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The Choice

When reality hits, a writer re-examines his stance on abortion.

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She’s smart, attractive and incredibly interesting, but the “buts” keep adding up. But she’s an alcoholic. But her boyfriend is abusive. But she smokes too much.

And she’s pregnant and appears to plan to smoke and drink through all nine months. Alcohol is known to cause birth defects and smoking while pregnant can harm a fetus as well. And to think that many women even stop drinking caffeine when pregnant.

I’ve been a feminist and a pro-choice advocate my entire life, but this is the first time I’ve felt that someone I cared about should actually terminate a pregnancy.

Like a lot of pro-choice Americans, there are nuances and exceptions to my stance. I’m not all that thrilled about late-term abortions, and I get just as squeamish as the next person when it comes to pictures of aborted fetus that look like little babies.

My own family has a history of close-call pregnancies. My maternal grandmother was nearly 40 when she had my mom, and she was near death at least once during her pregnancy. According to my mother, at one point doctors were considering terminating the pregnancy.

Later, my own mother, also entering her 40s, would have her doctor bring up the idea of ending an unexpected pregnancy. This “surprise package,” as my mom called me ad nauseam throughout my life, would make it to term.

It was the unexpected quality of my conception that my mom would say made me “special” from everyone else. In fact, I once had a girlfriend who teased me that I was my mother’s “Jesus child” because my mom so often said it was Jesus that made me possible. Whatever that means.

In the early 1970s it was rarer for a woman to have a child in her early 40s, and thus it was felt there were more health risks involved in such a birth. Despite the risks, my mother made the right choice because the fetus that would later be me was, while unexpected, entering a loving, caring environment.

As for Jane, I just don’t know. Is it too much to ask that a child be wanted and cared for once it enters the world?

When Jane and I first talked about her pregnancy she appeared to still be in shock. This will be her second kid. Her first is being raised by its maternal grandparents.

I felt a dichotomy of reactions. I first told her “congratulations,” then thought to myself, Are you going to keep it? It wasn’t until another meeting that I actually broached the subject of her terminating the pregnancy. I told her that she could make the argument that at this early stage in the development she wouldn’t be committing murder; it was only a fetus.

Yet she made it clear that she’d made up her mind. “No matter what you say you believe, you know it’s murder,” she said. Her determination to have the child in the face of adversity, my own advice and medical evidence that her baby could be seriously harmed by her behavior sent a chill down my spine.

Was she right? Was I advocating murder?

My pro-choice views come from my belief that a woman has an absolute right to do what she chooses with her body. And up until the fetus is viable outside of the womb, that’s what the fetus is — a piece of her body.

If ever there was a candidate for an abortion, she is it. Yet by definition, being pro-choice means I believe she has the choice to bring the child to term.

Each time I see her and she takes another drink or another drag from a cigarette, I worry about her and the fate of the fetus growing larger each day in her belly. What kind of life will her “surprise package” have? S

The United States Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the first trimester, on Jan. 22, 1973.

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