This month at Feminists for Choice we’ve been making a conscious effort to count our blessings and consider all we have to be thankful for. I can’t help but think I have the universe to thank for bringing Linda Weber, a pioneer feminist with over forty years of abortion counseling experience, and her book, Life Choices: The Teachings of Abortion, into my life at this particular time to help me recognize mine. Weber has a gift for making the most profound matters of human existence seem approachable, even debatable, without making them seem any less profound from the discussing.
Much of this comes from the fact that she is fearless where others might turn away–or wish away–or never face in the first place. I absolutely believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion, so I was surprised by my initial reaction to the book’s subtitle. But there it was. Uncomfortably. “The Teachings of Abortion?” “Teachings?” Didn’t that seem too … upbeat? Too celebratory? It wasn’t until I had started reading that I realized I had made exactly the sort of judgment Weber avoids. (And exactly the sort of judgment abortion opponents are counting on.) Where I was feeling there was either good or bad, Weber illustrates patiently, time and again, that there is only experience, and it is rarely uncomplicated. (And rarely, is it communicated with precision like this: “The moral position of most women in the abortion decision is neither pro-life nor pro-choice.”)
By letting women who have faced pregnancy crises speak for themselves, Weber places abortion in context–many contexts, actually–and makes it clear why that is the only meaningful way for the subject to be broached. Though happily Weber does not devolve into the murky academese I’m falling back on here, women are always already historically specific subjects in historically specific relationships to historically specific constructions of culture, gender, race, and class. To treat abortion as if it is abstract entity unto itself is probably the only way it could ever appear simple to anyone.
I can’t say I needed to read Life Choices to realize this; but just as I was surprised by my initial reaction to the book’s subtitle, I was surprised that I found the disconnect between the teachings of abortion Weber presents and the permanent deadlock we seem to have in lieu of teachings in “real life” (insofar as political grenade-launching resembles anything real) strangely liberating. Somehow Linda Weber managed to communicate her sense of hope to my too-often too-pessimistic self. Given the opportunity to interview her, I couldn’t resist asking her how she maintained a positive outlook. Here is her answer:
I do my best to remember to follow my own advice(!), which consists of two main things. The first is to maintain a perspective about the way current social issues are reflections of the movement of history and the tenacity of patriarchy and class society. In other words, remember that deeply rooted power relations don’t uproot easily. They change over the long haul and require the courage and persistence of the people seeking change.
Second, I stay as engaged as possible with my spiritual practice, which includes meditation, prayer, music, journal writing, and feet on the ground of the mountains near my home. I walk on a regular basis and especially when I feel bothered or afraid or unclear about something that is going on. I literally look to the sky and its relationship with the ground below. This reminds me not only of the beauty that is all around, but also of the vastness of the Universe and all that it manifests. In other words, I try to remember where I am (Earth) and that I must surrender to the forces of the Universe and trust the process.
Not always easy I have to say, but definitely the way to go. All the things I’ve mentioned are heart centering and, with the addition of good nutrition, help to calm down my nervous system, sort things out in my mind, and point me in the direction I need to go to be effective in the world.
A third piece of self-care is to stay connected to my community. Talking with friends reminds me that we’re all in this together.
This review is part of the Life Choices blog tour. Please read the previous post at Abortion Gang. Life Choices: The Teaching of Abortion is published by Sentient Publications. Details of Linda Weber’s upcoming West Coast book tour will soon be available on the Life Choices website. In the meantime, please feel free to comment here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.