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 financially comfortable stay-at-home mom; we have health insurance, many friends, a good support system, 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.
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–that we would all be fine?
What if I didn’t want to have another child?
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 desire?
My desire 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 desire to keep the undefinable, debilitating exhaustion of new parenthood relegated to a distant memory?
My desire to not have a car seat and stroller at this stage of my life?
My desire to nourish myself, now that I finally have some time and something creative and productive to do with it?
My desire 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 desire that my days of volunteering in pre-school be over?My desire that one day soon I will be watching what I want on TV?
Can you look me in the eyes, and tell me that my desire 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 feelings, your zeal, your advocacy.
I simply feel that I should have the right to put 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.
I understand why you might see an abortion clinic and those who utilize it as tragic and unjust. I know that you tend to believe that women who get abortions fall into one of two categories: sad and in need of help, or irresponsible sluts who use abortion as a form of birth control.
About the former group, I would say that, sad or not, nobody wants “help” they never asked for. As to the latter group, people who use abortion as a cheap and easy fix for their irresponsible behavior (if such people even exist) are presenting symptoms of much deeper societal ills than are represented by 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 that you believe that you are in a better position than I to determine what is best for me and my entire family? If not, then what right do you have to make abortion illegal? And if so, then I believe you are advocating for the wrong thing. I believe you need to be advocating for better, less expensive, and more readily available mental health care.
About Aliza Worthington
Brooklyn-bred, Baltimore by choice, music snob, history nerd, family-obsessed, friend-dependent, amateur glassblower, passable dancer, reluctant cook, Larry David freak, rabid Mets and Orioles fan, writer/publisher at The Worthingon Post, contributor at The Broad Side, and now, resident Jew (read, of course: doesn’t subscribe to UC’s first tenet) at Unfundamentalist Christians. Sometimes her writing follows The Seinfeld Model of “no learning, no hugging.” Other times it involves lots of both.