We’re pretty disheartened about the state of women’s reproductive rights at the moment: It seems like every other day there is a new obscure abortion restriction law threatening to undo all the work Roe v. Wade set out to accomplish more than four decades ago.
Reading this op-ed on Ohio.com, then, makes us feel a bit more at ease about what’s to come on the reproductive rights front. There, Congressman Tim Ryan shares his evolved stance on abortion—and it’s one conservatives might actually get behind.
Rather than hiding behind arbitrary religious statutes as an excuse to deny women their rights, Ryan, a lifelong Catholic, draws from another thing he took from his devout upbringing: compassion. “I strive to adhere to [Catholic] principles, especially one of the essential and highest teachings of ‘judge not, lest ye be judged,’” he writes. “I’ve heard firsthand from women of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds about the circumstances and hardships that accompany this personal choice, which we should not judge.”
He speaks of the women from all walks of life with whom he’s met to discuss their decisions to have an abortion—underage girls, victims of rape and incest, those financially unable to care for another child. After welcoming his own child into a loving and supportive home last year, he understands that parenthood should be a deliberate choice. Pregnancy shouldn’t be “anything but a personal issue.”
Empathy, of course, is much easier to accrue when you speak with someone directly about their firsthand experiences. It’s a shame that more politicians can’t bring themselves to listen; so many ignore the separation of church and state that supposedly exists in the U.S. government, citing their fundamentalist beliefs as reason enough to withhold rights from people whose values differ from their own
We need more men to stand up for women’s rights. Though Rep. Ryan himself is a Democrat, hopefully his religious leanings will appeal to Republican lawmakers. Of course, not so many will be as willing to allow their worldviews to evolve after speaking with women; for now we may have to rely on the men—like Ryan—who are willing to listen to women to change the minds of other men who aren’t so progressive. Baby steps.