Ahoy! SparkLife’s wisest Auntie is taking a well-deserved vacation from the advice game this week. While we eagerly await her return, we’ll be publishing a few of her vintage posts! 🙂
This is a topic that has been leaving me so winded and depressed lately. I didn’t want to email you at first because I knew I would just spread my depressiveness to you and everyone reading this, and I would just start a fight in the comment section. But I have nowhere else to go but to you, so I apologize in advance for any conflict I cause here.
Nineteen years ago, my mother had me when she was sixteen years old. She had the means to get an abortion, but she had me instead. Ever since I could remember, she always told me that she was so glad that she had me, and always tells the story of having me as a success story, about how she overcame all the obstacles in her way and didn’t go the easy way out.
Because of this, I’m torn in two when placed between being pro-life and pro-choice. I hear plenty of stories about women harassed at clinics and all the troubles they face, and deep in my heart, I feel so empathetic for them. I want to say that they have a choice, but wouldn’t I be a hypocrite? My mother always told me how much it baffled her that pro-choicers never considered the fact that they were fetuses once, and although I find that extremely callous, I can’t argue that it’s objectively correct. If she had had that abortion, I wouldn’t have the luxury of writing you this letter.
Just a few days ago, my friend called me in tears because she found out she was pregnant. There’s a women’s center on campus that helps people like her, so I took her there to get help. They helped her set up an appointment at PP, and as I’m writing this, she’s at the clinic. I felt scared for her, and all I wanted was to see her relieved and happy. But at the same time, I felt so stupid and hypocritical. I was going against the entire reason for my existence.
If I was pro-choice, wouldn’t that mean that I wouldn’t want to be here? Wouldn’t it be like a gay person not wanting legal action against workplace discrimination? Wouldn’t it be like a black person who doesn’t mind being unjustly targeted by police?
I’ve been doing so much research on the Internet about this issue, but everything is biased on one side or the other. And I never wanted to seek advice from everyone at first because I knew everyone had some sort of motive or feeling about it. If I went to the people at my church, they’d tell me their pro-life opinions. If I went to some of my friends, they’d tell me their pro-choice opinions. Part of the reason why I didn’t want to ask you at first was because I know you’re liberal, and while there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, I know you’re just going to tell me your pro-choice opinions. And now everyone’s gonna go down to the comment section and either a) say pro-choice things and pat each other’s backs, b) say pro-life things and pat each other’s backs, or c) kill each other. Nothing is objectively correct anymore. Nothing can be in the middle road anymore. Anything I say will just anger someone, and everyone will hate me.
Well! In that case, I guess there’s no point in even trying to respond to your letter, eh? You’ve got this all figured out, my friend, and all that’s left is for the rest of us to pile into the comments section and start the inevitable process of murdering each other. Everyone into the pool of death! Don’t forget your battleax!
… Except of course, that’s totally not happening. And geez, Sparkler. For a person who’s done so much research on the topic of abortion, you’re remarkably uninformed on at least one vitally important point: that being pro-life and being pro-choice aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be both—in the form of being personally unwilling ever to have an abortion yourself, yet still believing the option should be available to others. And despite what you seem to think, being pro-choice does not mean believing that everyone should exercise that option, or that every inconvenient, unwanted, or problematic pregnancy should be terminated. It just means that you believe women should be able to make that decision for themselves… you know, the way your mother did.
Because you said it yourself: She had the means to get an abortion. She wasn’t forced to go through with her pregnancy. You’re here because she decided to keep you. You’re here because she chose.
And look, you’re right: Personally, I do believe that’s a choice your mom (and everyone else) should have the right to make. For one, I just don’t think it’s okay, in a cosmic/karmic sense, to force pregnancy and childbirth on a pregnant 13 year-old who was raped by her stepfather, or to compel a college student to have a child that will give her abusive boyfriend a permanent, legal hold over her life, or to tell the woman whose 20-week-old fetus has fatal defects that she has to stay pregnant for another five months just to give birth and watch her baby die. But I also feel this way because of the fact that outlawing abortion is a profoundly ineffective way of keeping abortions from happening. (If your research into this subject hasn’t included any first-person accounts of how women with unwanted pregnancies fared during the pre-Roe-v-Wade era, it should. Spoiler alert: Things were really, really bad.)
But of course, I’m sure all of this is exactly the kind of stuff you planned in advance to dismiss as “pro-choice opinions.” So rather than giving you answers, let me give you some questions instead, which you can answer yourself, on your own time, in order to find your way to a better sense of where you stand on this issue. For instance: You say, “If I was pro-choice, wouldn’t that mean that I wouldn’t want to be here?” And… well, have you ever actually asked yourself that question, and thought it through all the way to the end? Have you ever considered whether it is, in fact, possible to be glad that your mom made the choice not to abort you, while also simultaneously being glad that it was a choice, for her and every woman in that same position? If it hadn’t been a choice—if you existed because your mom was compelled by the state to go through with her pregnancy, whether she wanted to or not—would you feel better or worse about the circumstances surrounding your birth? What is the difference, if any, between appreciating the outcome of a person’s decision versus believing that she should not have been allowed to decide in the first place?
And on that same note: Your friend had an abortion, and it’s true, the person that fetus would have become will not exist as a result. But in all likelihood, your friend made that difficult decision at least in part because she does want to have kids someday, and those kids will be at least in part the product of her choice not to become a mother before she was ready. Does the kid she chose not to have deserve a chance at life more than the kid, or kids, she’ll have down the line? If so, why? If not, why not?
To be clear, there are no right answers to these questions, and also no easy ones. You’ll have to just think your way through to whatever feels like the truth to you. But when you say there’s no such thing as being middle-of-the-road about abortion, I must gently point out to you that the middle of the road is where you’re most likely to end up, because it’s where the vast majority of us stand on this issue. Very few pro-choice people believe in unrestricted, limitless abortion access at any time for any reason; conversely, very few people are pro-life to the point of believing that the aforementioned 13-year-old girl should be forced to give birth to her rapist’s baby. The purest forms of both these positions are also way too extreme for most people to be comfortable with. That’s why, despite your pessimism, it’s almost always possible to have productive (or at least interesting) discussions on the subject—because for all our differences, there’s almost always at least a little bit of common ground from which to start the conversation.
… A conversation I’m sure our fabulous Sparkletariat will be commencing right this minute. Happy discussing, kiddos.
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