An Open Letter to Pro-Lifers

Aliza w image 1I could tell you I was raped.  (I wasn’t.) I could tell you I am a victim of incest.  (I’m not.)  I could tell you my life would be in danger if I got pregnant.  (Partly true, but for this discussion, let’s say not.)  I could tell you I’m mentally challenged or ill.  (I don’t think so, but let’s please not open THAT up to debate…) These are some of the scenarios even the most ardent advocates in the pro-life movement might allow themselves and those they love flexibility where safe and legal abortion is concerned.  Might.

Let’s talk about a different scenario – one that is completely true.  I am a 44-year-old woman.  I have been married to my college sweetheart since I was 21 years old, and I have had sex with ONLY him for well over 23 years.  I use birth control.  We have three children: a 16-year-old daughter, a 14-year-old son, and an nine-year-old son.  They are (thank god and knock wood) magnificent, kind, intelligent, healthy kids.  I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, comfortable financially, we have health insurance, many friends, a good support system, etc., etc., etc.

What if MY birth control fails?  I don’t have any of the extreme situations mentioned in the first paragraph.  By all accounts, a woman my age and with my resources should be able to manage just fine with a fourth child.  The child would likely be healthy, well-cared for, raised with boundless love, etc., etc., etc.

But what if I didn’t WANT to have another child?

I repeat, what if I did not WANT to?

Even though I could?  Even though the pregnancy occurred through an act of love between two married, consenting adults?  Even though chances are the child would be fine – we would ALL be fine?

What if I didn’t WANT to?  Should I be forbidden access to a safe and legal abortion?

Should the potential of the embryo inside me to grow into a human being and be born and bring light to the world and cure cancer and colonize the moon outweigh my wishes?

My wishes to cherish and spend as much time as possible with the three children I already have before I blink and they are out of the house with families of their own?

My wishes to keep the undefinable, debilitating exhaustion of new parenthood relegated to a distant memory?

My wishes to not have a car seat and stroller at this stage of my life?

My wishes to nourish myself, now that I finally have some time and something creative and productive to do with it?

My wishes to have two free hands and a clear mind as I prepare my daughter for college, my first son for 10th grade and my youngest son for adolescence?

My wishes that my days of volunteering in pre-school be over?

My wishes that one day soon I will be watching what I want on T.V.?

Can you look me in the eyes and tell me my wishes for all these things, and how hard I’ve worked for them, are less important than the potential clump of cells in my uterus?

I understand why you consider a growing blastula, embryo, fetus an absolute miracle, a cherished life form, something to be protected.  I feel the same way.  I understand your religious and moral reasons for feeling passionately about this life form, such as it is.  I respect your zeal, your advocacy, your feelings.

I simply feel that I should have the right to put myself, the life (and lives) I’ve already created for myself and my ALREADY ALIVE family ahead of the potential life of a non-viable fetus. I am entitled to be respected in my ability to weigh and decide matters of such an intense personal nature for myself and my own family, understanding that anything I choose will come with unintended, possibly devastating consequences.

I understand why you might see an abortion clinic and those who utilize it as tragic and unjust.  I know the image you have of women who get abortions range from sympathetic (sad and in need of help) to judgmental (irresponsible sluts who use it as a form of birth control.)

I would argue, though, that people who fall into the image in that last category are few and far between.  Furthermore, people who use abortion as a cheap and easy fix for their irresponsible behavior (if such people exist) are presenting symptoms of much deeper societal ills than the fact that safe and legal abortions are available to them.  Just like people who use guns in an irresponsible, devastating way are reflective of a much deeper ill than the fact that guns are legal.

Finally, I would ask you this.  Can YOU understand MY needs?  Can YOU respect MY wishes?  Can you honestly say you are in a better position than I am to determine what is best for me and my entire family and our futures?  Can you assert in good conscience that this most sacred and personal individual choice of mine (and YOURS) should be limited to the following options:

1.  having another baby,
2.  carrying the pregnancy to term and giving the baby up for adoption, or
3.  a back-alley abortion?

Can you understand why, upon hearing about Texas passing a law effectively closing all clinics but 5 that provide safe abortions, and North Carolina passing a law that would close all but ONE, that so many women AND men are looking around us with wild, crazed eyes and asking, “WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY?

Published in its original form at The Worthington Post on March 1, 2012.

Aliza Worthington grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Baltimore. She began writing in 2009 at the age of 40. Sometimes her writing follows The Seinfeld Model of “no learning, no hugging.” Other times it involves lots of both. She blogs about Life, Liberty and Happiness at “The Worthington Post.” Her work also appears in Catonsville Patch, Kveller, and has been featured in the Community Spotlight section of Daily Kos under the username “Horque.” Her writing has also landed in the “Winner’s Circle” on Midlife Collage twice. Follow her on Twitter at @AlizaWrites.
Image via The Worthington Post
  • Anne Born

    I stand with you on this. I just can’t believe we are still having this discussion after 40 years. And I can’t see how – all of a sudden but thank God for that – same-sex marriage is welcomed but single sex decision-making by women is dangerous. Leave me alone! I can do this. I can make the very best decision for me, for my family, for my children, and for my life. And so will we all.

  • Tina

    Yes, yes, yes. I’m there with you, mid-forties, married, house full of teenagers, and yes, my wishes trump a potential clump of cells. Thanks for writing!

  • If we allow for any “flexibility” for situations such as rape, incest, and fetal defects, then of course your arguments make all kinds of sense. If we believe that an unborn child is just as fully human as you are, then it just doesn’t matter how inconvenient, unwelcome, or even frankly catastrophic a pregnancy may be–we cannot kill an innocent human being. I am 46 and have five kids, three of whom are about to launch, so I understand your perspective regarding an unexpected pregnancy at this age, believe me. You seem to be an understanding person so try at least to understand this: to people who believe as I do, aborting that “potential clump of cells” is morally NO DIFFERENT from killing a newborn baby, or for that matter your smart-mouthed teenager.

    • Clove

      But Leslie, hear what she is saying..and what I would say..we hear you and respect that you would make that choice. Hear us. Respect our choice and difference of thought and opinion. The definition of human life is not a governmental issue for regulation but a moral one – left to the moral and/or religious consideration of the woman and/or man involved. To impose your values and definition is no different than those who believe differently than you imposing ours.

      I’m 51 and was told never to have children. I was blessed with 1 at 41. What if I became pregnant now? Happy parents with comfortable surroundings. It would be irresponsible for me to consider another pregnancy. I do everything I am supposed to do but what if…

    • I agree with Leslie. I am the result of an unplanned pregnancy in 1970 before abortion was legal across the board in America. I thank God my 19-year-old mother did not choose to abort me in a back alley. By God’s grace, I am alive today. I was as fully human in the womb as I am now. And I’m so glad to have recently moved back to NC. If it can happen in TX, it can happen in my beloved Old North State. Bring it.

      Here’s my story if you’re interested in reading more:

    • wobblyheaded bob

      ok, so you wake up tomorrow morning with a stranger hooked up to you by tubes and machines. this person requires to be hooked up to you for about a year in order to survive. do you have the right to say no and be disconnected, even though doing so would certainly kill this person? you would have to adjust your lifestyle and diet for this person. your job would most likely not accommodate for your situation, and if you got fired you most certainly not be able to find a new job until you were separated from this other person. and what if you knew that your body would never fully recover from this? that you would experience many different ailments, be sick for much of the time, that it could even kill you? and on top of all of this, you would be responsible for $10,000+ in medical bills for all of this. do you have the right to say “no, you cannot use my body, i do not have to do this for you”? does this person have the right to take and use your body without your consent?

      • Aliza Worthington

        @wobblyheadedbob – I think I love you.

  • Beverly Uhlmer

    You have fallen for the lie that all but 5 abortion clinics in Texas will close because of this bill. I won’t elaborate on this point but want to tell you my story. I had two beautiful children, a boy and a girl, when I again became pregnant when a minor surgery caused a change in my cycle and we did not use birth control because we “knew” we were in the safe time. We were in the process of moving to Australia from Oklahoma, I had numerous health problems and I was certainly not happy at the prospect of a third child. This was 1974 so abortion was now legal. I chose to have the baby, another boy. Fast forward 25 years; my first son killed himself, leaving me with one son. He is now married and has two precious children of his own. I thank God often that I chose to give life to this man, an unmitigated blessing. No one knows the future and what joy this “potential life” will bring.

  • This right here:

    “People who use abortion as a cheap and easy fix for their irresponsible behavior (if such people exist) are presenting symptoms of much deeper societal ills than the fact that safe and legal abortions are available to them. Just like people who use guns in an irresponsible, devastating way are reflective of a much deeper ill than the fact that guns are legal.”

    Thank you.

    Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion. It means we respect the privacy of others to make the best decisions they can for the situations they’re in and that we respect those decisions aren’t ours to make.

  • I am pro-life. I honor your choice. I personally do not agree with, but I honor it. Choice. I just ask that it be made long before 20 weeks. Not after. Long before. As in the moment you know. 6-12 weeks. The argument and law is a slippery slope, and stupid and antiquated. I was carrying a Trisomy 18 baby (extra chromosome). At 35 weeks we induced labor, so that she may be born alive, because a Trisomy18 baby is not compatible with life (at least not 20 years ago). So we wanted to have a live birth, and spend any amout of time with her. You know what my chart said? Abortion. Really it did. She died in her first day of life. Life we chose for her. Instead of death in the womb. Ridiculous. She was not aborted. But according to the medical terminology, she was. We chose life, and it was still considered an abortion. The lawmakers need to actually know what they are voting on, and most don’t.

  • Thank you so much for this. Pro-choice definitely doesn’t mean pro-abortions. I am really glad you wrote this.

  • I read what you wrote. I get it. I really do. I am pro-choice but have a lot of moral issues about abortion – not from a spiritual or religious stand point, but one that is based on science.
    I was that woman, four kids, stay at home mom, and serious medical problems that should I had gotten pregnant again would seriously cause me and my unborn baby life threatening problems. I conceived my fifth child using birth control weeks before undergoing a hysterectomy. SURPRISE. I did not want to be pregnant. I did not want any more children. That pregnancy just wasn’t unplanned it was not wanted and it was going to put my life in jeopardy. If anyone had a reason for an abortion it would have been me.
    But here is the thing – I am not a fool. I know when life begins. And I wish people who were pro-choice would stop denying it, just like I wish pro-lifers think they know when a person becomes a person. There is no denying what a fetus is and just because it makes some people feel uncomfortable lets stop ignoring it.
    And this is where abortion becomes iffy and ugly and morally objectionable to me – having one “just because you don’t want it”. Yeah. People get in a big upper roar about killing animals in shelters because they are not wanted.
    I am not going to lie, I thought about having an abortion and discussed it with my pro-life Atheist husband who was completely supportive of whatever choice I made. But here is the truth – not wanting to be pregnant, not wanting another child was not a good enough reason to terminate a pregnancy, even though I had serious health issues. I know what abortion is. Let’s not lie about that. I have had miscarriages and a D&C and it is not “nothing”.
    BTW, that unwanted child is a healthy, fun and fantastic addition to our family.
    So, even though I am pro-choice, I am not entirely against laws that place hurdles for people seeking abortions – like ultrasounds, waiting periods, etc. I just don’t. Because no matter what your reason is – it should not be made lightly or because you just don’t want to do it. We should respect life a little more than that. As women and as a society. If someone does not want any more children and they are certain of that – get sterilized.
    I’m sure I will be the “odd” voice on this issue – but this is just one of those issues where I sit firmly “On The Fence”.

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