The complexities of the abortion debate

By Kim Nursall

As many of you are aware, the Genocide Awareness Project returned to campus last week. Instantaneously, the debate between pro-choice and pro-life spread throughout the student population, galvanizing a number of individuals to organize petitions against Campus Pro-Life and hoist competing signs. The Prairie Chicken was up in arms.

However, the debate between the “right-to-autonomy” and the “right-to-life,” as well as the arguments surrounding freedom of expression, are symptoms of a much greater illness. What seems to be taken for granted in this situation is the inevitability of a woman having to consider rejecting her offspring. As pro-life advocates focus on the fetus, and their pro-choice opponents promote a woman’s right to choose, the greater tragedy is lost — perpetuating a society where abortion is even necessary. Like trying to solve homelessness through increasing the number of shelters or access to welfare cheques instead of focusing on providing affordable housing, we are ignoring the root cause of the entire controversy. The scale and intensity with which this debate is fought would be substantially diminished if the number of women who felt pressured by society to consider abortion was significantly reduced.

Women face an almost insurmountable onslaught of stereotypes when it comes to being a mother. As the usher of offspring into this world, there is undeniable pressure on any female to ensure the child’s safety, well-being and general happiness. Although many of us may like to consider ourselves open-minded when it comes to the concept of “family,” many would most likely still advocate for two parents of a certain age, financial security and with one able to stay home and look after the children. As a result, social norms evolve and stigmas arise, surrounding single parents, young parents or parents that we would regard as financially insecure. These individuals, who would otherwise never doubt giving birth to their child, find themselves questioning their ability to be parents when, in fact, if given the proper support from society — be it their extended family, community, city — they may be able to raise well-rounded, healthy children. Instead of focusing on the legality of abortions we should be canvassing the public and pressuring our government to develop policies and introduce programs that facilitate giving birth to and raising one’s own child.

There are exceptional cases, such as rape, which will undoubtedly still provoke the pro-life versus pro-choice debate. The reasons for why women choose to subject themselves to an abortion are many, and I can only imagine the trauma and heartache a woman would undergo as she decides whether or not to harbour the life growing inside of her. If we can alleviate the suffering that individuals experience whilst considering abortion by questioning and countering the societal norms which promulgate it, pro-choice and pro-life crusaders could actually find themselves allies. The present debate is a moral issue, which rarely, if ever, finds consensus, and this continuous aggravation of moral opponents only polarizes society and does nothing to facilitate a comprehensive resolution. Let us not push each other to the periphery when there is a middle ground — women, and the Prairie Chicken, will thank us.


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