I used to be pro-life.

[TW for anti-choice narrative and discussion of sexual violence.]

I used to be pro-life. I grew up that way, feeling horror at the mere concept of abortion and only grudgingly allowing that exceptions should be made for people who have been assaulted (I considered the health exception to be the mother selfishly putting her life over that of her child's).

Then, I began to actually process the assault that I endured so many years ago, and part of that processing was reading ALL THE THINGS on the topic of rape. I learned statistics, such as the fact that 60% of assaults go unreported; that when an assault is reported, chances are high that the victim won't be taken seriously/mocked/blamed for the assault; that if the victim is taken seriously by law enforcement, the court process is grueling and frequently is dismissed, or the victim can't testify for any number of reasons, or the jury won't take the victim testimony seriously/mocks/blames the victim for the assault. It is estimated that about 1 in 16 rapes result in the incarceration of the rapist.

One in sixteen. Abhorrent.

Then, there are time constraints. The ludicrous handling of assault cases within the justice system, in tandem with the (continually more prohibitive) legal restrictions on abortion (e.g., cutoff at 20 weeks), means there is rarely - if ever - a conviction to show in time to abort the pregnancy.

On top of that, many victims don't realize that what has just happened to them was rape. Sometimes, years pass before a victim realizes what, exactly, happened. Sometimes, the victim never realizes it at all.

What does all this mean for someone who is pro-life, but also believes that exceptions must be made for victims of assault?

For me, it became clear that if I believe that assault victims should have the option of abortion, then access to that option should not require proof of assault. In other words, abortion should be available to all victims, regardless of the presence of proof or even the awareness that what happened was assault.

The rest of the transition from pro-life to pro-choice followed quickly. I realized that threats to the mother's health weren't just heightened risk, but often things like ectopic pregnancies, that would almost certainly result in the death of the mother, and in which the fetus will not survive, period.

If a qualified physician reaches the conclusion that a patient under hir care requires an abortion, that should be the end of it. There is no ethical ambiguity to removing a deadly tumor, and in an ectopic pregnancy, that's all the fetus is, because it cannot survive and will kill the mother.

Once again, the logical conclusion is that abortion should be available without restriction.

Then, as I delved deeper into feminism, I learned to value personal autonomy and the freedom to choose far more than I ever have before.

Based on autonomy alone, abortion should be available without restriction.

Unless you believe that choice is something to be legislated; unless you believe in forcing a victim of rape to endure the further trauma of pregnancy with all the social dynamics that come with it, unless you believe mothers with their lives in danger because of a gone-wrong pregnancy should die, then you are - or you should be - pro-choice.

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