By Megan Donovan, Legislative Advocate, Center for Reproductive Rights
Twenty-two years ago, Pam Tebow made a courageous decision to continue a pregnancy that threatened her life. Thankfully, she and her son lived to tell the tale — and reportedly will do so again during a Super Bowl commercial. Tim Tebow now happens to be a college football star capable of commanding significant media attention.
Am I happy for the Tebows? Sure. Do I think their story somehow proves that a woman in Mrs. Tebow’s situation should be told that she has no choice but to continue her risky pregnancy? Give me a break. As a young woman navigating life in the 21st century, I find it challenging enough to make responsible, informed decisions for myself and in conjunction with my loved ones. I don’t presume to make those decisions for others.
According to On Faith guest columnist Katie Walker (Tim Tebow, pro-life and what young women want), this makes me part of a generation of “self-absorbed, Xanax-popping, corporate climbers” that hasn’t managed, as she so wisely has, to escape a “me-first” worldview imposed upon us by self-centered feminists. Sadly, the world remains a place plagued by selfishness, racism, and violence. According to Ms. Walker, this means feminism and pro-choice politics have failed.
Promoting gender equality and respect for personal decisions may not have brought us world peace (yet), but without successes in these areas young women like Katie Walker and myself would not be able to pursue careers of our choosing, or make the personal decisions about self, family, and community that allow us to go out and do so.
Empowering women to be the authors of their own life stories may never rid the world of all evil, but, in this young woman’s humble opinion, promoting tolerance, understanding, respect, and dignity undeniably moves us closer to the ideal.
To be sure, Pam Tebow’s story, as Ms. Walker suggests, speaks to love, courage, selflessness, and dignity. But what about a 19-year-old mother of two in Arizona my organization spoke to who sought an abortion after her abusive boyfriend sabotaged her birth control? Or a 21-year-old student attending Dillard University in New Orleans on a combination of scholarships and loans, who told us that she sought an abortion after her birth control failed? Or Alicja Tysiąc in Poland, who, after being forced to continue a pregnancy that threatened her health, is now nearly blind and wholly dependent on others to care for herself and her children? To suggest that their stories are devoid of love, courage, selflessness, and dignity is to enter into a world of value judgments about other people that I am not willing to make, a world that, quite frankly, scares me.
Decisions about health and family planning are necessarily complicated — that’s why there isn’t any one answer that’s clearly right for everyone. Katie Walker proclaims that the women of my generation have seen too many women regret abortions and for this reason she can speak for us all in rejecting it as an option.
Undoubtedly, there are women out there who have chosen to have an abortion and have suffered feelings of doubt or regret about that decision. What major decision, by its very nature, doesn’t bear that risk?
If Mrs. Tebow’s story had turned out differently, she might have come to regret her choice. She might even have died, as more than half a million pregnant women do every year. But that wouldn’t be an argument for forcing women with risky pregnancies to have abortions.
We don’t have to own or avow every decision we’ve ever made to appreciate the fact that it was ours to make. And the fact that a woman might later express regret about a personal decision doesn’t logically give anyone else the power to make that decision for her.
Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, risky complications, or any number of other challenging circumstances, would I choose to have an abortion? I have no idea. Would Katie Walker? Maybe not, but until she finds herself in every possible challenging situation, I don’t believe there are any guarantees.
Everyone’s combination of personal and family circumstances is different. Being pro-choice means recognizing that love, courage, selflessness and dignity demand that we value every pregnant woman’s ability to decide what’s right for herself and her family. If that’s a “me-first” paradigm, call me selfish. And please pass the Xanax.
Megan Donovan is Legislative Advocate for the Center for Reproductive Rights.