Thursday, January 24, 2013


This is a follow-up to my last post.

Let me be frank: whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, you are welcome in this space.  But, that being said, it's my space.  A place for my beliefs and thoughts, and that is what you get.  If you don't like it and you want to never come back, have a great journey.  If you don't like it (or you do) and you want to stick around, it's great to see you back.  But, I'm not responsible for you or your beliefs- I'm only responsible for my own and how I choose to articualate them (or not).

I actually consider myself quite tolerant.  I don't judge people for their beliefs or choices; explaining or sharing my thoughts, arguing for the causes I support, and standing up in support of popular or unpopular issues are on me.  They have nothing to do with not loving those on the other side of those issues.  As it relates to abortion, I actually know quite a number of women who have had them.  Do I love them? Yes.  I always will.  One of the women is actually very close to me, and I love her completely.  Do I support her decision?  No.  Regardless of the reasons (and I know, there are some that really, really pull at the heart), I don't.  They know this.  They know me.  But I'm not responsible for their decisions, good or bad, any more than they are responsible for mine.  We each make choices and we are each, cosmicly and Divinely, accountable.  Right or wrong, they aren't held guilty for my life, and I'm not held for theirs.  Love doesn't mean 100% agreement; tolerance isn't joining into an activity that you find deplorable (or supporting that activity).

I realize that my views on abortion, especially in the infertility community, aren't typical.  It is not uncommon to have multiples aborted in the hopes of carrying a singleton or twins (selective reduction).  It is not uncommon to abort babies who aren't typical; according to a genetic counselor I recently talked to, the current U.S. statistic on aborting babies with Down syndrome is 95%. (That's not a typo; she explained that 95 out of 100 parents abort a child when Down's is confirmed).  With increased fertility assistance, comes the risk of increased abortion and, while many view it as a "I-have-higher-order-multiples-and-the-health-risk-is-too-great" or "my-child-isn't-normal-and-I-cant-emotionally-take-it" or "my-child-wont-survive-post-birth-so-I'm-going-to-end-the-pregnancy-now", there are simply those who abort because they only want one child.   Jenny, a mother of twins who aborted one, is a mother who never doubted that she would only have 1 child from her ART, according to a NY Times article, "The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her."  She went on to say.  "“If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.”

The article also quotes Dr. Naomi Bloomfield, an obstetrician: "“I couldn’t have imagined reducing twins for nonmedical reasons,” she said, “but I had an amnio and would have had an abortion if I found out that one of the babies had an anomaly, even if it wasn’t life-threatening. I didn’t want to raise a handicapped child. Some people would call that selfish, but I wouldn’t. Parents who abort for an anomaly just don’t want that life for themselves, and it’s their prerogative to fashion their lives how they want. Is terminating two to one really any different morally?” "

And, while not as common in the U.S., abortions for sex-selection are, in my opinion, one of the worst uses of "women's rights" when the majority of the babies being aborted are girls.  In 1994, the UN called to stop "discrimination against the girl child", including abortion.  This quote, among others, is quoted in the World Health Organization's report on preventing sex-selected abortions.  (WHO is a pro-choice organization.)  Of course, sex-based abortions aren't just outside the U.S. Again, citing the above NYT article, "Consider the choice of which fetus to eliminate: if both appear healthy (which is typical with twins), doctors aim for whichever one is easier to reach. If both are equally accessible, the decision of who lives and who dies is random. To the relief of patients, it’s the doctor who chooses — with one exception. If the fetuses are different sexes, some doctors ask the parents which one they want to keep."

Here's where I find the largest issue, though (my personal opinions aside).  You can't have it both ways.  Don't congratulate me on my pregnancy on one hand, but then tell me that my inconvenience can be gotten rid of.  Don't buy a shower gift, celebrate the life growing within me, or ask me about prospective names, when you believe that what I carry isn't a person with dignity but a possible mistake or error of genetics that I should get rid of.  We can't have it both ways.  It's a person or it isn't.

Science tells us that the "it" is a "he" or "she" and that, indeed, the life growing within is a unique person.  So, if that is the case, then it becomes about choice. 

Mary Elizabeth Williams, a pro-choice advocate and writer, sums it up best, I think, in her article So What If Abortion Ends Life? .  She believes that life, indeed, begins at conception, but what does that matter?  When talking about her own pregnancies, she says, "I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice."  I think, however, that she hits the nail of the movement on the head when she states, unequivocably, that: "All life is not equal."

Isn't that the crux of the abortion argument?  All life isn't equal.  We weigh and judge, and somehow, somewhere, one (or more in some cases) of the people involved are found to come out on top.  It's an ugly truth, no doubt, but still a truth, I think. 

"I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born."  Amen, Mary Elizabeth.  You're right.   And, along that, if we want a world where abortion is legal and 100% acceptable to the end, then we have to consider the logic.  If I dont want my baby, then it's an abortion we can celebrate but, if I do, then it is a death we mourn.  The logic doesnt quite fit for me, any more than the belief that infanticide in the first few months of life should be considered just another sort of late term abortion.

The article ends with this warm and fuzzy thought: "...The fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing." 

A life worth sacrificing...  That phrase haunts me this morning. How many groups used that same ideology?  Do you think slave owners thought that?  Those committing the murder of countless Jews in Europe during the early 20th century?  The genocides that wage throughout Africa?  Or, what about in our back yard...  When someone is killed in an armed robbery.... when a woman is raped... when a serial killer satisfies his inhumane urge- were those lives that were changed forever (and the lives of those who loved them forever marked), were those lives worth sacrificing?  Is it simply a matter of the weak being destroyed by the strong?

From an evolutionary stance, I suppose someone is saying "YES!  Exactly!"  But does that make it right?  Because I was unable to escape from my rape almost 20 years ago, does that mean that it was okay?  Because the attacker was stronger than I was?  If I kill the baby that is growing inside of me for any reason- my convenience, feeling busy and overwhelmed, finances, the baby being ill- is that different than me, in a way, becoming like that rapist, exerting my free will over someone else, who has no defense?

A life worth sacrificing implies that there is a life worth saving, that one life is more that another.  In the case of an ectopic pregnancy or a life threatening illness where a child is delivered too young too save to save the mother, these are valid arguments and, in such a case, we aren't talking about selective abortion and more than a miscarriage would be.  In a situation where an action is taken to save a life that results in the death of a life, we have tragedy.  We have pain and sorrow.  We have the sacrifice of one for the saving of another.  One of my dearest friends faced 2 ectopic pregnancies, and each of those babies is mourned (just like her miscarriage) and all 3 are loved as is her born daughter.  There was no choice; there was a medical procedure to save her life that resulted in the death of her baby.  Just as a mother may choose cancer treatments that result in the life of her preborn child in order to save her life (or, on the flip side, may refuse them to save her baby at the loss of her own life), it's true: we judge and weigh, and that ultimate sacrifice of one results in the salvation of another.

But in looking at selective abortion, we throw in a new element: motive.

If someone breaks into my house and I kill them to protect my family, I've still killed someone.  I've committed homocide.  I've taken the life of another human being.  Our society views this as justifiable... I was protecting my own life- had I not killed that person, my life would have been ended.  I was protecting the life of my family- had I not killed that person, the lives of my family would have been snuffed out.  Justifiable.  A sacrifice that is outweighed by the saving of another.

If someone breaks into my house and they kill me to steal my stereo, they've committed homocide and have taken the life of another human being.  Our society views this as murder.  Their motive was not considered admirable, rather it was selfish.  They took a life for their own needs and purpose.  They ended the life of another because of their wants.  Maybe they needed that stereo so that they could sell it to feed their family.  Maybe they didnt, deep down, want to kill me, but they really needed what they needed and felt that they just had to do it.  It's still murder... Perhaps there are circumstances that we'll consider at their sentencing, but it's still murder... It's still wrong... A sacrifice that is not outweighed by their view of saving.

If I walk into a Planned Parenthood today, at 14 weeks pregnant, and say that I'm done... I don't want to be pregnant anymore, I'd pay my fee, my baby would be killed, and I'd walk away.  If I go outside, and through an act of violence, my baby dies, that perpetrator can be charged with first degree murder.  (I live in Pennsylvania, although 38 states have on-the-books, fetal homocide laws.  In PA, the Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. tit. 18 § 106 and § 1102 define classes of offenses, including crimes against an unborn child and provide penalties. § 1102 was amended in 2008 to provide for the sentence of the first degree murder and second degree murder or an unborn child (2008 HB 1845). Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. tit. 18. § 2601 et seq. define crimes again an unborn child, including criminal homicide, murder, voluntary manslaughter, and aggravated assault of an unborn child. Unborn child is defined as in § 3203, to mean an individual organism of the species Homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.)  (For more state laws on fetal homocide, click here.)

This isnt an issue that can be settled in a day.  It is a topic that will always inspire passionate feelings on both side of the aisle.  Sadly, like many of the issues of the developing world, it is also an issue that will also inspire people on both sides who are willing to be nasty and inhumane in how they argue and fight.  I hope that's not where we have to be.  I hope that's not where arguments have to reside, in some hell of anger and hatred against one another.  Rather, I'd hope that nonviolence and love- on both sides of the issue- would prevail and we'd be able to sit together and converse, like the humans we claim to be and (both sides) claim to be fighting for.  I hope that we'd be able to see our battles as ones that we fight because, morally, we have no choice in matter: we must stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The pro-abortion folks I know truly believe they are fighting for women's rights and for a group that is marginalized; the pro-life folks feel the exact same way. 

One of my heros, as I mentioned earlier this week, was Martin Luther King, Jr.  His message of love over hate, and of nonviolence at all costs, are ones that continue to inspire me today.  As we debate and advocate, his words, more than any other, I think can guide us in seeing the humanity and worth in those we disagree with.  "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

Perhaps, however, this quote is the one that marks my feelings on speaking out about this issue, in spite of the negative comments or disagreement.  "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  This is something that matters to me, on so many fronts.  Agree or disagree, my silence would guilt my own heart.


cheryllookingforward said...

As someone who is pro-choice, I have to say that I completely respect the other side of this argument. I think it's the only "political" thing where I understand the other view and I can see why you and others feel this way. It isn't going to change my mind, but I respect it. Having so many losses has made me understand both sides so much better. I guess my "pro-choice" view is the one described as safe, legal and rare. I hate the idea that someone would use abortion as birth control, but I can see how carrying a baby from a rape could tear your heart out. One person could have the baby and raise her while another would feel like she was dying every day of that pregnancy. From another point of view, a teenager could find herself pregnant and could have the baby with her family supporting her, another knows her parents will kick her out of the house and leave her homeless. We all deal with life differently and live in difference conditions. I can't dictate to a woman how she lives her life.

But I DO understand why you feel they way you do about abortion. I hate it, too.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up I was always pro-choice. Although I loved babies and was saddened to think of someone terminating a "potential life," I swallowed the rhetoric of my liberal parents and community and believed abortions before viability were ok. It seemed like the people who were pro-choice were crazy religious people.

But then I grew up and got pregnant. I went for an 8 week ultrasound, where there were no changes to my body besides putting on a couple of pounds and feeling sick and saw a little baby waving stubby arms and with a flickering heartbeat. That was no mass of cells, it was a little person that could move, with all the potential to become a whole person. And then I knew that abortions really were murder and that I could never end the life of my baby, no matter how small and dependent he was. And I think it's wrong to have abortions.

But, I just don't see our society ever accepting that fact. There is too much disregard for human life, even human life that is right there in front of you. Kids are abused, mentally ill and homeless people ignored, innocent people murdered for money or anger or just for being there. How will our society ever respect a life that is invisible? Plus, abortions are expedient. Whether you are a single mother who can't afford another child, a student with a plan for a life that doesn't involve children for the next 10 years, or have been told your child is abnormal. It's so easy to make the problem go away. It's cheap. No one has to even know you were pregnant. Abortions are easily obtainable. So I've changed my personal feelings about abortion, but I don't think society will.

When I was about 34 weeks pregnant I was riding the bus from my office to my OB for an appointment. There was an ad on the bus for late-term abortions. I felt my belly, my perfect little baby, who even if born that very day would likely only require a little bit of assistance in the hospital before going on to live a normal life and thought, how could anyone kill that. That surely is murder. I told my doctor about the ad and asked her if I could really still have an abortion if I wanted to. She said there were places that would do it, but that it typically wasn't done, and that she didn't do it. I told her I didn't understand because, even if my life required the pregnancy to end, like in pre-eclampsia, the baby would most likely live if removed from me without having to be murdered on the inside first. She just shrugged. It just made me feel sick. Sick sick sick. I wish every life was as loved and cherished as it deserves to be.

Anonymous said...

We have a high level of unmarried mothers who parent their numerous children, adoption is rare in my country, we have a very good welfare system which supports them. Unfortunately these children are dragged up- do not tell me that they are lucky to be alive,they have no chance in life. Life is not fun when you have no money, no work, no father and a stressed mother.

Catherine W said...

Michele - you know my story. I have a living child who could have been legally aborted when she was born. But I'm still pro-choice.

But I have complete respect for your beliefs too. Please don't feel you have to hide them. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

quadmom said...

I really admire you for posting this!

Unknown said...

I'm one of those children who was dragged up.. rather than raised. When my own mother found out she was pregnant with me, my father demanded an abortion. She refused. My life has value. How dare you imply it did/does not, because it drained the system, and wasn't fun?? I worked hard to overcome the obstacles dealt to me, I'm raising two AMAZING daughters, I was a surrogate mother, I care & love the Alzheimer's daily. I do NOT drain the system, I contribute, and I'm thankful EVERY single day my unmarried poor mother chose life over abortion. I'm pro choice, but value the fact it is a life in there as soon as the heart beats.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing that so eloquently <3