An Open Letter to Pro-Lifers

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 42-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 21 years.  I use birth control.  We have three children: a 15-year-old daughter, a 13-year-old son, and an 8-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 high school and my youngest son for his first season of swim team?

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 judgemental (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 proposed (thankfully defeated) bill for mandatory, unwanted transvaginal ultrasounds, upon hearing about Congress proposing to allow ANY employer to opt out of providing healthcare plans that include access to birth control and abortion, that so many women AND men are looking around us with wild, crazed eyes and asking, “WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY?”

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  • Rachel

    Aliza – This is dignified and beautiful. The paragraph comparing the legality of abortions to the legality of guns is perfect. I love this post!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      Thanks, Rach. <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1405562077 Rachel Lirtzman Fogel

    A beautiful blog written by my sister…a letter to pro lifers… I love this.

  • http://scribblesbysly.wordpress.com sylvanfox

    Great message. Let’s hope someone gets it!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      Oh, thank you!!! Let’s hope…

  • Max Olivewood

    Beautifully expressed and even more beautifully felt.

    Let’s talk the English language for a minute. When it comes to the word “marriage”, there are those who allow for no flexibility of definition whatsoever. They even advocate a constitutional amendment for the protection of their definition of the word. It is usually these same people, though, who take all kinds of liberties of definition when it comes to the words “blastula”, “embryo”, and “fetus”, substituting for them, the word “baby”. Now, whereas a fetus can come close to what a baby really is, a blastula, by definition, cannot. It has no cell definition nor heartbeat. What it might grow into does not define what it is while still a blastula. Those who abort a blastula, by definition, are not killing a baby! Further, it is inconceivable (truly, no pun intended,) that a woman in the situation such as that in which you describe yourself, would ever have a voluntary late term abortion, even were she allowed to.

    The nicest thing about the truth is that it is TRUE, no matter who believes it or doesn’t believe it to be. You are a truth teller, and as such, are to be congratulated. There aren’t too many these days.

    • http://plumberscrack.wordpress.com Chris C.

      Here here. Wonderfully said.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      I cannot think of a better thing to be called than a truth teller. Can I quote you in my responses to people commenting on my post on Daily Kos? Your point about the English language is magnificent, by the way.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      P.S. I had great teachers regarding both truth telling AND the English language.

  • Max Olivewood

    I would be honored to be quoted by you. Feel free.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      Thanks, man. :) I’ve done it before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/damiengibbons Damien Gibbons

    Well said :)

    Though I don’t personally object to a bill allowing employers to opt out of health insurance plans that include birth control and reproductive health. If you want a plan that includes that, don’t work for a company that doesn’t have it. If you work for a company that currently provides it and then takes it away, get a new job. I know that sounds callous, but in today’s job market people change jobs regularly anyway and depending on your specialty, it’s usually not too hard to find a new one. In that way, those companies will be self-limiting in the people they hire. The Catholics can have their moral indignation and have only Catholics working for them.

    I understand the argument that once an employer enters the public realm when doing business (like the RCC does) they are subject to some federal jurisdiction, but I don’t think it should extend to something that isn’t a “common good” as viewed by law. For example, if they wanted to introduce child labor into their workforce, by no means would that be ok and the federal government would have every right to step in. But the idea that “every sperm is sacred” (with apologies to Monty Python) is fairly central to the core of their beliefs about God’s intent for life, and disagree with them as much as I may, I don’t believe it’s our right to force them to violate that.

    An example that just occurred to me: If people can opt for government service in the face of a military draft (as my wife’s uncle did during Vietnam, since he’s a member of a strictly pacifist branch of Christianity), the government clearly demonstrates a respect for the separation of church and state. Uncle Ben is a citizen of the U.S. and was subject to our draft laws like every other young man his age, but the government let him serve in a non-combatant role (in his case, I believe he was a hospital orderly). If we respect his faith and don’t force him to fight in a manner that goes against his beliefs, how can we then turn and force the Catholics and other strict pro-life, anti-birth control organizations to provide one of the very things they lobby against?

    It flies in the face of the concept of separation of church and state, in my opinion. I’m used to arguing for that separation from the other perspective (arguing against my fellow Christians trying to instill the Christian version of sharia law in our government). I don’t usually wind up arguing against the government doing the interfering, but I believe that if they don’t provide the opt-out, they’ll be doing just that.

    Anyhow, my $.02. Great article, agree with it in every other respect, truly enjoyable read :)

  • Max Olivewood

    Hi Damien – Max here. This is clearly one of those situations where there are two legitimate but conflicting interests. If the employer’s right to conscience is exercised with regard to the health coverage of his employees, the employee’s right to conscience is violated by having the values of his/her employer imposed as a limiting factor in his/her coverage. My imperfect answer: If it’s LEGAL, it should be covered.

    I enjoyed reading your comment. You make many compelling points.

  • http://mydrinn.wordpress.com mydrinn

    As you mentioned, there is always adoption. If one does not want said child then the only moral option is adoption. If one’s standard birth control method fails there are a few options, abortion is not one of them. However, the most secure method of birth control is simply to not have sex.

    Many may hate me for what I have said here, but I cannot allow anything to hinder my morality.

    “In the spider-web of fact, many a truth is strangled.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      I don’t hate anyone who speaks their mind respectfully and truthfully. Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      Furthermore, if anyone attempts to be hateful towards you on my blog for saying what you’ve said, they will have to get through me, first.

    • http://iedarla.wordpress.com iedarla

      One can not impose their morals or perceived truth on another. Humans are sexual by nature, To simply NOT have sex and to enjoy that connection out of fear of pregnancy is astoundingly ignorant.

      In this century, why are we continuing to have this discussion? Women have the right to choose, Even as a Catholic woman, I feel each woman has the right to decide what is right for her and her family.

      Great post Aliza~

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

        Thank you so much, Darla. Yes, it’s amazing some of the thinking (or what passes for thinking) is out there, and it’s beyond me that we’re even having this discussion, too.

        BTW – We lived in the Inland Empire for a bit when my husband and I were first married! Reading your posts makes me nostalgic for that time and that place. :)

      • http://mydrinn.wordpress.com Freedom

        I am not “Imposing” morals as you have stated. I disagree with abortion, unless the mother’s life is in danger.

        As a woman you do also have a right to choose, but if you are married… or have a responsible boyfriend he too should be added into the decision making process.

    • http://twitter.com/sixyearitch Liz Henry (@sixyearitch)

      As a birth mother myself, adoption is far more complicated than “there’s always adoption.” I do not hate your words, but taking such a simplistic view of adoption doesn’t really serve a purpose. Abortion is legal option and I’m thrilled that it is.

    • http://gravatar.com/spotter77 spotter77

      I don’t hate you either, but telling a married couple “simply not to have sex” seems both naive and extreme to me, not to mention invasive.

    • B

      Once you start trying to impose your morality on others, you’ve crossed a line, and are now acting immorally.

      If you disagree, explain why, in your eyes, it’s wrong for me to stifle your morality, but just fine for you step on mine or others’?

      I don’t hate you for what you’re saying, but I do think it’s very hypocritical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gojirama Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe

    I would like to ask…and I am truly asking this from a respectful place….why a woman or couple who is sure they do not want more children, to the extent that they would likely choose abortion if it occurred, not seek surgical sterilization? I know it’s more physically complicated if a woman has a tubal, but from observing my husband’s experience, vasectomy is fast and has a very short recovery time. This has always mystified me.

  • http://gravatar.com/spotter77 spotter77

    Jenna, it could be for any number of reasons. Surgical intervention might not be covered by the person’s medical insurance, or there might be health reasons for not wanting or being able to have surgery until or unless it is an absolutely life-threatening issue. After years of using birth control and once they get into their 40s, they might simply think that they’re too old for it to happen.

    I have an IUD myself, which I chose since getting pregnant is very high on my list of things NOT to do right now, and it’s nearly as effective as a tubal ligation (99% vs 99.05%). I cannot afford surgery, but I would not wish to have it now even if I could, since I’m still in my mid-30s and would like to have the option to have children in a few years’ time if my situation changes. Furthermore, even surgical sterilization is not 100% effective. It’s *very* close–99.05% for a tubal ligation, 99.03% for vasectomies–but the only ways to completely avoid pregnancy are to a) not have sex or b) have a hysterectomy. The first option is unrealistic, particularly between a married couple, and the second is quite extreme and not always possible, as doctors will often refuse to do a hysterectomy as a form of birth control.

  • postpunkchronicles

    Speaking as someone who just went through this last year (See here for my story in short: http://www.kveller.com/blog/parenting/pregnant-again-and-not-completely-happy/ ) I have a thought of two on the subject.

    First, I’m not going to even touch on the halacha of this issue, as frankly I’m late come to this table and I didn’t become fully observant until I was just shy of thirty. I’ll leave this issue to those much more educated to argue those issues. Plus I realize not everyone here is coming from the same world/religious view.

    I am going to respond to this post with my own post soon. I’ll link it to you asap.

    (also pardon my blog, as I’m in a bit of a transition right now. most of my stuff is privatized as I and in the midst of shifting it over to a new domain.)

  • postpunkchronicles

    omg pardon also my spelling! I am holding my baby in my lap as I rush to type this before he figures out which button deletes it all. oops!

  • postpunkchronicles

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