I have never had an abortion. Through a combination of dumb luck, (mostly) good efforts and respectful partners, I managed to avoid getting pregnant until the time when I wanted to have babies. But if it hadn’t worked out that way, and I had my share of pregnancy scares over the years, I would have had an abortion. And now that I’ve finished having babies, if I get pregnant again I would almost definitely have an abortion. So, absolutely, abortion is a motherhood issue and I not only fully support reproductive choice but I fully support those women who have chosen abortion.
Having children reinforced my pro-choice beliefs rather than weakening them. But there is something noticeably confronting about being happily pregnant and calling your own little clump of cells a ‘baby’ (and grieving it accordingly when one is lost to miscarriage), after spending years as a pro-choice activist working with the language of the abortion debate. This article, “So what if abortion ends life?” from Mary Elizabeth Williams (whose writing I am really starting to love) in Salon is about moving the abortion rights campaign away from arguing the semantics around early life and highlighting that the real issue always has been and always will be that a woman’s life is worth more.
It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better. Instead, we let right-wingers perpetuate the sentimental fiction that no one with a heart — and certainly no one who’s experienced the wondrous miracle of family life — can possibly resist tiny fingers and tiny toes growing inside a woman’s body. We give a platform to the notion that, as Christina Locke opined in a recent New York Times Op-Ed, “motherhood had slyly changed us. We went from basking in the rights that feminism had afforded us to silently pledging never to exercise them. Nice mommies don’t talk about abortion.”
Don’t they? The majority of women who have abortions – and one in three American women will – are already mothers. And I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your ass I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion.
My belief that life begins at conception is mine to cling to. And if you believe that it begins at birth, or somewhere around the second trimester, or when the kid finally goes to college, that’s a conversation we can have, one that I hope would be respectful and empathetic and fearless. We can’t have it if those of us who believe that human life exists in utero are afraid we’re somehow going to flub it for the cause. In an Op-Ed on “Why I’m Pro-Choice” in the Michigan Daily this week, Emma Maniere stated, quite perfectly, that “Some argue that abortion takes lives, but I know that abortion saves lives, too.” She understands that it saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.