There Is No Freedom In This Choice

Today is day four of the bishops’ call to prayer, penance, and pilgrimage to end abortion. My fellow Patheos blogger, the Crescat, wrote a haunting post this weekend that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Mostly I keep thinking, “that could have been me. That could have been my baby, my Sienna, dismembered in that canister. If things had been different, it would have been.”

This morning it occurred to me that no, in fact, it couldn’t have been my Sienna. Unlike most unwed, pregnant drug addicts at the turn of the millenium, I didn’t have a choice. I have a lot of issues with the Protestant culture in the Bible belt, but I will forever be grateful that on this issue of life, it is rock solid. A baby is a baby. No killing it allowed. My parents were absolutely clear on that. I have never, for one instant of my life, doubted that a fetus is a human life. When I got that positive pregnancy test, I didn’t wonder how early it was, how many times the cells had divided, if its heartbeat could be detected or not. I just thought, “shit. A baby.”

It was fortunate that the Ogre had similar views on life, or things might have been different. But his family is devoutly Catholic, and though neither of us had been practicing our faiths, the basic principles were there. The issue of abortion didn’t come up, save one time. An acquaintance, when he heard the news, looked at me doubtfully and said, “you’re so young. I think it would be better if you didn’t have the baby.”

It took me a few seconds to understand that what he meant by that was “have an abortion.” The phrasing was odd, and abortion truly was that foreign of a concept to me. There were times, during that pregnancy, when I wished it wasn’t such a foreign concept. There have been dark times in pregnancies since when I wished the same thing.

I write alot about my struggles with motherhood. Perhaps I write too much about them. Maybe some of you reading this are thinking, “but you’re miserable as a mother. Motherhood hasn’t brought you anything but despair.”

It’s true that motherhood is difficult. It’s always difficult to burn our own desires on the altar of serving others. It’s difficult for a million different reasons, and a good part of the difficulty is that it is at once the hardest and most mind-numbingly boring job in the world. It’s hard to recognize that those two things are true without blaming myself and thinking, “if only I were a better mother, I would love this job.”

What isn’t hard is imagining what might have been. If I hadn’t had Sienna, there are no plethora of paths my life could have taken. There are no alternate universes where I had an abortion and went on to be a successful writer, lawyer, or college professor. Before my daughter was born, I loved drugs more than anything in the world. And she is the only thing that could have changed that.

There have been dark times in pregnancies when the idea of abortion seemed appealing. But I have never looked back and wished I could have had that choice. For me, that choice was as distant and unreachable as it must have been to many women before Roe v. Wade. And for that, I am grateful. Ironically, not having a choice bought me freedom, in the end. Freedom from addiction. Freedom from selfishness. Freedom from a life that at times seemed meaningless and bleak. I will take this life with all its hardships and struggles not in spite of my babies, but because of them. They are what make it worth living.

Kat had the choice I didn’t. She made it, and it haunts her. It torments her. All over our country, mothers and fathers are living in torment after making this choice that was supposed to bring them freedom. But it didn’t bring freedom. It doesn’t. It condemns you to a life of always wondering and regretting. Instead of allowing life to come into the world, letting it change and shape you into someone new, learning to love a baby, delight in a toddler, and find joy in watching a child navigate the world, you are left alone, knowing the child who should have been will never be. That isn’t freedom. It’s a prison.

I want that choice taken away. Not just legally, so that women are “forced into back allies.” I want it erased from human consciousness. I want there to never again be a moment when a pregnant woman hears, “you do have a choice not to have the baby.” I want the canisters full of baby limbs and torsos and heads to disappear from our country forever. I want the same people who dedicate their lives to giving women a “choice” instead dedicate their lives to helping expectant mothers and fathers, arranging adoptions, and safeguarding the lives of American infants. I want men and women to no longer be frightened and manipulated into choosing death but once again free to rejoice in life.  No matter how difficult it is, it is always worth it.


  • KK

    “…and a good part of the difficulty is that it is at once the hardest and most mind-numbingly boring job in the world.”
    You nailed it! I just said something along those lines the other day – how it is strange to be sort of strung out and overdone and profoundly bored all at once!

    Seriously though, this is a great article. Thanks.

  • Pentimento

    We also need those who are dedicated to life extend that dedication to mean, as you put it, “helping expectant mothers and fathers, arranging adoptions, and safeguarding the lives of American infants.” Great post.

  • Mary

    I’m curious as to what you would say to those women who absolutely don’t regret their abortions. Don’t misunderstand my question as attacking your position, because I absolutely agree with you. But if there is no regret, if we take what they say about their experience at face value and not try to argue that they must be secretly wounded, how do we talk about this issue with them?

    • calahalexander

      I would say that that life wasn’t theirs to take. It was an independent person with unique DNA. Just because it was residing inside their bodies doesn’t give them the right to destroy it.

    • pagansister

      I’ve known 3 women who have absolutely no regrets in making that decision. 2 in my family. It was a decision that had to be made due to circumstances—one being the husband was an abuser and forced her into it. (at that time no one in the family knew he was an abuser). She fortunately left him a few years later. He would have killed her had she gone thru with the pregnancy. So there are women who have no regrets. I would hope that no woman would have a termination, and that she would seek an alternative —adoption or keeping it. However, that option isn’t always acceptable to some. Making it illegal wouldn’t stop a woman who seriously needed (in her eyes) to have the procedure.

      • JoAnna

        He would have killed her had she gone thru with the pregnancy.

        You don’t know that for sure. If she’d gone to a shelter, gotten a restraining order, etc., he may have been arrested and put in jail.

        There are always alternatives to killing an innocent child. They may not be EASY, but they are there.

        • pagansister

          Perhaps not. Several guns in the house, so I don’t think she wanted to take that chance. We’re talking the early 1970′s and a woman who was less than 22. Your suggestions might be options now as I suspect there are more “shelters” . Also I know that many women have been killed by men who had been given restraining orders. If you have never been in that situation, an abused woman, I suggest you can’t judge her. I don’t feel she did anything but save her own life. I totally disagree that ” there are always alternatives”. In this case, as far as she was concerned, operating from fear, there wasn’t. As I mentioned in my previous post, we, the family, didn’t know any of this until after it was over with.

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  • eliese

    Your post makes me think of what Simcha posted recently too:

  • Claire

    Someone very dear to me in my life found out she was pregnant at the age of 16 – and this was before Roe v. Wade. Back then, it wasn’t an option, and not just because her family was Catholic, but because it wasn’t legal. So, when she found out she was pregnant, even though her boyfriend had already broken her heart and left her, abortion didn’t even cross her mind. Although there were women who got abortions illegally in those days, it wasn’t something that was widely considered an option – so she didn’t think about it.

    She went through her pregnancy, but sadly her baby died when he was kess than 24 hours old. He was born premature and his lungs were not developed enough for him to survive. She had been planning on giving him up for adoption, but the experience was no less devastating to her.

    Many years later, she had a conversation about abortion with her elderly father. He drew on her experience as a reason abortion should be legal. “Don’t you wish,” he said to her, “that you would have had the choice when you were pregnant? If you’d had the choice to have an abortion, you would have been spared so much pain.”

    But no, she does not wish abortion had been legal then. She is extraordinarily glad that it was not a choice. If it had been, she probably would have considered it. How could she not? How could it not at least cross her mind? And although her precious baby died before he had a chance to live, she maintains an abortion would not have been the same. It would have been far more devastating to live with the fact that her decision had killed her child. She did have to endure something heart wrenching and awful, and at such a young and vulnerable age. But she doesn’t regret a second of the time she carried him inside her, nor does she regret his coming into the world, nor his passing.

    She would not have wanted to have to face a decision about whether or not to let her baby live, and she’s grateful she didn’t have to.

  • Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    I think it is Feminists for Life that has the slogan “Woman with Unplanned Pregnancies Also Deserve Unplanned Joy” and I think of that often when the topic of abortion comes up. While pregnancy is certainly very hard and parenting/motherhood is very hard and giving a baby up for adoption is very hard, there is also joy to be found in those situations

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  • Brandon

    This is a good reflection. I’ve often thought the same way about the years of struggle my wife and I shared over infertility. Using things like IVF simply wasn’t an option; it wasn’t something we thought and were annoyed was forbidden by the Church; it wasn’t an a choice that we constantly second-guessed ourselves for not making. Just wasn’t on the table.
    So many of the things that, say, Catholic teaching forbids are in the same class. With the money and power and freedom of life in America we have all means of avenues open to us to pursue any number of things, morality be damned. The Church isn’t mean and nasty for forbidding them, she’s simply saying: those things aren’t on the menu, don’t distract yourself with them.
    In an important way, that is freeing (as you mention).

  • Jess@Cathofeminism

    Well done. I don’t have much else to say, but it is always nice to hear someone can appreciate your perspective!