Hot Topic: Response to Comments on the Amy Richards Story
I'm not too thrilled about starting off a Monday morning blogging about abortion, but in light of some of the comments on this post, I think it's in order.
A few commenters took issue with the fact that people who define themselves as pro-choice were distressed over the story of Amy Richards, who underwent "selective reduction" to kill two of her unborn triplets as a matter of convenience.
Pro-choice does not necessarily mean pro-abortion. There are so many mitigating factors that lie within my stance on abortion that I honestly don't know what to call myself anymore.
The issue of abortion is something I've struggled with for a long time. I've gone back and forth, hanging out on both sides of the fence. Yet for all my fence jumping, I always end up back in the middle, still fighting myself to define my views either way.
On a personal level, I think abortion is a terrible thing and not something I would choose for myself. I think too many people use abortion as a form of after-the-fact birth control.
My views have been colored somewhat by my life. Perhaps one, back in high school, I had a hardline pro-choice stance. Women's body, etc., etc.
I had a friend who had two abortions before she graduated high school (we'll call her T.) When she called me from college to ask if I would drive her to have yet another abortion (and admitting that she had a third at the beginning of the semester, so this would make it her fourth), I lectured her on personal responsibility, hung up on her and never spoke to her again.
My hardline stance wavered. While I still thought women had a right to make choices about their own bodies, I wondered what kind of door that opened. When you end up with people like T., who had four abortions by the age of 19, that's not a door I would care to look into.
Then there was the issue of life. When does it begin? Conception? A certain date marker? When the brain was fully formed? At birth? No matter who you talked to, you would hear a different explanation.
At some point I thought, well why do I have to make a stance either way? I don't have to have a clearly defined stand on every issue.
In 1989, I became pregnant with my first child. I had problems during the first three months and it was touch and go for a bit. As I sat at home following every doctor's instruction carefully - feet up, plenty of rest, no heavy lifting - I thought of T. Here I was struggling to hold this baby inside me when T. willingly had four babies expelled from her.
Babies. There, I said it. I called my fetus a baby.
A few years later, I was pregnant again. I found out pretty early, just two weeks in. I took my maternity clothes out of the attic. I started eating healthier. Took my pre-natal vitamins. I thought about names and imagined what Nat would be like as an older sister.
Six weeks in I had a miscarriage. It was devastating. In my eyes, that bundle inside me was a baby. Not a fetus, not a thing. Yet the attitude of some of my family was astounding. It was only six weeks. It wasn't even a baby yet. It was just a thing. What are you so upset about, it was only blood and tissue? Even my then husband joined the chorus of people who thought I should just grin and bear it.
Again, my stand on abortion changed further. It was obvious that I could no longer distinguish between fetus and baby, which is pretty important to a pro-choice person.
So what was I? Damned if I know. Damned if I know now. But I know what I am not. I am not a person who believes that any abortion, any time should be legal. I do not believe in abortion as a means of birth control. I believe in personal responsibility and responsibility to the life you make.
Perhaps my ideals are also colored by the fact that I know so many people, my sister among them, who cannot have children of their own. I see a young girl walking into a clinic and it makes me want to cry. Why not have the baby and give it up for adoption? There are so many families out there who would take that beautiful baby from you. But who am I to tell this girl to go ahead and carry the baby around for nine months? Then again, perhaps she should have thought about that before having unprotected sex.
But I have issues that force me to fence sit. I think a 16 year old who was raped should be able to choose to not have the rapist's baby. And I readily admit that flies in the face of my "life begins at conception" idea that all fetuses are children. But I also can't imagine forcing a young girl to endure carrying around the baby of the man who violently forced himself on her for nine months and delivering that child to the world.
I believe that when a mother's health is in grave danger, she should be allowed to abort. I can't imagine that one would choose the life of an unborn baby over the life of a women with a family, maybe a husband and other kids who she would leave behind.
I think late trimester abortions are reprehensible. At some point, you have to acknowledge that there is a baby, not a fetus, living inside you. Moving hands and feet, strong heartbeat, maybe even a little thumb sucking. I can't understand how even the most strident pro-choice backers can't acknowledge that a fetus at that stage in the game is a viable, living, breathing person.
I contradict myself at every turn on this issue. I can't reconcile one thought with another. It's a very complicated, oft times confusing manner.
I know abortion would never be the right choice for me. I'm just not sure if I have the right to tell you what do if you are in a situation that calls for a choice.
As for the topic of last night, I call BS on those who think that just because someone is pro-choice, they have no right to be horrified at the choice Amy Richards made. While abortion is never a 100% good choice, I think there's a vast difference between, say, someone who didn't intend to get pregnant (think broken condom) and is agonizing over their decision and someone who willfully went off the pill and cavalierly discarded two of three babies when a multiple pregnancy ensued. It's her attitude that kills me. It's the fact that she sold this story to the New York Times and that the NYT saw it fit to print. Amy Richards is no different than my old friend T., who probably had a frequent visitor's discount card for the clinic. I find them both reprehensible for different, yet similar reasons.
And as for the people who think that I've had this attitude that abortion was just fine and dandy right up until I read the NYT article, you couldn't be more wrong. Just because you have clearly defined lines on an issue does not mean people who don't see those lines are engaging in some kind of false emotion for dancing between them.
I see that writing this out has not only not clarified the issue for me, but has further confused me.
I know there are many people who are sitting here in the middle with me, unsure of which side they fall on. Perhaps we are being dishonest by calling ourselves pro-choice, just as our detractors are being dishonest by calling us pro-death.
So if I'm not completely pro-choice, and I'm not entirely pro-life (which is also a dishonest term), then what am I? And why do I feel the need to define who or what I am on this issue?
Damned if I know.
[I'm going to take a risk here and leave comments open on this post. But be forewarned, if the comments derail into any kind of fire and brimstone finger pointing or righteous name calling I will close them. If you have something to add to the topic, that's great. Please do not preach. That goes for both sides of the fence.]