Choices Make Us Better
Trump made an asinine comment about abortion on March 30th that suggested he would somehow overturn a Supreme Court ruling to ban abortion completely. Then he went a step further and said people who got illegal abortions in the future should be punished – both the doctors who performed them and the women who sought the procedure. He “walked back” this last bit by saying women who seek abortion are “victims,” as if a service provider like a doctor is going around forcing people to have medical procedures. And he is rightly being condemned for such idiocy.
Let me be clear. I am pro-choice. I cannot imagine ever being in a situation of getting a romantic partner pregnant and having to make a heart-wrenching decision like this. I’d guess I’d always want to see it through. But it would and always should be my partner’s decision, as it is her body and hers alone that is committing to creating and hosting another life for the next 9 months.
That got me thinking about the nature of choice in general.
I believe choice makes us better. A politician who has an opponent is forced to make a case to the voters, and refine his goals once in office. A track and field runner runs faster against somebody than nobody. Companies are forced to compete for market share when the alternative provides a better product. Employees hired or promoted after an interview process are more likely to keep their skills sharp than someone who skates through on nepotism or seniority.
That said, choice, true choice, is hard to come by in most things in life. Your family, who you fall in love with, even your gender in most cases, is something decided for you by nature and not easily changed. Likewise, genetics plays a strong role in shaping our aptitude for sports, our body’s shape and size, and even some of the most basic elements of who we are: our personality traits. It is in those things we can change that we tend to cherish most.
One reason why I am a social liberal is I believe in giving people the widest choices possible in the few things we do have control over and where governments have little or no reason to be interested in. Issues like abortion, marriage equality, drug decriminalization, all fit into this paradigm. Even economic issues like the right to collectively bargain for better wages, or not have to choose between paying for rent or healthcare, are rooted in creating a society where individuals have more rights to choose how to live their lives without being forced into making a decision that is not in their best interest by others who are motivated by politics or profit to act in their own self-interest against you.
I’m not going to make this a long essay, by getting into nuanced issues like consent or discrimination, or touching on related issues like letting politicians go unchallenged in elections. We are all Americans (or adults, if you visit this site from another country), and most of us are content enough to live our lives with the motto “leave me alone” or something like it. We want the choice of who our friends are, who we live with, who we buy goods and services from, and who our leaders are. We want to be able to make our choice and be respected enough as adults to not be harassed (or worse) for it.
Being told “no, we don’t trust you to make the right choice” by an old, wrinkly, orange-tinted blowhard of a man, on any issue, much less as contentious of one as abortion, simply cuts against every democratic, freedom-loving instinct we hold dear.