Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion in America. This is the best known and most polarizing Supreme Court decision of the last 100 years. Only the Dred Scott decision of 1857 compares. Roe v Wade is a bottomless chasm that divides America. Standing on one side of the divide are the self-described “pro-lifers” outraged at the “baby killers” on the other side. Across stand the those dubbed “pr0-choice” who scoff at the Neanderthals trying to dictate the most personal aspect of a woman’s life. There is no middle ground, no compromise, no real dialog. You can only stand on one wall of a canyon.
I do not have a bridge across the divide and I am not naive enough to think I could coax, coerce or convince someone to cross to my side. All I can share is my perspective, that is all any of us really have.
I often wonder what I would do, what I would have done, when forced into a place to choose. How would I have reacted if I had gotten a girl pregnant in high school or college? I like to think that I would have done the right thing, that I would have married the girl, or supported the baby, or helped through a difficult adoption. I almost always take the high moral ground in hypothetical situations. But when circumstances are banging, and banging, and banging on the door, and the coward who lives inside my head is screaming at the top of his lungs, and time is running out and I can’t take a deep breath because suddenly there is no air because I’m 17 years old and my mom will be crushed and my dad will be irate and my friends will be shocked; in those moments I don’t always choose wisely. Fortunately I’ve never had to choose between life and freedom.
As a grandfather my perspective has shifted. If all goes according to plan a month from today my second granddaughter, Mollie Rose, will be born. We have already opened our hearts and our home to Mollie. She got presents this year at Christmas and I’m planning an addition to the princess house I will build for the girls. Though we haven’t met, Mollie is already a part of the family.
One of the first relatives Mollie will meet is her second cousin Breck. He and Mollie were due within days of one another but Breck got impatient, as boys are wont to do, and arrived a month early. He is doing fine and will be home with his older sisters by the time Mollie arrives at the hospital.
As a grandfather here is the part I can’t begin to understand. If my daughter-in-law decides that she isn’t ready for another baby, that she has her hands full with the children she already has (my first granddaughter and my son), she can legally end Mollie’s life. Mollie, Mollie’s dad, and Mollie’s grandparents have no say in my daughter-in-law’s decision. The right to choose is hers and hers alone.
On the other hand if my niece comes to the same conclusion about Breck, that her mental health simply can’t handle another child, that she is not in any shape to raise another baby, and she ends Breck’s life she will be arrested, tried and likely sent to prison. She no longer has the right to choose.
The only difference between Mollie and Breck is that Mollie decided to wait her turn while Breck chose to come several weeks ahead of time.
My perspective, my understanding of reality, is why I can only stand on my side of the canyon. Your perspective my very well put you on the opposite side. I will not shout, I will not call names, and I will not resort to violence. I will try to listen, I will try to understand your viewpoint, but when I think of Mollie and Breck, and Maggie and Hilary and Mike and Brittainy, I know we will never agree.
Roe v Wade is a canyon I cannot cross. Not now, not ever.