Amy Brenneman
Amy Brenneman

October 11, 2011

No Easy Answers

So sorry I didn’t get this out on Monday. Trying to be a disciplined blogger, but my kids didn’t get the message as they actually wanted to PLAY yesterday and not have me disappear into my office. So be it. I trust you are a forgiving audience.


I wanted to answer a question that intrigued me. I was asked how I could be pro-choice but anti-death penalty. Awesome question. I love this question because it pops a bubble into the assumptions of the “red state/blue state” country that we seem to be living in, where one side there is the “liberal/pro-choice/anti-death penalty/pro-universal health care” and on the other is “conservative/pro-life/pro-death penalty/ pro-defense.” Any time that I can pick apart my views and think each issue through separately, and not devolve into clichés and finger pointing, I am happy. So first, my view on reproductive health and freedom: Yes, I am pro-choice. Pro-choice, not pro-abortion. Abortion is not a victory or a righteous action. It is a solemn option that is the result of sober consideration, and must, legally, be preserved as a medical option.


For me it comes down to the question of viability. I believe that until a fetus is viable enough to live outside the mother’s womb, it is up to the mother to decide what is best for that fetus. Yes, there is “life” the minute an embryo is formed, but I believe that the “life” of a fetus entails more than a simple gathering of cells. The quality of a fetus life (and future life) is also dependent on the capacity of the pregnant woman to create an environment of welcoming love and ongoing health. That is, the fetus must be wanted for it to thrive.


The fetus must also be healthy for it to thrive. Heartbreaking decisions have to be made, at times, on whether to continue a pregnancy for a fetus, which will not survive full term, or die immediately upon birth. Again, the idea of a woman not having a thoughtful choice about what is best for her fetus, or for her health, is to me, patently insane. Additionally, in cases of rape it seems like cruel and unusual punishment for a female victim who has already suffered so much.


Adoption is another option in an unwanted pregnancy, of course, but adoption is not always the appropriate solution. The point is that abortion is one option, but an important one, and one that is constantly under threat. It also infuriates me when the same people who are so precious about unwanted pregnancies seem to not care as much about unwanted children. In a time when Head Start, Medicaid, and most social services are being cut back — if not excised all together — it seems mighty important that every child born is a wanted child.


When I go to pro-choice events and see anti-choice folks out in full force with their posters of dissected fetuses — upsetting, no doubt — I always want posters of bloodied, abused or neglected children right beside them. If we’re going to drag out the grisly pictures, let’s drag out all of them.


Finally, I think we can all agree that the fewer abortions there are, the better. So why cut family planning? To prevent an unwanted pregnancy, shouldn’t birth control be readily available? That is the final insanity to me, that often the political figures that oppose choice also oppose family planning. That is just plain denial of human biology. People of a certain age are going to have sex. Period. Let’s provide all the information and supplies they may need to make wise and informed choices.


My views on death penalty are simple. I don’t think we as a society can teach that killing is wrong by killing. I can’t teach my children not to hit by hitting them. Beyond all the other evidence and reasons — DNA testing proving innocence, the enormous cost to the taxpayers to keep someone on death row, the implicit belief that reform is not possible, the fact that studies have shown it does not act as a deterrent — for me, it boils down to that simple fact. We can’t say that we don’t believe in killing, and then kill. Whatever we may say, the death penalty is state sanctioned blood lust.


These two issues — abortion and death penalty — will figure into the next election, as they always do. Abortion is a political football that regularly gains and loses elections for candidates, and that is sad. It is a highly personal, private decision between a woman, her family, and her doctor. It does infuriate me to see politicians speaking about it and knowing that if any woman in their family needed to terminate a pregnancy, they could. Somehow, they’d find a way, and that’s just the truth. A wise woman once told me that if a woman does not want to be pregnant, she will find a way not to be — drinking poison, throwing herself downstairs, something equally psychologically and physically damaging. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Felicity Huffman recently said, “I am so proud to live in a country where we protect a person’s right to make a choice different from our own.” From your lips to God’s ear’s. Saint Felicity.


And now you: How do you reason out these issues?