Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban that was signed into law by President Bush in 2003. In this law, abortions during the second trimester of pregnancy are now criminalized, with no exception for the health of the mother.
I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by saying that I am pro-choice, or even that I am intensely, fanatically pro-choice. Abortion rights are the political issue that I consider more important than any other, and nothing determines my votes like a candidate’s stance on this issue. This ruling yesterday was an devastating setback for the pro-choice movement, but more importantly it was a terrible blow to personal rights and freedom for all women.
I realize that abortion is an incredibly emotional issue, and almost everyone has a strong stance one way or another. I respect that people find abortion to be wrong, but I can’t understand their justifications. I have yet to hear one argument made by an anti-choice supporter that made me even consider for one moment that they were right. As long as I have known what abortion is, I have recognized the need for it and been happy that the option was there.
I can’t help but think that most people who are anti-choice are being incredibly short-sighted and naive. They seem to think that these women who are having abortions are using it as a form of birth control, and they are regularly aborting healthy babies for no other reason than that they can’t be bothered with it. They seem to think they are taking it lightly and that they aren’t considering in implications of what they are doing. I will admit, I think there are probably women out there who do feel that way, but I can’t believe that is the majority of the women out there. Every story I have heard about abortion, and everyone I know who has had to deal with it has expressed the pain and the anguish that a decision like that caused.
I, thank God, have never had to make the decision to have an abortion, but there have been times when I thought that I would. I have known and loved people who have gone through this. I have watched them struggle with it morally, ethically, emotionally, and it is heartbreaking in every single instance. Any woman (or couple) who has to make a decision like that has nothing but my sympathy, and I hurt for them. It is a terrible, life-changing choice, and I hope I never have to make it.
But the choice has to be there. How can we possibly live in a society where someone is forced to be a mother? How can we live in a society where a child is brought unwillingly into a family? How can we live in a society that doesn’t respect the fact that having and raising a child should be the most important, well thought-out decision that anyone can make?
They argue that life is precious, and therefore should not be wasted. I agree, life is incredibly precious. And because of that, it should never be taken lightly. How can someone argue that it is OK to bring a baby into a life where they are unwanted and uncared for and have no hope for a healthy happy future? How is it respecting and honoring the miracle of life to condemn a child to misery? How can you argue that that is a better alternative than safely removing a clump of cells from a woman who doesn’t want it? I will say it again: Nobody should ever be forced into motherhood.
And for those of you ready with the “there is no such thing as an unwanted child” argument, how about this? According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) there are approximately 523,000 children in foster care. 523,000 children in foster care. Five hundred and twenty-three thousand children without parents, without family, and many without hope of ever being welcomed into a loving, safe home. And that is just in this country. There are millions of children in orphanages in China, Russia, Africa, and elsewhere. And you think that it is a good idea to introduce more unwanted children into this world?
But even for those people who can justify forcing children into lives like that, and even for those people who think that aborting a potentially healthy baby is an unforgivable sin, what about the other instances? One of the things that upsets me the most about this bill is that there are no exceptions. There are no instances when it is allowed or OK. Not even in the cases of catastrophic fetal problems. Here is the story of one woman:
When I was 18 weeks pregnant at my doctor’s office in Lexington, Massachusetts, I remember eagerly anticipating the ultrasound that would tell my husband and me whether our baby was a boy or a girl. We were so excited, oohing and aahing like the giddy, expectant parents that we were. The technician, however, was quiet, and I started to panic. We learned that the ultrasound indicated that the fetus had an open neural-tube defect, meaning that the spinal column had not closed properly. We had to go to Boston immediately, where a new, high-tech machine could tell us more.
In Boston, the doctor spoke using words no pregnant woman wants to hear – clinical terms like hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The spine, she said, had not closed properly, and because of the location of the opening, it was as bad as it could get. What the doctors knew was awful: the baby would be paralyzed and incontinent, its brain smushed against the base of the skull and the cranium full of fluid. What they didn’t know was devastating: would the baby live at all, and if so, with what sort of mental and developmental defects? Countless surgeries would be required if the baby did live, and none of them could repair the damage.
It sounds naive now, but I never considered pregnancy a gamble. Sitting in the doctor’s windowless office, I tried to read between the lines of complicated medical jargon, searching for answers that weren’t there. But I already knew what I had to do. Even if our baby had a remote chance of surviving, it was not a life we would choose for our child. I asked over and over, “Are we doing the right thing?”
Our family – even my Catholic father and Republican father-in-law, neither of whom was ever pro-choice – assured us that we were. Politics suddenly became personal – their daughter’s heartbreak, their son’s pain, their grandchild’s suffering – and that changed everything. If President Bush’s Federal Abortion Ban had been in force on that day, my husband and I wouldn’t have had this option.
Imagine being pregnant, being overjoyed with the idea that you are going to have a child. Imagine eagerly awaiting the life that you have imagined and then imagine getting news like that. This baby who’s face you have created in your mind, who will have your husband’s eyes and your mother’s smile, this baby you have already named and loved and known. Imagine hearing that this baby will never know you, will never speak, will never be cognizant of anything around it. And that is if, IF, it lives.
And now imagine having to carry that baby to term. For 5 more months you will have to carry this baby, loving it more and more every day, feeling it growing inside you, and at the same time knowing that this baby will never be anything more than a vegetable. Imagine having to actually give birth to this baby. To go through the pain and difficulty of labor and instead of being able to hold your healthy child…
Even the though of it is so incredibly terrible, so catastrophic, that tears are welling up.
Because I now know that if that ever happens to me, if I am ever cursed with the knowledge that my baby barely mentally and physically functions, that will be my exact fate. That will be what I have have to go through.
Or imagine if the news is even worse news:
I could see my baby’s amazing and perfect spine, a precise, pebbled curl of vertebrae. His little round skull. The curve of his nose. I could even see his small leg floating slowly through my uterus.
My doctor came in a moment later, slid the ultrasound sensor around my growing, round belly and put her hand on my shoulder. “It’s not alive,” she said.
She turned her back to me and started taking notes. I looked at the wall, breathing deeply, trying not to cry.
I can make it through this, I thought. I can handle this.
I didn’t know I was about to become a pariah.
I was 19 weeks pregnant, strong, fit and happy, imagining our fourth child, the newest member of our family. He would have dark hair and bright eyes. He’d be intelligent and strong — really strong, judging by his early kicks.
And now this. Not alive?
One of the unintended consequences of this law is that doctors are no longer being trained to perform these procedures, so instead of being able to have the dead fetus removed from her womb immediately, this woman was forced with the choice of a risky induced labor or living for a week with a dead baby in her body while she waited for one of the few doctors in her area to be able to perform the (much safer and easier) abortion.
So thank you, you people who are so-called pro-life. Thank you for condemn women to misery. Thank you for cursing children to awful lives. Thank you for making this world a better place. Well done.