Synchronicity is a strange thing.
Yesterday I listened to a talk at International Connections of Houston, given by a remarkable woman who gives her time to an important global cause – human trafficking as it relates to girls and women forced into prostitution. Her involvement started whilst living in Bangkok, Thailand. Now back in Houston, Texas, she works with Christian-based organizations to help women and girls get off the streets and out of the massage parlours. It must be heart-rending work, and I truly admire those involved.
There is though one aspect of their work with which I struggle. And that is the issue of abortion. When I asked whether these girls and women, who become pregnant from their pimp or a john, are offered the choice of an abortion, the answer was no. I asked why. And the response was that many, most actually, of these girls and women have grown up in dysfunctional families, never knowing love or approbation. This was their chance to learn, drug and fear-free, with the help of therapy, volunteers, and God, how to love and how to parent. What happens when they max out of their programme? Well, hopefully, they have become strong enough, and have enough support and newly learnt self-esteem, not to allow themselves to be used and abused again.
But God, or Allah, or whichever deity one wishes to follow, works in mysterious ways. And tragically, the rate of recidivism is high – the law of supply and demand covers all services and commodities – with some girls and women returning to the streets two, three or more times before finally being able to break with a life rarely chosen. In that time, how many unwanted children are born, to perpetuate the life of their mothers. We were told 78% of girls in foster care end up being trafficked – and so the cycle continues (and it’s not just girls who are trafficked).
There have been studies, mainly in Africa, into how girls and women cope with babies born from rape at the hands of rebel soldiers. Some are able to love their babies, but many do not. A report from WHO (World Health Organisation) called Reproductive Health in Conflict Situations, stated, “Children born of rape may be neglected, stigmatized, ostracized or abandoned. Infanticide may occur.” With pregnancy from a paying consumer, the difficulty in nurturing and loving that baby without prejudice would, I imagine, be immense and not so different to rape. Conception not with love, and often from violence.
And here’s where the synchronicity comes in.
Yesterday, with no discussion or debate, the Oklahoma Senate voted 33 -12 for a bill making it a crime for any doctor to perform an abortion, punishable with up to three years in prison. The bill will be challenged on the grounds of being unconstitutional. But it is another chip, from the vehement right wing, and Christian factions, in this country, at Roe v Wade. Surely bringing an unwanted child into the world to face who knows what kind of life is what is criminal.
Abortion is not just about whether life starts at conception, it is about the quality of life an unwanted child may have. The termination of a pregnancy is, for most, a gut-wrenching decision, and not taken likely.
What really pisses me off is the language used. Pro-life versus pro-choice. I love life. I think most of us, in this mostly wonderful world, do. And in our life we make choices, every minute of every day – from the minutiae to the major. That to my mind makes me pro-life and pro-choice.
But here’s the crux – informed choices cannot be made without all options being available, and openly discussed. And that includes abortion. No one – pimp, parent, partner, neither God nor government (state or federal) – has the right to mandate, coerce or persuade through guilt, a woman into making a decision about her body, her life and the possible life of a baby.
It must be one of the greatest ironies in modern politics that the right-wing elements of this country, who consistently clamour for less government intervention in our lives, have the gall to demand abortion be banned. How dare they? How dare they, or anyone, attempt to take control of a woman’s body from that woman? And how dare politicians and fundamentalists of any stripe send women’s health care back into the shadows of back-street butcher shops?
So, whilst I admire and applaud the work faith-based organisations do in the field of sex trafficking, I believe it should be done with no caveats. No proselytizing, just compassion. Synchronicity at its best.