Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blogging for Choice, Part 2

My ninth grade year I opted out of earth science; my parents insisted I do so because the teacher was incompetent and a sexist asshole (turns out he was also a child molester). I took one of the first communications classes my school district ever offered instead. In it we, the students, picked several topics to explore as a class (our teacher retained veto power), watched how they were portrayed in a few movies, were presented with some facts about the topics from our teacher, and then worked on projects together about the topics.

One of the topics we picked was abortion. This was back in 1992, so instead of Cider House Rules the movie we were shown was Listen to Me, a really, really bad movie starring Kirk Cameron about a college debate team that argues abortion in a national competition. I vaguely remember the climax of the movie involving Kirk Cameron's debate partner tearfully admitting that she had an abortion after being raped a handful of years ago.

Our project afterwards was to decide for ourselves, as a class, what types of abortion should be allowed - armed with very little knowledge about medical facts or statistics about abortion. I don't know why my teacher chose this as our project, rather than exploring all the reasons women get abortions or the different laws that states already have. He was generally a very competent and liberal teacher otherwise; when the topic was homosexuality, we watched Longtime Companion and we didn't write sodomy laws or gay marriage amendments. When we discussed race, we watched Colors, Mississippi Burning, and Do the Right Thing and talked about how the FBI were portrayed as the blacks' saviors in Mississippi Burning, rather than their partners, and why. We debated Mookie's actions in Do the Right Thing and if Spike Lee meant for them to be seen as "the right thing."

Not surprisingly, considering the conservative leanings of my town, and the incomplete information we were given, we choose to outlaw all abortions except in cases of rape or where the mother's life was at risk. The legal complexities of determining who was actually raped and who decides if the mother's life is at risk, and how much risk her life needs to be in, never entered into our minds, and were never brought up by our teacher.

I was fourteen at the time and spent a decent amount of my time helping my mom out in her elementary school classroom and baby-sitting my cousins and their friends. I loved kids, and, as a socially awkward teenager who didn't really want to grow up, I identified with younger kids more than young adults or high school students. When my class discussed abortion I saw the fetuses as babies, like my younger cousins had recently been. When we discussed the women who have abortions, I never saw my mother, or my sister, or myself. I had come in with no real views on abortion, and was very easily persuaded that laws were needed to protect the little kids I cared so much about.

I was quite proud of our decision, and shared it with my mother that afternoon. I don't think I've ever seen quite the same look on my mother's face before or since. I don't remember much of what she actually said. I caught enough to hear that she would never have an abortion herself, but she would never try make that decision for someone else. Really, the look was enough. I didn't completely understand her opinion, I was too embarrassed by her disappointment to really ask very many questions. Which was a shame, because for several years I was only pro-choice because I trusted my mother more than my fellow ninth-graders. This is generally a wise choice, but not the most adult reasoning.

No comments: