Choice of a lifetime

Pro-choice is pro-child, writes father-to-be Benjamin Pennings.

I saw my child-to-be for the first time this morning. The first scan. It's twelve weeks old, 5.2 cm long and has caused me to rewrite this article. It's got me more riled at right-to-life types.

I have to admit that right to lifers have pissed me off for a few years now. They have just as much right as I do to represent what they believe. I just wish they wouldn't lie, manipulate, murder and justify it out of their own particular brand of moral Puritanism.

In Brisbane you often see right to lifers at major intersections with placards featuring a feotus and often text about murder or the like. My child to be I saw this morning is about 2-3 weeks from the age where only a very small percentage of abortions occur. And believe me, it looked nothing like the foetus on the placards. I had a quick look at one of our pregnancy books - the right to life foetus must be well into the second or maybe even third trimester. Why such manipulation?

Thousands of legal abortions are performed in Queensland each year. However, Right to Life assert that it is technically illegal here and I've witnessed them refuse to mention it in schools as an option after pregnancy - no that's not an option because it's illegal. Why do they treat young people like idiots? Do they actually believe young people will believe this? Is this really advancing their cause?

I know they believe they are trying to save lives, defend the indefensible. And I believe most right to lifers really mean well. But it sometimes astounds me why they passionately care for unborn children but ignore the outcomes of making abortion illegal. What about the 200,000+ women who die each year from illegal backyard abortions or the hundreds of thousands more who damage their reproductive systems and other internal organs? Do they matter? Or the children who starve to death in overpopulated families in overpopulated and under-resourced countries? Is it better for a child to be born and starve to death or not be born at all? You say that there is no such thing as an unwanted child. How do you propose to provide for the 50 million foetuses aborted annually if they were not so?

I know this all must sound angry and vitriolic but it hits home with me. I'm really sick of being told what I should or shouldn't do based on others' moral/religious beliefs. Yes Mum, Dad, I mean you. And I mean the conservative Christian church. I know the bible indicates to you that abortion is murder, a sin. But so is adultery, premarital sex, lying. Why don't you campaign to make those illegal?

I grew up in the insular world of a conservative Christian church, and a conservative Christian school. To top it off, my father was the minister of the church. It's thus not surprising that the child and adolescent Benjamin was anti-abortion and anti-choice. I was only ever given one side of the issue/debate. It's also not surprising that I grasped new ideas and challenged old ideas once I was exposed to a secular university and workplace in my late teens. I sought and found Christians with different ideas from those I was brought up with. Christians who believed choice for women and men facing pregnancy was a Christian principle too. I found Christians who took "he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone" seriously.

I am now passionately pro-choice. I don't see right to lifers as pro-life at all, only pro-feotus life. I see them as anti-choice and very damaging to the lives of men and women worldwide. And I don't see pro-choice as pro-abortion or anti-life. It's about allowing men and women the option of safe, legal and affordable abortion if they so choose. One of my best friends is quite anti-abortion, mainly because he was adopted. But he is also passionately pro-choice, not believing he has the right restrict the freedom of others to choose for themselves the best option when faced with pregnancy.

Being pro-choice is about being pro-child and supportive of all types of families. It's about having adequate maternity and paternity leave, about adequate financial and other support for couples or singles with children. It's about valuing children and the role they play in our lives and society generally. It's about a social reality that allows parents the option to confidently choose to have a child as well as the choice to have an abortion. It's about trusting women and men to make decisions for themselves.

Benjamin is 26 and works as a community worker in Brisbane. He is excited as well as shit-scared about becoming a father. He often wonders if a new born child will help or hinder his ability to watch the rugby world cup. He can be contacted at:

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