Sunday, September 21, 2008

Since we are talking...

Time melts around here. I blink, and it's the next day. Or the next. Usually evening, and I am wondering, again where the time went.* We are in a prolonged, waxing and waning growth spurt, complete, as it turns out with Baby's First Thrush. Mommy's too. Ouch.

Given the cause of my sleepless existence, just about the only truly regrettable thing about the whole deal is my apparently complete inability to keep up with the blogging world. My reader has began counting backwards (which means that it now contains posts too old to be considered new) and currently stands at 865. And here, in my very own digs, I abandon hotly contested conversations I myself start, and promptly disappear. Yes, ladies (and gents?), I am a sucky host these days. I mean, I appreciate every single comment, and I very much like that even while disagreeing mightily we can still all remain respectful, AND I did finally reply, but by the time I did, I am guessing at most two and a half people still cared. Oh well.

So in the comments to that very post Christa brings up the question that I actually think could use some discussing (especially in light of the 2-3 Supreme Court Justices the next President is likely to appoint)-- the question of abortion and our views on it as affected by particular life experiences. By discussing, interestingly, I do not mean what passes for the same on the talking heads shows-- each side lobbing zingers and cliches at the firmly entrenched other. I think the issue deserves a much richer treatment then that, so I am going to give it a try. BTW, did I mention how much I liked that the comments on the last post remained respectful and all topic-at-hand oriented? I believe I did. But I am mentioning it again so that I can ask everyone to please do that again here. This is a somewhat hotter issue, I realize, but I have faith in our collective ability to stay on topic and not go the name calling route. Help me keep my faith, mmmmmkey?

So Christa asks: ...has infertility and/or the loss of a child at any stage of development changed your view of abortion?

First, Christa, I need to say that I am very sorry about your miscarriages. It's not a small or insignificant loss. I am truly sorry.

Now, short answer: infertility, miscarriage, and child loss have all made me a lot more thoughtfully pro-choice, pro-choice in a more examined way. By which I mean that before I was pro-choice sort of on general principle, for reasons many people easily site. Now I have a much more nuanced understanding even of those reasons, and I have acquired others. Long answer involves a number of components that I am going to try to summarize (briefly-- I am still not the master of my own time-management-related destiny, and the shorter this is, the more likely I am to actually finish it) below. So here goes.


My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 6 weeks, the day after we saw the heart beating on the ultrasound. Three days after that I had to run a quick errand to a supermarket. It was around 7am on Saturday. The supermarket is near the local Planned Parenthood clinic. As I walked towards the store, I could see the lone protester near the clinic, holding a sign and a doll. The sign said something about killing babies and something about God's attitude towards it. I walked very quickly by her and into the store. And then spent the entirety of my time in the store mentally mapping out ripping the protester woman a new one. She was gone when I came out. Probably a good thing. What I wanted to ask her, then, was how come, if her God was so opposed to killing fetuses, how come her God just killed mine?

For the record, I do not think that G-d, hers or anyone else's, is really micromanaging this. For one thing, if G-d supervises chromosome replication, errors in which are one of the big ones among the causes of miscarriage, well then let me be the first to say that G-d needs a hobby. Seven plus years on from that encounter, though, the thing I would ask the lady, if I could, would actually be about how she can be so sure of G-d attitude on this. There is not so much text on abortion in the Bible (though if you want your brains to explode, try Exodus 21:22), but there is plenty on treating people nicely. And it could just be me, but the last thing I would call accosting a girl or a woman on her way in to a procedure that is already likely to be traumatic is "nice."

See, that's the thing, I think. I have this inherent trust in women. I believe that an overwhelming majority of those who have had to make this decision made it after a thorough and deliberate consideration. The conceptual artist with unfortunate lack of understanding of the female reproductive system notwithstanding, I have yet to hear of a woman who woke up one morning, looked at her bucket list, smacked herself on the forehead for forgetting to do that, and ran off to get herself knocked up just so she could finally have that abortion she always wanted. C'mon! Do we really want to, as a society, to think so low of half of the population as to believe that women are incapable of grasping the implications? Or that we can't make these decisions responsibly?

But what of my own miscarriage? I mourned it. I was devastated. It was my first pregnancy, finally achieved after two years of IF, PCOS diagnosis, and a whole lot of hoop jumping that did in the end result in spontaneous ovulation. We saw a heartbeat. After the non-doubling betas, the heartbeat, we were told, was reassuring. We had one good day after that before the blood came. I barely made it through Mother's Day that snuck up on me only weeks later. But see, that was all because that pregnancy meant things to me. I imbued it with meaning, with hope. It was supposed to grow to be our child.

But here's the thing-- I would never presume to think that everyone is supposed to feel the same way about their pregnancies. For an obvious example, I can see how a 15 year old, accidentally pregnant girl might be mostly relieved to have miscarried at six weeks. That goes both ways, of course. I can honestly say that though the miscarriage was devastating at the time, it is not now. But I know there are people who mourn their six week miscarriages very deeply, and I would never deny them that.

I think that to some people stillborn babies are also mostly constructs. Obviously not to me. To me, my son was a very real baby, a very real person. And yet, as I think about the grief that his death brought, I also think that no-one should be made to feel that pain under duress, so to speak. If abortion is outlawed, there will be bereaved parents who didn't even mean to become parents in the first place. Would you want to be them?

Imagine, if you will, a young woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. The pregnancy messes up all of her life plans, but since she lives in Sarah Palin's America, she can't get an abortion. Gradually, she makes her peace with the pregnancy, makes preparations for the baby, and is even starting to look forward to the arrival. Only the baby dies. What is your estimate for how much time it will take her to do a dive, head first, into a giant vat of magical thinking and self-blame, to become convinced that the baby is dead because she didn't want him/her right away? My money is on two seconds flat.


This should be a very short paragraph. Some abortions are done to save the life of the mother. I like mothers. I think they should live. Again, I trust women and their doctors to make the best decision for the woman and her family. The end.

Oh, wait-- a caveat, I guess, but really a furtherance of the argument: I think every individual woman has the right to decide to prolong her pregnancy in order to try to reach viability even if it is threatening her life. What I think shouldn't happen is the government telling all of us that we must. I do not want to be considered only as important or as useful as my uterus. In fact, I don't think one has to be suffering delusions of grandeur to appreciate that one is important to at least a few people in this world. Helping Monkey make sense of her world after A died was not the easiest of jobs. The mind boggles at considering the job of the surviving parent in a family that would lose a mother. The decision to risk this particular outcome can't belong to anyone but the family, can it? And I haven't even touched on all the other interested parties-- parents, siblings, friends.

Health. Which certainly includes mental health (I am looking at you, Senator Obama). Much like it shouldn't be up to anyone but my family and my doctor whether to put my life at risk, the decision on how much my health is risked is also nobody else's business. There are severe conditions that show up or are aggravated in pregnancy, and I think those pretty much move over to the life argument above. But there are smaller but still significant issues, and I gained first hand appreciation for these lately.

The last two pregnancies have not been easy on me. Aside from the psychological, there is the sheer physical part. I get episodes of post-partum thyroiditis after each delivery. The one I had last year was sever enough to require medication. Heart medication. Temporary, but still. I have PCOS, and it is getting worse with each pregnancy. I have started monitoring my blood sugars again because I am afraid my glucose tolerance is still impaired, five weeks plus after giving birth. There is other stuff too, but this should be enough to make my point. Which is that pregnancy is not guaranteed to be a walk in the park, and it can lead to/exacerbate long-term health challenges, and that nobody should be forced to assume these.

Pregnancy should not be a punishment. Not for being young and stupid, not for being subjected to the abstinence only sex education, not for your birth control failing, and certainly not for being raped. This last one deserves a bit of a special mention, in light of the Republican platform this year and their Vice Presidential nominee's views (both are against abortion for rape victims).

Being pro-choice doesn't mean that if you are faced with this choice you automatically make the decision to abort. And, in fact, for myself, with my fairly comfortable economic situation and my proximity to the highest quality medical care, something very serious would have to be at play to point me towards choosing termination. One thing that absolutely without a doubt would have me making an appointment would be getting pregnant as a result of being raped. Not only would I not like to experience all of the physical issues to bring into the world a constant reminder of being violated, but I wouldn't want to put my family through watching me do that.

Hell, yes, mental health is important. I would argue that this part is important not just for the mother, but also for the immediate family. This was an extreme example, but there are others. In short, I'd say that ideally family planning should mean not just the process of planning when to try to add to the family, but also to the consideration paid to existing members of the family and their needs.

Public Policy/Morality

I hate the phrase value voter. I believe that it is misleading because it limits the things that can be considered values, and, more importantly, because almost all of us vote for or on our values. My values just happen to include less legislating one's particular brand of morality and more being your brother's keeper.

During Republican convention, I happened to catch a radio program where Phyllis Schlafly, responding to a caller's question on what the Republican machine would react to a Democratic candidate for office going back to work only days after giving birth to a special needs child and having a 17 year old unwed pregnant daughter said that "If Sarah Palin were a Democrat, she would have aborted the baby. That’s the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats." Is anybody here surprised that this snippet had me hopping mad for the rest of the day?

I know Mrs. Schlafly was going for the shock value, and I know she was using that shock value to deflect the actual question posed to her, but I was just knocked over by the boldness and brutality of this willful misrepresentation. Let's try this one more time, slowly, for Mrs. Schlafly. What one would choose in a given situation for oneself is a distinct question from whether one would like others to have the ability to choose for themselves in a similar situation. It is, again, down to trusting or not trusting people to make their own decision.

Being pro-choice absolutely means supporting women who are making the decision to continue the pregnancy. It may also mean that you yourself are far more likely to choose this option. Being a Democrat on the other hand, likely means that you think every baby (and every adult) should have health insurance, and that other structures should be in place to help the child reach their potential. Interesting how if these things are implemented, it would become a lot less scary to choose to continue the pregnancy. And funny, not ha-ha funny, but you know what I mean, how being Republican doesn't seem to mean anything about the child once it is no longer a fetus.

And if we are talking about morality, let me tell you what I believe is immoral. Not providing education that would help limit the unwanted pregnancies in teenagers is immoral. Yes, I am talking about the ginormous failure that is the abstinence only sex education. I am talking, again, about my deeply held belief that pregnancy should not be punishment. No matter how it came about, it shouldn't be punishment. The other hugely immoral thing is to not provide the services the presence of which might make it a lot less scary/impossible to choose to continue the pregnancy.

So this is where I get... what do you call it? Pissy? Uppity? Oh, let's go with uncompromising and hard-line. Here's my categorical statement: if your personal solution for reducing abortions in this country does not include these here components-- paid maternity leave, universal health care, affordable child care, and affordable housing-- if your solution doesn't include these, then you are not pro-life. You are pro-birth. End of story.

I think this is it, though I might still be missing some aspects. Have a go at it, but remember to play nice. OK?

*I wrote that part six (holy crap! six!!!!) days ago. As I was saying...


niobe said...

I'm not going to touch most of the substance of your post with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Though I'm sure others will have very interesting things to say and I'm looking forward to reading them.

This, however: I think that to some people stillborn babies are also mostly constructs -- is, in my view, absolutely brilliant. For, you know, obvious reasons.

Beruriah said...

Perfect Julia.

I don't have a very thoughtful response. Only, my entire family votes Democrat. Always. Always has, always will. My nephew has spina bifida, diagnosed in utero. Shut the hell up, Phyllis Schlafly. As an historian, I've only ever thought of her as a monster and it freaks me out that she's become relevant again. Can we please stop with the scare talk and lies. Let's talk about making sure all familes who want them bring home live babies and about making sure all those children have what they need to grow up into adults we will also respect? I know dear Phyllis can't, but I think others of us can.

I hope that wasn't beyond the rules of respectfulness you set here. I greatly appreciate your willingness to have this dialog on your blog. I'm just so angry at where it has gone in the media that I could spit on them all. The talking heads that is, not the lovely thoughtful people I may disagree with in your comments section.

loribeth said...

Beautifully and thoughtfully written, & I totally agree with you. Infertility & stillbirth, & my volunteer work with other bereaved parents (many of whom have terminated pregnancies after receiving horrible prognoses for their babies), have only served to make me more pro-choice too. I could not imagine telling some of the parents I have met that they HAD to carry that child to term, or until he or she died in utero.

I have met some women with early-term losses feel they only lost a blob of tissue and don't take much time to mourn. I have met others who truly believe they lost a baby and are stressed beyond belief that their baby was disposed of along with other hospital "waste."

I believe that whatever you believe is your own personal truth. Whatever feelings you have and decisions you make regarding your pregnancy are and should remain your own. Nobody else should judge you until they have walked a mile or three in your moccasins.

Aurelia said...

Grapefruit seed extract for thrush is the best fucking thing EVER invented.

Drops taste terrible but pills are okay. Stuff works better than anything I've yet encountered. Seriously.

The rest, I need to think more on to answer coherently.

CappyPrincess said...

"if your personal solution for reducing abortions in this country does not include these here components-- paid maternity leave, universal health care, affordable child care, and affordable housing-- if your solution doesn't include these, then you are not pro-life. You are pro-birth. End of story. "

If I could give you a standing ovation for that sentiment, I would. Heck, it might even be worth the stares of any coworkers who happen to notice.

There are HUGE differences between the terms pro-life, anti-abortion, pro-choice and pro-abortion. I think you've just nailed some of the biggest difference between pro-life and anti-abortion.

Sue said...

I think I'm going to link to this because it does a wonderful job of delineating a lot of the issue I see in the whole pro-life/pro-choice debate.

What I find beautifully ironic in the example of Sarah Palin is that she talks about how she *chose* to continue her pregnancy with her child who has Down Syndrome. She CHOSE. No one told her she had to have the child, no one told her she had to abort. That is the WHOLE POINT to me. She and her family made the very personal choice to continue her pregnancy.

Her daughter, the 17-year old pregnant one, also seems to me to be a perfect example of the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education, which to me is simply an extension of the "just say no" anti-drug campaign of the 1980s. It gives no tools on how to say no, why it's hard to say no, and what you need to do to protect yourself if you should find yourself saying yes.

And the idea that pregnancy should not be punishment is exactly right. When I used to get on my soapbox, I would say that once the mother is done paying for her sins by carrying a baby to term, the father should have to take care of the child for the next 40 weeks -- not passing it off to parents or the babysitter or anyone else.

Okay, I'll step down now.

Thanks for saying all that. And for saying it so well.

Karen said...

Thank you for opening your blog to a thoughtful discussion. I have been struggling with the lack of dialog on the subject, too. The closest I've been to a real one was in a Human Sexuality course I was taking for my counseling degree. The professor conducted the class like a big group counseling session and for four hours one night we listened and cried with a few women who were brave enough to share their stories of abortions and/or unplanned pregnancies. These are decisions made with tears, heartbreak, and are rarely unaccompanied by regret. We felt each other's pain and I personally felt more connected to the shared female experience of pregnancy, birth, and our unique sorrow.

The very next day I heard an NPR "debate" about the "partial-birth abortion" judicial decision. It went like this:
Shrill "pro-choice" spokeswoman: It's a medical decision. It should be between the woman and her doctor.

Shrill "pro-life" spokeswoman: It's a horrible procedure. Have you seen it? It's a horrible murder of a helpless infant.

Repeat endlessly.

Thanks again for being brave and thinking deeply. There should be more of you.

The day after

Karen said...

Edit: that "the day after" at the end of my post was what I was going to write instead of "the very next day"--I just never deleted it! It was not supposed to be a sign off!

Laura said...

I struggle with how to represent my abortion views politically. I am an independent that tends to vote for Democrats. I am a feminist and a biologist. I am also a Catholic that tries mightily to remain faithful to my Church's teachings. I do think that abortion is objectively wrong, that it takes the life of another person. I believe this based on philosophical and biological evidence that points to conception as the logical beginning of human life. Abortion is wrong, just as war, the death penalty, and other ways of ending human life are wrong.

Sometimes, however, the taking of a human life is an unavoidable tragedy-- for instance, where the mother would die if the pregnancy continues. I believe war is objectively wrong too, but I acknowledge that there are some instances where it is necessary. I find abortion so difficult as a legal and political issue because the rights of two human beings are intertwined in a unique way.

The pro-choice stand is uncomfortable for me because it doesn't value the unborn as human beings with rights that ought to be weighed alongside the mother's. I get frustrated with the pro-life side because I feel like they dismiss many of the systemic issues surrounding abortion and don't focus enough on social supports for mothers. I wish our society could get to a point where we acknowledge abortion as the taking of a human life and avoid it with as much care as we would the taking of any other life. How to legislate that though.... I have no idea.

ginger said...

Wow. Incredibly well thought out Julia - I'll be sharing this post with others when the abortion issue comes up.

Also, I think I'm with Laura just above. I'm not Catholic, but I do feel strongly about the rights of the unborn. Yet I can certainly imagine those times when it could be unavoidable.

It's given me a lot to think about...

charmedgirl said...


mommo4.5 said...

Laura said:
I find abortion so difficult as a legal and political issue because the rights of two human beings are intertwined in a unique way. ...I wish our society could get to a point where we acknowledge abortion as the taking of a human life and avoid it with as much care as we would the taking of any other life.

I really appreciate Laura’s thoughtful post. I have much the same sentiments. I also appreciate what you have said, Julia. Your words are also thoughtful and said in a way that invites intelligent dialogue. You’ve given me something to think about.

Attitudes and values are impossible to legislate. Legislations change only as attitudes and values change. The best we can each do is to live responsibly according to our values.

Anne said...

Thank you, Julia. Your post so beautifully articulated my own views about the whole abortion debate, I could kiss you.

And I agree, a lot of what the Bible actually says about women makes my head explode. I have a lot of difficulty with some Christian folks who declare that they "take the Bible literally," but then selectively pick and choose those parts of the Old Testament/Torah that they wish to follow, with the excuse that "since Jesus came along, we don't have to follow that part anymore" because the New Testament supercedes it. [sound of head exploding]

Anonymous said...

oh my lady, just when I think I couldn't adore you rant post a good way. have to finish cooking, W's uncle passed this morning and he's napping, so late dinner, then I will get back here and post a real post in response. kudos on always being Julia :)

JenandAsh said...

My first pregnancy ended at 10.5 weeks (missed miscarriage), after several months of Clomid and a flicker of a heartbeat. I never felt that I had lost a baby, I always felt that I had lost the potential that pregnancy had held. I mourned that loss for months, and I can still grasp how those days felt to me (intermixed with the infertility of course). It was after 4 more rounds of Clomid, and one round of injectables, that I got pregnant again, now I'm at 33 weeks.

I know that in certain, very specific circumstances I would terminate, but I would be hard pressed to make that decision.

I've always been pro-choice. But it's been after the infertility, the pregnancy loss, the drugs, injections, and numerous meetings with that wand, that I have felt that pregnancy must be a choice...for every woman. And not something we force upon others.

christina(apronstrings) said...

i agree on all points--especia;;y as it relates to mental health.
and poverty. i think my experience in criminal law has helped my belief in abortion. i have just seen so many unwanted children (one legally named "male" i guess his mother couldn't bother to name him) grow into dreadful adults, and waht else could they be? that's NOT to say that i think *they* should have been aborted-of course not. i just wander what a different world we'd live in if every child was a wanted child. though, of course i'd wish making birth control more readily availble.
i also like clinton's words "abortion should be safe, legal and rare." (rare because of readliy availble b/c, or other resources like mat leave, childcare, etc.)

Tash said...

Simply brilliant Julia, and the fact that you wrote this on half the sleep and coffee I'm getting just endears you to me even more.

Like you, my miscarriage and subsequent pregnancies (one which ended in disaster) only made me more pro-choice (in fact, I went to a big rally in DC when I was visibly 7m pregnant with Bella). I've seen the good, bad, and ugly, and can't imagine going through any of that with anyone else other than myself, my husband, and my doctor.

Which leads me to point of the second: I wish people could understand that many of these "late term procedures for the health of the mother" are not hypothetical. They are real. They have happened to people in your blogroll. I could click around and point people to websites that would be dark and nonexistent because the authors would be dead right now if their doctors hadn't have quickly saved their lives. I wish these same people would understand these aren't really "choices," in the sense that Sophie's choice wasn't really, either.

Finally, I add my own hypothetical: I am in a rare position of not knowing a future child would die upon birth until extremely late in a pregnancy -- potentially after 32w. There would be no risk to me, but even opting to induce labor early in order to end things quickly and peacefully for me and my child is considered "termination." I would have to go to another state, away from my support system and my doctors. And I wouldn't just be doing this for me, but because as a mother I don't want to watch a baby die inside me, nor do I want to witness another baby work and struggle for six days -- it's not fair to her, either. Sadly, even a certain Democratic candidate for president blows this scenario off as a "mental health problem." Damn straight it is.

Christa said...

I really appreciate you taking my question seriously and the way it was intended; to be thoughtful and not accusatory. I liked your post, but don't agree with everything you said, even if we may end up at the same point at the end of the day.

I am still pro-choice mainly because I would like the government to be involved in as few aspects of my life as possible. There are very few things that government does well and dealing with the intricacies of when abortion is the answer will never be one of them.

Here's how my thinking has changed. Although I am not religious, I think I end up like Laura. Abortion does kill a baby, regardless of whatever euphemism might make us feel better about it. I didn't always think that. I did think it was just a clump of cells and if I ever thought abortion was a bad idea, it was post-viability abortions of healthy babies where the mother's life is not in danger.

Miscarriages and infertility treatment changed that for me. Although we were successful with IUI, we were rapidly heading towards IFV and I would ponder what to do with any extra embryos we might be lucky to have. Between that and mourning the babies that didn't make it past six weeks, my understanding changed. Those babies were not only real to me they were REAL in absolute terms and my wanting them or not wanting them didn't change that.

So, now I am at the uncomfortable point of believing that abortion kills a human life and still thinking that restricting it in all cases is a bad idea.

To some of your other points, I have no desire for universal health care and I've never understood the desire for it from Democrats. The same government that screwed up the Katrina response or whose poor oversight of financial reporting requirements led to Enron etc. would be responsible for my health care? No thanks.

On Sarah Palin, I may not agree with her across the board, but she walks the walk and that counts for something. And if we believe in choice, why are feminist groups so quick to pound on the one woman in the race who appears to "have it all" and whose accomplishments aren't based on the foundations of her husband's career? I start to think that feminists only support women who agree with NOW on every issue. That's not equality; that coercion. We don't expect men to vote as a block and then if they don't question their right to be considered a man.

Anyway, I've gone on too long here.

Julia, thank you so much for bringing your thoughtfulness to us and sharing your wit and intelligence. I am so glad that your brief (no guilt here) break in posting was just from the normal craziness of a newborn. It’s good to be normal. Good luck with the thrush.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for giving room for thoughtful dialogue on this issue. I don't believe that there are many women who actually want an abortion. I would love to make it a rare occurrence. In college, I was staunchly pro-life. And I took three women to abortion clinics. I asked them to consider adoption (my mother offered to raise the children -- i am one of nine, including a special needs sister). I asked them to consider how they would feel later in life. And when they made their decision, I took them, because I believed G-d wouldn't have sent them to me if he didn't want me to help them. The best part of considering myself "christian" is that it allows me to acknowledge that I am not the Judge.

It took my seven pregnancies and a failed adoption to meet my glorious daughter. I take her to swim classes at the Y and outside it, across the street from Planned Parenthood, are 5 disgustingly old men with vile, vulgar photos of aborted fetuses. The signs say "planned parenthood supports abortions."

Last week, I stormed up to them and said that I would be making my first donation to Planned Parenthood thanks to them. And that their photos were disturbing to the children who were forced to see them and maybe they should care about living, breathing children and the damage they were doing to them. Then I asked them how many adopted children they all had. Mind you, this is all while holding my gorgeous, miracle daughter and thinking of all the babies I had lost.

One of these ays, I want to go to the corner with big signs that said "Planned parenthood supports sex" and had photos of "sex"

Infertility, loss, and the journey to my dream has made me realize the decisions that must be made sometimes and how hard they are. And to think of some old man harassing any of us for something that already breaks our hearts is unacceptable to me. To tell us, we can't make these decisions, is unconscionable. And now I look at my daughter, and I hope she never has to make the decision, but I am committed to make sure that the decision will be hers.

Anonymous said...

The experience of being betrayed my own body in not becoming pregnant, not being able to stay pregnant has left me much more sure in the position that it is no one elses business. I want that privacy for myself, for my family (as Palin has asked for hers) and so I extend it to all women.

I mean this very respectfully. I do not believe that abortion is "taking a human life." I find it distressing when it is generallly agreed upon that if we could all just "acknowlegde that" then the issue would somehow be easier.

In anycase, I'm going to save this essay to my computer because it is so damn good.

I've taken to telling people who ask that it's not the pro-life position that bothers me, it's the hostility show to the post-born who convert to burdens on society upon their arrival to mothers living in poverty.

Thank you for taking the time to write that.


Lisa b said...

so well written Julia, you amaze me.

I was just out chatting to our neighbour whose son has Down Syndrome. She is also not a republican and cannot stand Palin.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

pro-life or pro-birth. I'm smiling here.

We might be torn between pro-choice and pro-life here, but I'm still waiting for us to start arguing over how to value what comes after the birth. I hold a long standing place on the soap box next to you: a stance in this debate can't stop when the placenta shows up. It has to reach into the fetus' transfomation into a child, and invest there, as well.

Health care, anyone? Tax breaks for stay at home parents? Something that will make my mother, the UN maternal-infant care person, stop telling me about how much better mothers have it outside of the US?

(especially the part that shuts my mum up, please.)

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

P.S. my miscarriages were not babies. They were a loss of possibility, and I grieved them as such. And they were a touchstone for fear, and I grieved that, too.

But they were not babies in my eye. Just something precious that might have been.

jgfellow said...

What a powerful post! Since others mentioned their favorite quotes, mine was

"Being pro-choice doesn't mean that if you are faced with this choice you automatically make the decision to abort."

From the moment my wife had positive pregnancy tests, I thought of what was inside of her as life. Even had I known of the medical challenges my children would face, I never could have made a decision to abort. But I guess I qualify as pro-choice since I could never work up the moral certitude to tell others that my understanding of when life begins is "correct."

Thank you for sharing such powerful sentiments.

Anonymous said...

I don't have insightful words to write on this, but I read it and loved it.
I went through a stillbirth of my son this June, and while I don't think I would do anything differently, I do hope that the legislation in your country makes sure that all women have a choice on what to do with their bodies when faced with pregnancy. All I can think of if abortions are illegal is the huge threat to a woman's life when they're forced to use backstreet abortion clinics.
Again.. thank you.

Bean said...

Hear, hear! That was very beautifully put, and I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for having the talent and patience to write it out and the courage to post it.

Superlagirl said...

Rock on, Julia.

I would love to be able to be in a place in my life where I could have another baby, but I'm just not there. I know without a doubt that if I were to get pregnant now, I would terminate.

I'm sure such an act would look monstrous to the pro-life crowd, but there is an ethical calculus happening in my head involving my daughters, my health, my husband, my history. I'm not obligated to share that with anyone. For someone to assume that they know better than I do about my own life and family, topics I think about, makes my blood boil.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Even if you do suck at posting right now, when you do, it's brilliant. I just come here to sit with your smartness.

nikki said...

First time reader here and I want to kiss you for this post. What also gets me is that if Roe vs Wade get overturned, more than just women's right to their own bodies goes flying out the door. The basis of Roe vs Wade state that what is between the patient and the doctor, stays between them. We could kiss our personal medical history good bye too.

Coggy said...

I just wanted to say I couldn't agree more with your sentiments. Losing J has not made me change my views on prochoice. I think initially in the early days I would have said I had changed my mind, but now I've settled again I see that I am as prochoice as before. Not because it's a route I myself would choose, but because it's not my right to deny others. Whatever their going through and whatever their reasons for chosing that route I am acutely aware that it is there baby and not mine. If that makes any sense. Forcing others to have unwanted pregnancies in no way helps my pain or situation.

Thank you for writing such a thought provoking post.

Anonymous said...

Well, I had a fullterm stillborn son for undetermined reasons after a perfect pregnancy. Then I terminated my second pregnancy in the second trimester, although the diagnosis was not lethal. I see my first two sons as people. I see clearly that I chose to end my second son's life. I do not view him as a construct. He had a coffin, a cremation and funeral ceremony. I took many pictures of him so I would not forget what he looked like. I think about him often. I did not take it lightly. I was extremely distressed. I do not know if it was right or not. I tried to do it to avoid his suffering. I don't know if it did or not. I don't know if I would do the same again. I can accept took that decision as the person I was at that moment.

You don't have weeks and weeks to make a decision, get all the opinions (and no doctor will advise you outright on what to do in this case), meet kids and families with that problem (and to get a balanced view you would have to meet families that are doing well and those that are not). The longer you mull it over the worse the decision becomes. There is no guidebook to this, or to life.

However, one thing I do know that I was very thankful to have had the choice to make. The decision was not forced upon me.

I am not a US citizen and do not have the right to vote in your elections. But I often find myself shocked by the extreme positions reflected online. It's either this or that. Black or white. You are pro-choice therefore you would abort because you do not value life. Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion. I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. They are not the same thing.

(I am posting this anonymously as I do not want to be a poster child for this topic but I think Julia knows who I am).

another julia said...

Absolutely wonderful post.

Someone I respect very much told me once, "I don't necessarily have to like all of the choices, but I totally support the right of women to have them", which became my stock answer during any debate on the subject.

Allison Says said...

What an amazing post. Next time I end up discussing with someone my pro-choice views, I will use a lot of what you said.

I don't have anything of particular import to add, but I wanted to share my story:

I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant my second to last semester of college. I was 14 weeks along. The hardest day of my entire life was not the day that I got the positive pregnancy test (though that was hard and I bawled), but three days later when I went in for an ultrasound. Not only was I pregnant, I was pretty far along. What was inside of me had a head, and arms, and a was all so shocking.

I had ALWAYS been pro-choice. To me, there is no question about the fact that every woman should have that choice. I took a friend to get an abortion only a year before I found out I was pregnant.

The decision for me was hard. Do I have an abortion? I don't even have a college degree. Can I keep this thing inside of me? This thing...this baby? How will I afford it? Will my boyfriend support me? Will my family? Will I be able to finish college? ...etc. etc.

I decided to keep it. And I now have a beautiful one year old boy named Alex. But the important thing is: I DECIDED to keep him. I wasn't forced to go through pregnancy. I wasn't forced to keep something growing inside of my body that I didn't want, I wasn't forced to have a baby and find a way to support him or give him up for adoption. I CHOSE to keep him.

If that choice hadn't been there, the resentment I would feel for my son would be unbelievable. I needed to have that choice to be as in love with him as a mother should be.

kate said...

Glad to see you post! I don't believe i can think straight enough right now for a coherent comment. Maybe i will attempt one at some future time!

Except, wow, Shlafly said WHAT? I suppose i should not be surprised. What a bitch. And Sarah Palin is a phony. And i cannot believe that i spent weeks reading about her personal life when the whole economy was going to hell in a handbasket. Ok, i am over Palin now, i am now worrying about that whole forclosure thing. Fun times!

Oh, yeah, a comment about abortion. That might come eventually. My opinion -- pro-choice, but anti-abortion -- has not changed through unexpected pregnancy and through loss. I actually have few opinions, but my stance on this issue has not wavered. I just don't speak up about it IRL very often.

Theresa said...

I love the last part of your post, and agree with it whole heartedly.

I think Laura said it perfectly in her post too. We need to offer more options than we have now, and then maybe we could eliminate the need for debate over this topic.

I've had three losses. Two were early term miscarriages, and I have to be honest and say that they were not so difficult for me to come to terms with as losing my Henry at 28 weeks was. But, no matter what stage, it was still a baby.

I hate that some see a pregnancy as a punishment, but can also see the other side of the fence. I have teenage daughters that clearly are not ready to have children, but what ever happened to accountability? I know that sounds harsh, but we parents are supposed to teach our kids about these things, and conversely, we should support them when they stumble. What about the twenty and thirty somethings...or even the forty somethings that just don't wan't to be pregnant for whatever reason? My second daughter was a surprise, and we, as a young couple could barely afford our first, but here she is, and I can't imagine the world without her.

Sarah Palin takes a hard stand. I do not agree with her.Rape,incest, profound birth defects where the child will suffer are all examples of when abortion should be made available if the mother chooses. But is inconvenience really a good reason?

Barak Obama voted to deny children born of late term abortions medical care and side 100% with planned parenthood. I don't agree with him either. So what do you do?
There is a part of me that wants all women to have the right to choose, but there is a bigger part that believes that abortion has become just another form of birth control for some, and something needs to be done.

No matter what it is the end of a life.

Ettina said...

"if your personal solution for reducing abortions in this country does not include these here components-- paid maternity leave, universal health care, affordable child care, and affordable housing-- if your solution doesn't include these, then you are not pro-life. You are pro-birth. End of story. "

I'm a pro-life feminist. Not many of us actually get heard in the abortion debate, but we're the 'pro-life, not just pro-birth' people.
If the pregnancy is endangering the mother, then I think it should be a choice. I have a lot of respect for women who delay getting cancer treatment until they can induce birth with a reasonable chance of the baby living, but I wouldn't condemn a woman who decided to abort to get chemotherapy or get chemotherapy while pregnant (and thereby risk miscarriage).
As a disabled person, I'm very opposed to selective abortion of disabled fetuses, but even there, there are nuances where I'm undecided. I know of a family who carried their child with full trisomy 9 to term, knowing that his chance of survival was extremely slim (the only full trisomies considered compatible with life are sex chromosome trisomies, Down Syndrome, trisomy 13 and trisomy 18, and the later two have extremely high infant mortality). He was in fact stillborn. I have a lot of respect for them, but I'd never want to be in that situation. With extreme, heart-wrenching cases like that, I don't think absolute ethical standards are as relevant. You do what you think is best, because every option is pretty bad. If they'd have aborted him, I'd understand - but I'd always wonder about whether he could have lived if given the chance.