Dear David Brooks:

Women’s lives are not your bargaining chip. Women’s lives are not yours to offer.

To: David Brooks

From: A woman

Re: Late-Term Abortions

Dear David Brooks,

I read your “Abortion Memo” published in The New York Times, and while it’s clear from your writing that you’re proud of your political posturing, and see your effort to reach across the aisle as noble, I’m here to tell you not only should you be ashamed of what you wrote, but that your words are deadly.

You write: “How much is our position on late-term abortions hurting us? How many progressive priorities are we giving up just so we can have our way on this one?”

You ask “do we want late-term abortion so much that we are willing to tolerate President Trump?”

I’m here to tell you that these aren’t questions you get to ask. Because my life is not your bargaining chip. Women’s lives are not yours to offer. You need a new gimmick.

You’ve also presented a false choice. In 2018 America, we are not choosing between late-term abortion—or as abortion rights activists prefer, later abortion—and Donald Trump. We are choosing between democracy and authoritarianism. We are choosing between truth and lies. We are choosing between justice and persecution for where we worship, who we love, the color of our skin, and yes, our political beliefs. Real supporters of women’s bodily autonomy understand that giving an inch on late-term abortions isn’t going to lead to some progressive promised land.

As Lindy West put in on your very same op-ed page in August, “abortion is not valid fodder for…compromise, nor is racism, nor is L.G.B.T.Q. equality, nor is any issue that puts people’s fundamental humanity up for debate. Abortion is not a fringe issue. Abortion is liberty.”

During one of the 2016 presidential debates, Donald Trump made the claim that women could have a late-term abortion where they “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.” I hope you know that’s an impossibility. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you know the process of removing a baby in the ninth month is called “birth.” While you didn’t use explicitly violent language in your open letter, you have to know the words you used lead to violence against women in the denial of proper care.

After Trump’s 2016 “rip” comment, I spoke to four women who, for various reasons, had late-term abortions. Their words may help you understand the impact of your letter.

Susan, a Californian now in her 50’s, was diagnosed with preeclampsia in her 26th week. Her blood pressure was off the charts, her kidneys had shut down, induced labor could’ve killed both mother and child, and if they waited, she risked major stroke. So she made the “horrible, heartbreaking” decision to end the pregnancy.

“If this was not law, if this was not legal, I would be dead or in jail,” she told me in 2016. “The fact that I was able to get through it, recover physically, and have more children,” proved to her that late-term abortions save lives — and even help create the possibility of more life in the future.

I’d like to think that by framing late-term abortion as a progressive “compromise” you weren’t saying women’s lives are just not worth as much. After all, the issue has become so deeply politicized that it’s strayed far from being about women’s health and safety, and morphed into an exercise of male power and privilege. But you must understand the gravity of what you’re saying on the pages of one of the most read papers in the country.

By fear-mongering about the demise of Roe v. Wade, by attempting to guilt our collective conscience by citing statistics about fetal cognition, you’re not only doing a grave disservice to the greater conversation. You’re revealing an attitude that says women don’t know what’s best for our bodies. And that we are expendable.

I’m going to leave you with some words from Aislinn, who learned in her 21st week of pregnancy that her baby would most certainly die in birth. If pushed through the birth canal, a rare condition would cause every bone in his body to break. So she made the call.

I asked her in 2016 what she’d say to Donald Trump about his abortion comments. I imagine she’d tell you the same.

“We are, above anything else, mothers making a compassionate choice for our babies. We are women (and supportive partners) who love so deeply that we wish to spare our babies even a moment of suffering. We are informed and educated and autonomous.”

She added: “We will not be threatened by small men who know nothing of compassion.”


A Very Real Woman