There are days when I wish I was anti-choice, particularly when I read the prochoice hashtag on Twitter. The world of an anti is so straightforward: judge others. There are a few of them that troll that page and they are constantly painting abortion as a black and white issue. For them it is straightforward: a fetus is a baby and thus has the right to live. They are able to totally ignore the woman and what it must be like to have an unwanted pregnancy.
First, let’s look at two definitions, sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is defined as feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. You sympathize with somebody, often, when you cannot empathize with them. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is perhaps difficult to sympathize with somebody who finds themselves in a situation that you yourself could never be in. I will acknowledge a significant failure on my part that occurred a while back when I failed to sympathize with blacks the feelings that blackface can elicit. Looking back, I realize I was wrong. Antis demonstrate a remarkable failure to sympathize and empathize.
First, you have male antis who are biologically incapable of becoming pregnant. Many men can sympathize with a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy, but clearly there are men who continue to see the world in black and white and fail to accept that not all women want to be pregnant, and thus she should be entitled to terminate. While these men upset me greatly, it is considerably more difficult to sympathize with people experiencing something you can never experience. Empathy should be the easier of the two emotions, and yet you have anti-choice women.
Anti-choice women are no less common than male antis. You have women who should understand the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth, and yet they don’t. They are unable to separate from their position of choosing to be a mother and accept that some women aren’t ready/don’t want to be. There are, of course, women who have never been pregnant, and may never want to be pregnant, and yet they fail to empathize with women who find themselves in a situation they themselves may dread. Anti-choice women have a complete inability to empathize with women seeking abortions. They live in their ignorant world, believing that all women who become pregnant ‘deserve’ it. That is, of course, until it happens to them.
Antis get abortions at the same rate that pro-choicers get abortions but they somehow thinktheir abortion is different. Their world is so ignorant that stories abound of antis who seek abortions, labeling the ‘other’ women as sluts and even returning to picket the abortion clinic where they received their abortion. This elitism is what must make it so easy to be anti-choice. These are people who never have to think of anybody but themselves and their close friends and family.
Pro-choicers, on the other hand, have an astounding capacity for sympathy and empathy. I have the ability to look past my own narrow life experiences and realize that maybe I don’t corner the market on correctness. I also have the ability to separate my personal beliefs from what I am willing to impose on another individual. It is this ability to accept that individuals should make decisions that are best for them that makes being a pro-choicer so hard; sympathy and empathy are hard. It is far too easy to fall back onto your own experiences and judge others by your morals. As a white, upper-middle class woman with every opportunity in the world, I have no experience to fall back on when understanding what it must be like to pick food or rent, yet I believe that social housing is severely lacking and more needs to be more available. Even while I was professing to never wanting children, I was still an advocate for nationalized daycare. Right-wingers often demonstrate the same failure for empathy and sympathy as anti-choicers because they are often of the opinion that people should pay for their own [healthcare, daycare, rent, etc].
I truly believe that our society is so dysfunctional because there are a large number of people in this world who profess to be tolerant, non-judgmental and caring (read: religious people), and yet they utterly fail as a group to actually demonstrate any of the above. As an atheist, I have never been indoctrinated with the teachings of some god, nor am I afraid of being judged upon death. I live in this world seeking to make the lives of as many people as possible better. I believe that what differentiates us from much of the animal kingdom is sympathy and empathy and the willingness to sacrifice for others. Unfortunately, we are failing as a race. Some countries are getting it right, namely the Nordic countries, and to some extent, Canada. Then there are countries like the U.S. where greed abounds and the Tea Party would ban abortion, seeing the death of thousands of women, but would never allow their money go to pre-natal care for underprivileged women. If that is what religion looks like, even if it’s true, I never want to subscribe, even if it is easier.