hold those same beliefs. When Governor Abbott of Texas signed their latest, most restrictive anti-abortion legislation on Wednesday, he said, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” What does the “Creator” have to do with citizen rights in a country that was built around the separation of church and state? Religious communities have decided that life begins at conception, making abortion akin to murder. As a non-religious woman, however, I believe that life begins when the fetus is able to survive outside the uterus, which falls somewhere after 24 weeks in most cases. And, even then, a baby delivered at 24 weeks will need medical intervention to thrive. If we agree that a fetus is dependent upon the woman serving as host for its survival until it can viably exist outside the womb, then its rights should not surpass the rights of the woman carrying it. In this case, the chicken comes before the egg.

A plurality of Americans support Roe v. Wade, and a minority are pushing to expunge it. That seems undemocratic to me. If you think abortion is murder, don’t have one. No one is forcing you to abandon a pregnancy you would maintain. And unless your religious group is planning to financially support all the future babies it wants to save from abortion, then we’re kind of stuck because it seems the people who are against abortion are also against creating a welfare state or funding Medicare for all so the baby will have guaranteed healthcare or ensuring affordable childcare so women can work to support the life they must keep. Children are expensive.

I believe in the separation of church and state. I would deny no one their right to practice their own faith according to their beliefs. If you follow Jesus or Buddha or Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s no business of mine. If your faith says abortion is a grievous sin, you are free to make your sexual and reproductive decisions accordingly. That said, however, I’ll need to you to keep your faith off the body of anyone who isn’t you. You have a right to your religious beliefs, but you don’t have a right to impose them on anyone else, least of all a woman who needs your faithful compassion rather than your judgment. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said let he who is without sin cast the first stone?

Soapbox Alert: Mind Your Own Business

This afternoon we had to stop by the local Safeway to pick up a few last minute ingredients for tonight’s dinner. After we’d made our purchases, we went out to our car. It was 91 degrees here at 3 p.m. in Steamboat, so we rolled down the windows on the FJ, loaded ourselves and our purchases in our car, and cranked the air conditioning. Hubby put the car into reverse and just as we were about to back out of our parking spot, a gentleman in his mid-50s walked by the front of our car and yelled at us to turn it off. Presumably, he thought we were hanging out in our car with the engine idling, wasting gas and destroying the ozone layer. Clearly he had not seen us enter the vehicle not one minute before. Because he was at the front of our car, he was obviously not aware that our reverse lights were on. He did not know that we share his concern for the environment and that hubby parks his car at the light rail station so he can take public transportation into work in Denver five days a week. He simply judged us in our idling SUV without knowing what was going on.

I thought about this interaction for a couple hours after it happened. I was annoyed. I didn’t in the least like this man’s insinuation that we are planet wreckers. We recycle. We use cloth bags at the grocery store more often than not. We try to conserve water and energy. For heaven’s sake…we’ve been sleeping in the basement for weeks now because it allows us to keep our air conditioning set to 80 degrees all day. We may not be the most environmentally friendly family in America, but we do try. The more I reflected on it, though, the more I realized that what bothered me about this man’s comment was the fact that he thought he should comment in the first place. Who had died and made him the boss of how much time I’m allowed in my car before I drive off with my groceries?

I’m beginning to believe the basic problem with most Americans today is that we’ve lost the idea that individual freedoms apply to all individuals. Now, I am not currently a gun owner nor have I ever owned a gun. But, I do believe that all Americans are entitled to their rights, whether or not I agree with them. I would never go up to a gun owner (and, trust me, I know a lot of them) and tell them that their Second Amendment right to bear arms is wrong. It’s not my thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Just as they’re free to own a gun, I’m free not to. Even after the murders in the movie theater in my home state today, I still won’t speak out against gun ownership. It’s not my thing, but I don’t believe for one minute that removing gun ownership rights would have stopped this tragedy. Deranged individuals will find a way to harm others, legal gun rights or not.

I wish people would be a bit more tolerant and accepting of other people’s rights to live life their own way. If you don’t agree with how they’re living, fine. Keep it to yourself. If you’re not in favor of gay marriage, don’t marry a same sex partner. If you’re opposed to abortion, don’t have one. If you’re anti-gun, don’t carry one. If you’re not fond of fur, don’t throw paint on someone else’s coat. It doesn’t matter if you think someone is wrong or misguided for the things they think. You don’t have to agree with them. You just have to accept that they deserve the same common decency that you do, the freedom to live their life according to their own ideas.

We spend too much time playing judge and jury over the lives of others when what other people do is honestly none of our business. If we Americans would focus on our own lives, our own families, our own choices, and our own bodies, we’d probably get along a lot better. If we understood that our way might not be the only or best way, we might be able to solve some of the bigger problems in this country. Instead of yelling at someone because you believe they’re wrong, choose to be quiet. Accept that you don’t necessarily know what is best for someone else and mind your own business.