A few ‘choice’ words

We heard the word “choice” a lot in May.

That word arises nearly any time the abortion issue rears its ugly head in North America. But “choice” dominated the headlines, social media and general conversation ever since Alabama legislators chose to implement the Human Life Protection Act in mid-May, banning all abortions in the state with the exception of cases of “a serious health risk” to any woman seeking one.

The new Alabama law makes no provisions for children conceived in rape and incest, and its maximum 99-year prison term (not an exaggeration) for doctors performing abortions in the state came on the heels of decisions by four other American state legislatures – in Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky – to pass bills outlawing abortions following the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which is usually five-to-six weeks into a pregnancy.

Here at home, the choice I kept seeing, even among some of my friends and family members, was to shut down debate on the issue. They chose to deny millions of people the right to even offer an opinion on the merits and pitfalls of terminating a life, particularly if those millions of people happened to be any combination of male or Christian.

However, after a lengthy period in which I’ve prayed, sought advice, and literally agonized over whether I should be using this column space to take a position on the issue, I’m choosing to do so.

Yes, I’m a heterosexual white male. I have no choice in that.

I do, however, have a choice as to whether I’m a Christian, and whether my faith influences my position on any public policy issue. If you feel, as a result, that I’m incapable of seeing all sides of said issue, that’s your choice, not mine. But I also choose not to judge you for making that choice.

And I have the choice to present my position on this issue because of the choices a young woman made in 1972.

Because she chose me.

She didn’t have to choose me. She was unmarried, in her early university years, and was probably terrified at the thought of delivering a child.

She wouldn’t have had the access to abortion that’s available now in Nova Scotia, but the procedure was legalized in Canada three years earlier. With this reality in mind, she was probably given any number of choices – including some potentially dangerous, life-threatening and illegal choices – as the debate over a woman’s right to an abortion raged south of the border, culminating a year later in the still-enforced U.S. legal decision known as Roe v. Wade.

The amount of choices this unmarried Cape Breton teenager had at her disposal is irrelevant. The simple fact of the matter is that she chose to let me live.

And she chose to put me up for adoption and give me the chance to live with parents who chose to accept me and love me as much as Joe and Rose Cooke from Grande-Greve have done, over the past 46-plus years.

Over 3.2 million Canadian children and over 60 million American children didn’t get that choice during that same time period. But this young woman wanted a better future for me.

It was a future that saw me choose to present an anti-abortion speech to the judges of the St. Peter’s District High School Winter Carnival in 1988. (I was one of two contestants to do so, the other being female, in the weeks following the Supreme Court of Canada’s removal of abortion restrictions that had been in place since 1969. No government of any stripe chose to challenge this decision, other than an ill-fated attempt by Brian Mulroney’s PC administration in 1991.)

It was a future that taught me that my right to judge others is as non-existent as others’ right to judge me. As a result, I choose to be friends with those who support abortion, those who have supported other women in their own visits to abortion clinics, and those who have had abortions themselves. I also choose to befriend and support those with their own troubled stories of miscarriages, infertility, and separation from the children they chose to adopt, foster, or bring into the world on their own.

And I get to choose – and keep – my position on abortion, and I get to see all sides of the story, because of the woman who chose to give me life. How and if you react to that position, and whether you choose to dismiss my words as being prejudiced by emotion and/or religion, is your choice.

I choose to be grateful to the woman who enabled me to have the choice to be here, nearly 47 years later, typing these words. And, someday, I hope to be able to thank her for making that choice.