The Pro-Choice Posture (Episode 1: The Myth of the Justifiable Abortion)

I always knew that I would keep my baby.

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We grow up holding certain truths self-evident; while some of our beliefs may be fluid — fanny packs, animal print, and — plot twist — the Backstreet Boys — actually did come back in style — others remain steadfast, confronting the tides of time.

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I considered myself politically pro-choice, personally pro-life. Abortion was a choice other people should be able to make, but one that I, myself, could — and would — never make for myself.

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Discussing emotionally charged topics naturally breeds hyperbolic comparisons. Billboards peppering the Southern-most entrails of I95 don’t draw from imagery showcasing microscopic cells or barely formed embryos. Lest they sacrifice theatrics, pro-life imagery references desperately beating hearts; tiny limbs and organs; and heart-breakingly-evotive images of viable fetuses.

Before placing pro-choicers on a pedestal of rationality, let us recognize those on the left are not immune to the same fallacy of extremity. Pro-choicers — even those with the best of intentions — summon a “justifiable rationality” for pregnancy termination.

The pro-choice movement is disproportionally heralded by a fundamental lack of choice.

We — as a majority group — do not fault women for sexual assault perpetrated by a known assailant. Yet even so, we react differently in different situations. A victim of — the albeit, very rare — stranger rape is afforded an elevated status over the victim of — the very common — acquaintance rape.

As a society, we condemn rape, but only the “right” rapes.

I argue the same incongruity lies in the pro-choice community.

The most marketable pro-choice material –and pardon my crass verbiage, but it is important for my point— summons the imagery of an “ideal victim.”

As a society, we have recognized the complexities of sexual assault.

Similarly, most women do not face politically, or otherwise polarizing situations with pregnancy decisions. Some women feel forced to terminate pregnancies due to life-threatening risks to the mother, fetuses with prenatal fatal conditions, or toxic environments of contraception. But most women who opt for choice naively believe “pro-choicers” actually believe in choice.

Herein lies the inherently falsifiable idea of the “justified abortion.”

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I took the pregnancy test on a relaxed whim of precaution. I had been on birth control for over a decade, and had never experienced the ubiquitous pregnancy scare that reared its ugly head in so many of my friends’ realities. I felt no semblance of apprehension, assuming the test would be unequivocally negative.

Upon seeing the plus sign, I wanted to vomit. I walked with shaky legs to a meeting with my advisor; offered distracted, mumbled contributions; and promptly drove to the closest doctor’s office, offering symbolic and futile pleas to some unknown and utterly distrusted entity for an assurance I knew would never come.

The profuse smiles and congratulatory statements of the nursing staff had the impact of symbolic pebbles thrown into an infinitely deep and pointless well. Words of lifestyle advice and medical referrals faded upon entry of the haze of my confusion. Why was I not excited? Why did I feel no motherly impulses, no relieved unplugging of the biological clock? What was wrong with me? I thought I wanted — or was supposed to want — to have children some day, and so did my husband. Why not now?

I was twenty-seven years old; in a committed, monogamous relationship; financially stable; and healthy.

But all I felt was dread. I could list out my reasons for this lack of excitement — I wanted more time alone with my husband; I wanted the freedom to travel for fun and for my research; to run in the two marathons I’d scheduled for the year; to keep eating and drinking all the seafood, cheese, and wine that I love — but to travel that road fundamentally invalidates the theme I wish to impart.

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When someone has an abortion, one of the most common reactions is — “why?” Tonight, I spoke to a woman very close to me. I brought up this point, and she ignorantly yet defiantly posed the question — “if you made the decision, why should they not ask?”

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“Justifiable.” We scatter such terms like righteous confetti, but how do they translate to action? Legally, politically, morally, socially- what makes the decision justified, or un-justified? What is the bar that we set? And how do we enforce this code?

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This begs a host of other questions.

If a woman has become pregnant as the result of a sexual assault, does she need to provide irrefutable evidence of the assault to warrant an abortion? If a woman feels inadequately prepared to raise a child, do we expect her to provide paperwork/bare her vulnerabilities, listing out the reasons — psychological, financial, physical — that she inhabits these sentiments?

And more importantly, why do we feel it is so necessary to justify a woman’s choice in the first place?

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The woman close to me argued her point. “By talking about your abortion,” she said, “You hurt women who are unable to bear children of their own.”

I call bullshit. As women, this is one of those moments we can tear each other down, or lift each other up.

I respect and support every woman I know who wants to have children, and is struggling.

I also support each and every woman I might know who has made, is currently making, or might one day make the choice not to have children.

No person wants to have an abortion. But I believe it is every woman’s right.

No justification necessary.

With no regrets, and empathy for all, I welcome your feedback.

-JW