Thursday, July 22, 2004
Abortion for all the wrong reasons: On Monday, I saw several blogs linking to this article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. The article describes the thought process of a woman who, when she discovered she was carrying triplets, decided that one was enough.
The doctor had just finished telling me I was going to have a low-risk pregnancy. She turned on the sonogram machine. There was a long pause, then she said, ''Are you sure you didn't take fertility drugs?'' I said, ''I'm positive.'' Peter (the boyfriend) and I were very shocked when she said there were three. ''You know, this changes everything,'' she said. ''You'll have to see a specialist.''
My immediate response was, I cannot have triplets. I was not married; I lived in a five-story walk-up in the East Village; I worked freelance; and I would have to go on bed rest in March. I lecture at colleges, and my biggest months are March and April. I would have to give up my main income for the rest of the year. There was a part of me that was sure I could work around that. But it was a matter of, Do I want to?
I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: ''Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?''
This shocking disdain for the value of human life has shocked many. The idea that having a child (or children) would entail a change in one's life was just too much for this incredibly selfish woman to bear. Elsewhere in the article she laments the possiblity that she would have to move to a different neighborhood. She would never be able to get out of the house and shop only at Costco. (How those two jive I've got no idea.)
There are lots of insighful comments on this horror here. And for a perspective from an infertile couple who is trying to adopt, check this out.
How could you, Amy Richards? How could you? Do you have any idea what it’s like to be on the outside, looking in? Do you know what it’s like when, like clockwork every Sunday, some well-meaning (and maybe not so well-meaning) sisters ask my wife, “So—when are you going to start having kids?”
You, as a feminist, would no doubt be highly impressed with my wife. Aerospace engineer, highly capable, strong leader, making dang good money in an industry still dominated by men. And you know what? She doesn’t want it. She’ll be 31 in September, and by this stage of her life, she expected she would be at home, changing diapers, wiping up goobers. As much success as she has had and continues to achieve in her career, it’s not where her heart is. I don’t think her heart has ever been in it.
I’m not going to tell my wife about what you have done. I don’t want to think about what her reaction would be, as it would probably end up with me holding her as she cried some more.
Then today, Times guest columnist Barbara Ehrenreich comes up with an article decrying the fact that there is still a stigma attached to abortion and that most women today aren't militiantly pro-choice (i.e. no restrictions whatsoever on abortion).
It would be unfair, though, to pick on the women who are in denial about aborting "defective" fetuses. At least 30 million American women have had abortions since the procedure was legalized, mostly for the kind of reasons that anti-abortion people dismiss as "convenience" - a number that amounts to about 40 percent of American women. Yet in a 2003 survey conducted by a pro-choice group, only 30 percent of women were unambivalently pro-choice, suggesting that there may be an appalling number of women who are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves.
Honesty begins at home, so I should acknowledge that I had two abortions during my all-too-fertile years. You can call me a bad woman, but not a bad mother. I was a dollar-a-word freelancer and my husband a warehouse worker, so it was all we could do to support the existing children at a grubby lower-middle-class level. And when it comes to my children - the actual extrauterine ones, that is - I was, and remain, a lioness.
Choice can be easy, as it was in my case, or truly agonizing. But assuming the fetal position is not an appropriate response. Sartre called this "bad faith," meaning something worse than duplicity: a fundamental denial of freedom and the responsibility that it entails. Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights. The freedoms that we exercise but do not acknowledge are easily taken away.
Let me suggest to Ehrenreich a possible explanation why some of those women who had abortions "are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves." Maybe because they've been through it, they know how wrong it is. They know how damaging it can be not only, obviously, to the child, but also to the woman herself.
It's like calling some guy in Alcoholics Anonymous a hypocrite for counseling others not to get drunk because at one time he got sloshed every night. Yes, it may be hypocritical for him, but it doesn't mean he's wrong to say it.
As for Ehrenreich, I've no sympathy for her plight. Is she a bad mother? Yes. She killed two of her children because she didn't think she could afford them. The selfishness is again astounding. "If I can't afford them, then no one else can have them," she seems to be saying. Adoption? Never even considered. If she can't enjoy them as they grow up, why should she have to go through nine months of annoyances? After all, when measured against a new human life, that's what the mourning sickness and the bladder problems and the aches and pains fade into -- a mere annoyance.
What both these women have done is nothing less than destroy innocent human lives because they would've been inconvenienced by them.
When "pro-choice" advocates warn darkly of a return to the days of "back alley abortions" ignore them. Abortions nowadays are so rarely about saving women's lives, it's about not being inconvenienced.