I 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.