Why abortion is even a thing

This post is not a direct answer to Broadblogs’s comment on my previous post, but it is inspired by her comment.  She blogs about feminism and gender relations here.

I have noticed that there tend to be a few distinct issues that tend to get blended together when people discuss abortion, and I wanted to take the time to break them out a bit.  Let me begin with a caveat that I’m speaking very generally here, so I’m not going to be able to cover all cases, all situations, or all people.

Generally speaking, abortion happens because of unplanned pregnancy.  How does that happen?

What causes unplanned pregnancy

  • Primarily people having sex. Consensual or otherwise.
  • Lack of contraception access. Usually this is where the blame for abortion gets pinned, but strictly speaking a lack of contraception (plus people having sex) only leads to unplanned pregnancies.  I don’t so much mean logistical access, since contraception really is widely available; rather, I’m referring to cultural access.  Since I made up the term (so far as I know) I’ll explain: a lack of cultural access would be, for example, a young woman who didn’t get anything resembling real sex ed, who might have heard of birth control but might not really know what the various risks and failure rates are for various methods.  All the logistical access in the world won’t fix the cultural access issues, unfortunately.
  • Contraception failure (plus people having sex).

So you have an unplanned pregnancy.  Congratulations!  Now what?  Are you going to keep it?  Let someone adopt it?  Abort it?

What causes abortion

  • Pro-lifers shaming women for being single moms.
  • Pro-choicers shaming women for being stupid enough to get pregnant.
  • Coercion from partners / parents / others.
  • Individual choice for reasons ranging from the serious to the trivial. Yes, some women do choose abortion for trivial reasons; there will always be people who make serious choices for trivial reasons, especially if there’s no particular obstacle to that specific choice.
  • A culture that is generally not very welcoming to new life, even in the best of circumstances. How many families struggle to make it work even when they get pregnant on purpose with a very wanted child?  The struggle is magnified the further you get from this ideal.

All that being said, abortion still wouldn’t be a thing without a very widespread but very incorrect assumption, which brings me to –

What enables abortion

  • The belief that the right to life does not begin for humans until …. ? Depending on which pro-choice person you are talking to, the right to life does not begin until the 12th week of pregnancy, the 20th week, the 36th week, the day of birth (as long as some part of the baby is inside the mother), a few weeks postpartum, or at a particular point I didn’t mention.

Science makes it abundantly clear that a new individual begins to be present at conception; at that point there is a genetically unique individual that has never existed before in the history of the world and will never exist again.  No other bright line exists for when the right to life begins, and no other point in development makes a logical bright line.

If this fact were universally recognized, and assuming we all agree that it’s wrong to forcibly end someone’s life, elective abortion would become unacceptable and virtually disappear.  The average person would no more choose abortion than they would choose to kill their toddler.  Of course there would still be medically necessary abortions, because even when you recognize that you have two patients in front of you, sometimes you simply can’t save at least one of them, but those abortions would no longer be of the hack-n-slash variety.

How do we reduce abortion?

The thought process that enables abortions is frankly the easiest thing to address, but even that is very difficult in practice for a wide variety of reasons, probably primarily the fact that all of the causes of abortion are still present.  This impacts the general willingness to listen, as important as it is to continue to spread the word on this front.

Although I have seen some progress in pro-lifers fixing their attitudes toward single parents, unfortunately women are still generally in the position of having to give pro-lifers AND pro-choicers the finger when they say, “No, abortion is unacceptable and I won’t do it.  Period.”

My abortion story

In honor of the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision today, I am going to share my abortion story.

When I was 20 years old, I was finally starting to find my groove and enjoy life.  I had left my sheltered upbringing in semi-rural Iowa, joined the Air Force, and was living in Hawai’i.  I was in the best shape of my life, I had a bikini for every day of the week, and I was having a lot of fun, if-ya-know-whaddamean.

My days were filled with work, hiking, going to the beach, working out, and reading.  My evenings were filled with dates, dinner with friends, and whatever I wanted to do.  I almost never slept alone.  Mainly because I didn’t want to.

After a few months of this I managed to settle down and have an actual boyfriend.  Tall and black, he had grown up in New York City and we had a lot of stories to trade.  It was good!  As much fun as I had been having, I was starting to get a little tired of the chaos.  So it was nice to have some stability.

One morning on one of my gym days I got up like usual to go to the gym.  Fifteen minutes into my workout I started feeling nauseous.  Really nauseous.  It was so bad I couldn’t keep going; so I left.  I called my boyfriend just to chat and tell him what happened.  And out of the blue, he said: “I think you’re pregnant.”  I was like – what?!  No.  No way.  We use a condom EVERY time.  There’s no way I’m pregnant.  “I think you’re pregnant,” he repeats.  No.  Not possible.

But the thought was planted and wouldn’t go away so off I go to the store for a pregnancy test.  On my way in I puke in a garbage can outside.  Gross.  I hate puking.  I get home, pee on the stick, and sit on the phone with him while watching the test.  One pink line – okay, the test is working, so far so good.  Then I start to see it very faintly but slowly getting stronger – “Oh God.  Oh God.  I see it – I see two pink lines.”

He was ecstatic!  Huh, what?!  That was not what I was expecting.  Um – hold on.  This doesn’t feel real at all.  There is NO WAY I could be pregnant.  But there are those two pink lines.  He was ecstatic!  I shook my head in confusion.

Okay then – I’m pregnant.  Yup.

This brought a whole new set of concerns to our relationship.  We figured out within the next couple weeks that although we both loved to watch football, go hiking, go spend time browsing bookstores, thinking and talking about whatever conversation is inspired by the books …. Despite all this, we were not meant to be married.  Every conversation we had about possibly getting married and raising the baby together ended in tears on my end.  It didn’t take long before we decided to go our separate ways.  I went to my 6-week appointment alone.

I knew that I had no idea how to take care of a baby; hell, I didn’t even like kids.  On top of that, it was made clear to me in no uncertain terms that I should not have this baby.  From coworkers to acquaintances to relatives to the lawyer I called for child support advice, in no particular order:

“How far along are you?  You have options, you know – have you considered an abortion?”

“Why would you have a baby?  You’re not ready.”

“But … you’re not with the father.  I don’t understand why you’re doing this to yourself.”

“You’re bringing a MIXED RACE baby into the world?  There are places where their life would be in DANGER?  How could you do that?”

“You should think about what you’re doing to this family – I don’t want a black baby in the family.”

“If you become a single mother you will ALWAYS be poor.  And you will NEVER get out.”

“You’ll never get married – a good man doesn’t want a woman with a child.  Especially not a black child.  Men just aren’t any good with children that aren’t theirs.”

“I see it all the time – you’ll go from boyfriend to boyfriend, and one of them will end up abusing your child – maybe even killing them.”

“If you become a single mother, your baby will grow up poor and not finish high school and probably get into drugs – it’s a vicious cycle.  Why are you getting upset?  I only said he’ll PROBABLY use drugs, not that he DEFINITELY will.”

According to everyone, who of course only had the best interests of my baby in mind:

  • I wasn’t ready
  • I was irresponsible
  • I was 20, single, and wasn’t staying with the father
  • The father was black, so the child would be mixed race
  • I hadn’t finished college yet.

It was all perfectly clear.  I checked all the boxes of the perfect candidate – I was supposed to have an abortion.

But I didn’t.

My abortion story is that I didn’t have one.

That baby is now a beautiful 11-year-old girl.

And you know what?  We’re not poor.  We’re not homeless.  I finished college and have a great career.  I married a great guy who loves her like his own.  We’re not any of the things I was told we definitely would be if I didn’t have an abortion.  See, there’s this thing called free will, and with my free will I made choices to set me and her up for the future the best way I can.  There is NO such thing as a pre-determined outcome.

So if you are in a situation like I was, and you have condescending people telling you to “just do what’s BEST for your child” and reminding you that you have “options,” just smile to yourself, knowing that they are full of shit.  They really are.  And I’m the proof.

Emily’s abortion video

Okay.  I can’t watch this and not comment on it.  Couple of quick observations –

1) I believe that she has nothing but the best of intentions.  Accusing her of being an attention-seeking aspiring actress is not helpful.  Are you a mind-reader?  Then STFU.

2) I noticed that during the procedure, she did that slow, deliberate, relaxation-breathing thing that I do at the gynecologist.  Ladies – this is a very effective way to deal with that type of discomfort.

3) It was very wise to disable comments here if the comments here are any indication.  These types of comments are not helpful.  You want to circle-jerk and preach to the choir?  That’s your right.  But it’s also my right to call you out as an asshole.

Now then.

This whole thing hit me in the pit of my stomach.  What kills me is – how does she not realize what’s truly going on?  How can she simultaneously marvel at her body’s ability to create life, keep her sonogram as a sentimental memento, observe that the whole procedure was “birth-like” … and still not understand that a life ended that day?

Here’s the thing – I understand that feeling of your heart falling through your stomach as you watch that second pink line slowly take shape on the pregnancy test.  I understand that feeling of wondering how this new little life will impact your own.  I understand not knowing how it’s possible to go from “single” to “mom.”  I understand how being “pregnant” feels like this weird, amorphous, out-there concept that doesn’t even seem real.  I get that!  Because that was me 11 years ago.

But a life is a life is a life.  What reason could there possibly be that’s compelling enough to end another’s life?  A life so small they can’t even fight back?  All other human rights (liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.) depend on first being granted the right to life.  Unless the right to life is held sacred, all other human rights ring hollow.  I cannot imagine ever being pro-choice.

In the Cosmo article (already linked above) she says, “Our society breeds this guilt.  We inhale it from all directions.”  Has she considered that maybe there’s a reason?  Especially since we have the technology to see, without a doubt, the development of a human being virtually from the moment of conception on?  It’s not by random chance that hearts and minds are changing.  And it doesn’t hurt that through a combination of government programs, churches(*), and crisis pregnancy centers(**), there are fewer and fewer circumstances where a woman would feel like she needs to choose abortion out of desperation.  What’s done is done and can never be undone.  But we can move forward and help support everyone in a crisis situation.

And that’s what I keep coming back to – I get that she wants to help and support women in their time of need, but how does she talk about life and still not see the reality of what abortion is?

(*) At least, the ones I’ve attended.

(**) At least, the ones I’ve been involved with