Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why I'm Still Pro-Choice,
Even After Our Family Lost A Baby

Recently, my daughter-in-law lost the fetus she was carrying, at five months along.  To her, it wasn't a fetus, it was a baby.  To my son, it was a baby.  To me... it was my grandchild-to-be and I am very, very sad.  I had visions of holding him in my lap in a rocking chair, reading Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.  Of hiking the hills at the zoo to show him the elephants and the giraffes.  My dreams for this child died when he did, three months ago.

My DIL had his hand and footprints tattooed onto her wrist.  They are small, and amazing.  He even had a crooked thumb from thumbsucking, or perhaps simply a family trait he got from his father.  I've seen pictures of him, and he was perfect and beautiful, for his stage of development.  I am still weeping sometimes, three months later, and I too had his initials dyed into my skin.  I will never forget James Mychal, and not just because of the tattoo.

So don't let anyone accuse me of not understanding the pain of losing a pregnancy, or of being "pro-abortion."  The reality is, this baby-to-be never drew breath.  Was he a human being?  Legally, no.  Morally, emotionally?  Yes, as far as his parents are concerned, as far as many people are concerned.  Did he have a soul?  Some religions would say yes, others no.

I... can honestly say that I don't know if he was really a human being, if he had a soul.  I know that I loved him, and I miss him, and feel so helpless that there was nothing I could do to help him live.  I would have done anything.  But was he a "person"?

This is where the abortion debate gets hairy.  To me, a fertilized embryo is a potential human being.  Of which, science tells us something like 1 in 4, possibly even 1 in 3, in the course of nature, never attains three months of prenatal development.  Yes, it has DNA, and a heartbeat (after a certain stage of development) - just as there is in a person who is clinically brain dead, whose heart is kept beating and lungs filled with oxygen via artificial means.  Could either survive independently?  No.  Are those clusters of DNA inhabited by a soul?  My take is, probably not, but I can't prove they are not. (Nor can I prove that the cluster of DNA currently filling out my jeans is inhabited by a soul, for that matter).

Sometimes, choices have to be made, and often they're emotion, not fact-based.  If I could carry only one person from a burning building, I would choose a three year old child, over a 33 year old genius scientist in a wheelchair.  Would I choose a cluster of eight cells, whether frozen in a vial or implanted in a uterus, or even an eight-and-a-half months fetus over a living, breathing woman?   No.  If my DIL had progressed further in her pregnancy, and a choice had to be made, her life or the baby's, no question I would have chosen her.

Pregnancies are surgically and chemically ended for all kinds of reasons.  If she had not been able to deliver her baby, my DIL would have required a surgical abortion, to remove the dead fetus lest it kill her.  Similar reasons necessitate almost all of the very, very small fraction of surgical abortions done mid or late term in pregnancy.  The number of doctors qualified to perform these procedures is even smaller.  Recently I read of a woman from Maryland who had to travel to Colorado for a late term abortion that saved her life and preserved her hope of having more children.

There are those who stalk, threaten, harass, and even attempt to kill doctors, nurses, and support personnel who perform these procedures, hoping to prevent them from continuing to do so.  Others seek to pass laws prohibiting these procedures, even to save the life of the mother.  Thankfully, in the latest attempt Mississippi said, "Oh hell no!"  My blogfriend TotsyMae put up a great and provocative post on the subject.

I think that some, if not all, of the domestic terrorists truly believe they are "saving babies."  Yet what they are doing is endangering women - and any babies they might bear, in the future.  Note - I fully support the right of all Americans to peacefully protest and state opinions that differ from mine.  It crosses over into terrorism when people attempt to physically intimidate others from lawfully accessing a health care clinic, send threatening letters or make such phone calls, when they post websites marking others as gunsite targets, when they plant bombs or use weapons  to assassinate doctors and medical and support staff.

Am I comfortable with abortion-as-birth-control?  No.  I have known some women who have used abortion-as-birth-control, and it makes me want to retch.  Do I recognize that contraceptive failures, rape, and medical complications happen?  Yes.  (Been there, done that, got an entire collection of T-shirts.)

I believe there is room to honestly discuss how we can continue to reduce the number of early elective abortions.  Forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term is reinstituing a form of slavery. We have the bloody coat hangers to prove that prohibiting abortion by law doesn't "save" women or babies.  I personally know women who endured illegal abortions - and the stories are horrifying.

The flip side of the anti-abortion coin is that a government which has the power to prohibit abortion - either altogether, or in specific circumstances, also has the power to mandate them.  Do we truly want the government to be the one saying, "If you already have XX number of children (as they do in China), or the embryo or fetus has these or these abnormalities, you must have an abortion"?

Women who choose abortion, and doctors who provide them, are often (not always) doing the best they can for their families.  I have known many women and read stories where they agonized over this decision.  It was not made lightly, and haunts them to this day.

I have also read stories where women use adoption in lieu of birth control, and that's not a happy solution, either.  Recently I read a story by a woman who, with her husband, adopted a baby boy.  Eighteen months later, they adopted his new baby brother (by the same birth mother).  They dearly love their sons, but the boys have serious and expensive health issues, and these are not wealthy people.  So when birth mom prepared to pop out yet another child to be adopted, they endured terrible guilt, feeling like they "should" adopt their sons' baby sister, but not being capable, financially or emotionally, of doing so.

I am very much pro-adoption, especially of older children, and know that there are many stories of adoption that bring great joy to all parties involved.  If it was up to me, everyone who already had two biological children and wanted a bigger family would adopt until they reached their desired family size. 

However, there are other adoption stories that don't have happy endings.  In the United States, it may be easy to place a healthy white newborn, but what if the child is mixed race, fetal alcohol syndrome, physically deformed?  What if the mother was persuaded not to abort, then at birth decided she couldn't bear to give him up for adoption?  Kept the baby for six months, sixteen months, six years, and severely abused the child before deciding to give him up for adoption - or had the child taken away from her?  What if the child is in and out of foster homes until he turns 18, and then gets aged out of the system - no college, no family?

It's overly simplistic to say the only or best answer to an unplanned pregnancy is "just give the baby up for adoption."  I don't believe 9-year old incest victims should have to put their lives on the line to deliver their abuser's twins.

It's very easy to invest all our own hopes and dreams into a baby, a fetus, or even a "barely there" pregnancy of five weeks.  I get that, I understand the whole appeal of the "innocent and untouched." I got to hold a week-old baby just yesterday.  I will never tire of the magic of a newborn baby, the little rosebud mouth, the velvety skin...

But after all the passionate arguments and emotional stories, I still believe the person best qualified to decide whether a woman should carry a pregnancy to term is not me, or her neighbors.  It's not her church, and it sure as hell ain't some jackhole legislator, the government or the courts.

I believe in the woman.  I'm fully and proudly pro-choice.  How about you?

Note:  I welcome all comments, especially those expressing an opposing viewpoint.
All comments using respectful language will be published.  
Any comments using abusive language or personal attacks will be deleted.
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