I guess I’ve always been pro-choice. As an adolescent and young adult it seemed to me to be on a list of things ‘good’ people were: like not being racist or homophobic.
I know now that this was the luxury of growing up in a progressive community.
In high school I had several friends who had abortions and none of us batted an eye. This in a high school where the student pregnancy rate was so high that we had a daycare for students’ children. Still I didn’t question being pro-choice and assumed that most other people were too. Later when I went to Barnard friends of mine would bravely go walk with women through the picket lines of hate at abortion clinics.
It was at this point that I began to think more about what it meant to be pro-choice. What it means to be pro-life. I remember being deep in conversation with one of my more religious family members and he said he had been pro-choice until his first child was born. After that he couldn’t bear the thought of abortion.
This got me thinking about how I would feel once (if) I had children. Honestly I couldn’t say. And while I remained committed to a woman’s right to choose, to have control over her body and her destiny, in my heart I had some doubts about how I would feel if I were a mother.
Then came the ten years of trying for a baby. Several miscarriages. Five years of fertility treatment. I spent hours in hospital waiting rooms. Even more hours looking at pregnant women, women with babies. Having the very typical ‘why them and not me’ thoughts.
Then I had eight healthy embryos. Two of which we implanted. And then I was pregnant. And suddenly we had endless conversations about what to ‘do’ with the other six embryos. Suddenly questions of when ‘life’ begins didn’t feel so academic. Again, I wondered how I would feel about these tiny embryos once I met the babies.
Then came the twins. For just over five months I have had a crash course in child rearing and sleep deprivation.
I am in love with these two tiny people in ways I didn’t know you could be in love with someone.
But I now believe more firmly than ever in a woman’s right to choose the size and timing of her family. Incidentally I also think we need a different discussion about father’s rights and responsibilities but that’s for a different time.
I recently walked past a family planning (and abortion) clinic in London. There were two silent protesters outside with the usual pictures of foetuses and biblical scripture. I had the twins with me. So they smiled at me and I wonder if they thought I was ‘on side’…
This weekend someone shot up another Planned Parenthood in Colorado, killing three people.
Abortion is currently safe and legal in my home country of the United States but it is under threat from religious extremists. I have never met or heard about an atheist or agonistic pro-lifer (and would be curious to talk to one, so please do get in touch).
So how, you may ask, did my infertility and subsequent parenthood solidify my belief in the right to access abortion?
Because I know now that parenthood is too hard to go into it with anything other than full commitment.
I understand the ambivalence you can feel when you discover you’re pregnant. The first time I got pregnant I was 26. Ironically it happened more quickly than I’d thought it would. I was terrified. A week later, when I was on a business trip, and I started bleeding I called my husband in tears. Devastated. My husband said ‘well, at least we know now that this is what we want’. We just didn’t think it would take ten years to get it.
My children are incredibly loved, and are all the more precious to me because they were so hard won. But that’s my children, and this is my life. I would never presume to enforce this choice on others.