August 6, 2015

Thoughts on Being Pro-Choice

I have always been pro-choice as long as I can remember. Initially, it was probably more about being fiercely self-determinant: “I should have the right to determine what is best for my body”. Growing up in Malaysia, where poor families relying on government assistance continue to have children and get into the news because they can’t fend for themselves and need more government assistance, I adopted the perspective of “I’m not going to have child if I can't fully care for it”.

The recent Planned Parenthood (PP) video uproar had me thinking, especially since I grew up in a Christian community. The initial reaction to the “PP is selling baby parts for profit!” narrative is **HORROR FILM ALERT**. 

I’m not here to defend what the PP rep said. If PP is profiting from selling baby parts illegally, legal action should be taken. If the videos are found to falsely malign PP, legal action should also be taken. (I also find the moral high ground adopted by the makers and their supporters dubious as the videos were made through deceptive means, but I digress.)

I haven’t changed my pro-choice stance however – here are some thoughts: 

In a perfect world:
  • people would only have sex with their spouses, have babies together and live happily ever after;
  • there would be no rape or incest;
  • everyone would have access to contraceptives that would work 100%;
  • every child would be wanted, loved, and cared for.

Reality check: this isn’t a perfect world.

1. Abstinence is not "uncool". I think those who are abstinent have much resolve, seeing how sex-saturated our media is. 

Pragmatically speaking though, you can hammer all you want into kids’ heads about not having pre-marital sex, but some will do it regardless (insert snarky remark about Bristol Palin here). This is why I advocate sex education and the availability of contraceptives. However, our current culture seems to be “don’t ask, don’t tell” about the basics of biology and discourages / tries to restrict the use of contraceptives. That seems to be self-defeating, but I digress.

Sex education isn’t going to encourage teens to have more sex because they just learnt all the cool Kama Sutra moves. It’s about teaching them to understand their bodies and the physical and emotional implications of having sex, so that they can make educated decisions. Hey, if the descriptions of STDs don’t scare you into abstinence/using protection, I don’t know what will – I kid, I kid. 

2. It’s a horrible thing to demand that a woman carry a child to term when she:
  • was raped and doesn’t want to have the child;
  • is a child herself;
  • knows she will not be able to provide economically for it;
  • knows that the child has a congenital disorder and won’t have a normal life;

It is especially horrible to demand a woman carry a child to term because “life is sacred”, and then lobby to defund social aid and medical programmes and shame her for not working hard enough.

3. Deciding to have an abortion isn’t a flip decision. I’d imagine that finding out that you’re pregnant is pretty seismic. You don’t treat abortion like you treat a chipped manicure. It’s not an easy decision to make. It's not a fun thing to do.

4. Shower thought: why is it when contraception fails, nobody looks to the man for answers? It takes two to tango. It seems like an underlying message of the anti-abortion crowd is “shame on women for being sexual beings!” Did you also consider that maybe some men allowed their partners to abort because they weren’t ready to be fathers?

Ideally, I’d love for abortions not to be needed at all. I would love for all pregnancies to be received with joy, and all children to be taken care of by loving families. 

Realistically, I’d like the rate of abortions to be reduced, and if abortions need be done, they should be safe, rare and legal. Parenthood is a huge responsibility – we shouldn’t selfishly bring children into the world if we aren’t prepared to care for them. And just because I don’t need or want an abortion, doesn’t mean I should take away the right of someone who needs one.

TLDR; if you don’t like abortions, don’t have one.

P.S. My thoughts will probably jar against religious sensitivities about life being pre-designed, but actual life is happening now, and I'd rather stand with compassion for those who have had to make such a decision.


  1. Hello Yi Wei. Thank you for putting your thoughts out there. It's great to hear someone attempt to think through the issue itself, rather than resorting to attacks of the opposite side. I think that's real cool. We don't share the same convictions over this issue, but from experience you seem always open to dialogue and will welcome all civil discussion. I hope being male doesn't automatically disqualify me from engaging. I do pray that you keep challenging the logic claims and presuppositions (even your own). Specifically how abortion relates to 'personhood.'

    Will you read this article with an open mind?

    And also a female voice:

    Send me a direct msg on FB (or not). I would love to continue the conversation. Take care!

    1. Hi King Pui!

      Thanks for commenting, and my apologies for taking so long to revert - I wanted to think the articles through. I'm not a philosopher however, just quite pragmatic so here I go:

      A quick recap of my stance: I think abortion should be a last resort. Again, ideally, I’d love for abortions to be unnecessary; for all pregnancies to be received with joy, and all children to be taken care of by loving families.

      Jumping in now:

      1. The TGC article: Dr. Butterfield started on the wrong foot with her perspective of Planned Parenthood as a defender of women's rights. PP is exactly what its name denotes - a reproductive health care provider. Her description of her relative earlier in the essay and the 3rd last paragraph about what her relative needed are most telling - that we in society are not doing enough to help mothers-to-be who need real-life care.

      2. The Kreeft article: Not convinced from a logical/reasoning perspective. To use an apple as an analogy to a human is over-simplification and irrelevant to those who dispute the personhood of a fetus before a certain age. He also conflates human rights with person rights.

      Disagree with his 3rd principle that skepticism is self-contradictory. Skepticism wouldn't be a denial of (having) all knowledge, but not pretending to have knowledge until a stance is well-supported.

      I'm not entirely convinced that his 6th principle holds true. I think morality is a property of social structure and a manifestation of a society's value judgments. You could take an example: certain Islamic societies advocate the chopping of a thief's hand. Is it cruel? Yes. Is it moral ad just punishment? To them, yes.

      Disagree with 10th principle. The Mother Theresa quote is irrelevant to his intended logical discussion and is an appeal to emotion. The Silent Scream has been debunked medically.

      On the 11th principle, a little tangential but interesting view on personhood from a neurological perspective:

      12th principle: This quote is not backed by research/logic - (But why, then, do most mothers who abort feel such terrible pangs of conscience, often for a lifetime?).

      I thought this excerpt was a little ironic: "Or, since many pro-choicers insist that abortion is about sex, not about babies, the only way to justify their scorn of virginity is a scorn of intellectual virginity."

      The key thrust of the proc-choice argument isn't abortion as a means to have copious amounts of unlimited sex. I'd counter that some pro-lifers elevate virginity to a level that women with out-of-wedlock pregnancies/children are stigmatised - which is among the causes as to why some women (especially from religiously conservative communities) seek abortion. (Note: I'm not knocking abstinence - I think it's admirable to keep your body holy.)

      Onto the binary classification, I can agree with that. However, the jury really is still out on whether a fetus is a person, so if we relate back to the 1st principle, his entire discussion doesn't stand.

      Even if we accept Kreeft's argument, the discussion misses the point that in abortion, the rights of one human is in conflict with another - take extreme cases like rape, a diseased fetus, poverty. The apple argument is simply not sufficient to tackle this.

      As an exercise in reasoning, I'm sorry but Kreeft's argument is quite full of fallacies.

      I don't like abortion - it's ugly but I still think there should be the legal right for those in extreme cases to utilise it.

      Also retracking to the TGC article about persons uncreated, interestingly I was chatting with Sean about abortion - while he said he didn't have a strong stance on it, he thought it was a case of God's will be done, in the sense that despite abortion, God's purpose will be fulfilled. It's not adequate I suppose for the perspective that abortion = killing babies, but interesting thought nonetheless.