Quite a number of years ago, before the murder of George Tiller, MD in 2009 (see my post In Memoriam George Tiller, May 31, 2009), the Students for Choice group at the medical school where I worked had a forum with a speaker who was the minister that counseled potential abortion patients in Dr. Tiller’s practice. (Yes, he had a minister to do counseling. He was murdered while acting as an usher in his church. Don’t forget that!) During the discussion, one student stood up to identify himself as a person who was adopted as a baby, and how he was so glad that he had not been aborted. He talked about the wonderful love and support he had gotten from his adoptive parents, and how it had made it possible for him to get to medical school.
I was very happy for him, but it is a specious argument in two important ways. First, one can never know what “might have been”, and who a baby born would have been. In addition, this in no way begins to address the pregnancies with fetuses who have conditions incompatible with life, or the trauma of giving birth to a 12-year old who is the victim of incest, or indeed any pregnant person. A person carrying a baby to term is 14 times more likely to die than one having an abortion, and in some circumstances (Black women in Mississippi) 118 times more likely to die! (cited by Michelle Goodwin in an excellent piece in the NY Times, June 26, 2022, “No, Justice Alito, Reproductive Justice is in the Constitution”).
The second flaw in his argument, personal as it was to him, is that all children are not guaranteed such an outcome if they are born and adopted. It would be incredibly wonderful if all children had terrific, loving, supportive parents, when biologic or adopted or of any other combination, especially if they also have the financial and emotional capability of raising a (or another) child. But this is far from always the case, for any kind of parent. It is a romantic pipe dream of the “pro-life” movement that being given the opportunity to be born means anything is possible for the child. This is the position taken recently by, for example, the Cornell Republicans, who tweeted '“Hundreds of thousands of children will now have the opportunity to live life to their fullest potential” (Cornell Daily Sun, June 26, 2002). This is nonsense; having that opportunity requires more than being born. It requires love, and safety, and food, and housing, and education, and nurturance. The kind of things that the medical student above apparently had. The kind of things that millions of children born already do not have access to. And, clearly, the kind of things that many Republicans (and others, likely; I didn’t want to make this about political party, but it was the Cornell Republicans who issued the statement) have completely refused, continuously, to support for children born in the US. The meme that “pro-lifers” love only unborn, not born, life, is sadly, the effective truth. (Note that I do not mean that all, or even most, people who identify as “pro-life” feel this way, but it is the effective practice of those they elect to Congress and state legislatures. Of course, if we were going by what most people believe, over 60% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.)
People who are pro-choice also use specific examples, individual stories, and they are also gripping. A post making the rounds on FB since the Dobbs decision says: ”Overturning Roe does not stop abortions, it stops SAFE abortions!” and this is absolutely true. As much as the anti-abortion forces would like to prevent all abortions (they think), abortion have been part of human life since...forever. But they have not always been as safe as they have become since the Roe decision, and now they are about the safest procedure that can be done, and even safer when done with medication. I thought I’d include a few of those stories, anecdotes, that accompany these posts because they are each as real as the story of that medical student, written in the voice of one who says that they are not “pro-abortion” but “pro-life” as in:
· I'm pro-Becky who found out at her 20-week anatomy scan that the infant she had been so excited to bring into this world had developed without life sustaining organs.
· I'm pro-Susan who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realization that her assailant planted his seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test result a month later.
· I'm pro-Theresa who hemorrhaged due to a placental abruption, causing her parents, spouse, and children to have to make the impossible decision on whether to save her or her unborn child.
· I'm pro-little Cathy who had her innocence ripped away from her by someone she should have been able to trust and her 11-year-old body isn't mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.
· I'm pro-Melissa who's working two jobs just to make ends meet and has to choose between bringing another child into poverty or feeding the children she already has because her spouse walked out on her.
· I'm pro-Brittany who realizes that she is in no way financially, emotionally, or physically able to raise a child.
· I'm pro-Emily who went through IVF, ending up with SIX viable implanted eggs requiring selective reduction to ensure the safety of her and a SAFE number of fetuses.
· I'm pro-Jessica who is FINALLY getting the strength to get away from her physically abusive spouse only to find out that she is carrying the monster's child.
· I'm pro-Vanessa who went into her confirmation appointment after YEARS of trying to conceive only to hear silence where there should be a heartbeat.
· I'm pro-Lindsay who lost her virginity in her sophomore year with a broken condom and now has to choose whether to be a teenage mom or just a teenager.
· I'm pro-Courtney who just found out she's already 13 weeks along, but the egg never made it out of her fallopian tube so either she terminates the pregnancy or risks dying from internal bleeding.
The post concludes:
You can argue and say that I'm pro-choice all you want, but the truth is:
You don't get to pick and choose which scenarios should be accepted. It's not about which stories you don't agree with. It's about fighting for the women in the stories that you do agree with and the CHOICE that was made.
Women's rights are meant to protect ALL women, regardless of their situation!
Overturning Roe does not stop abortions, it stops SAFE abortions!
Abortion is healthcare.
It is health care. And it is critical that be available. To all.
Yes. And it is horrifying that this country is now where it is.
A powerful, sobering, and well written piece, Josh. The Less-than-Supreme Court is dragging our nation toward a very dark and dangerous place.
Appreciating your elegant pro-life profiles. I've been thinking along the same terms because Pro-life should mean all lives.
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