Today, Secular Woman is launching a new project called Abort Theocracy, focusing “on the intersection of religious power over women’s bodily autonomy and sovereignty, dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government.”
My friend Hemant, the Friendly Athiest, has two major criticisms of the project. Mostly the “abort” and the “theocracy” parts of it. Fortunately for Hemant, because we’re friends, I’ll only take issue with the “abort” part of his argument.
We celebrate defeating those awful bills; we don’t celebrate abortions.
Those bills are meticulously-planned and written. Pregnancies don’t always work that way.
For most women, an abortion is not something they aspire to have — they’re usually a necessity or the result of serious deliberation; the anti-abortion bills, however, are written by politicians who championed their ability to limit women’s rights.
Here’s the thing, a lot of people think this. But it’s simply wrong. Some of us actually celebrate the defeating of these bills while also celebrating abortions. Yes. Celebrating. I celebrate when a woman is able to go to her doctor and can make a choice that is right for her. I celebrate the ability to decide who and what gets to live in my body. I celebrate that abortions save lives and give women the freedom to control their bodies and their destinies. I celebrate the ability to say, “No. This is not something that I want.” I celebrate abortion. I celebrate it as an essential part of women’s equality. Safe, legal and accessible abortion is something that should be celebrated. We deserve it. And the fact is, that for every woman that has one, there are countless women who are denied one. If I could stand outside an abortion clinic and high-five every un-pregnant woman who walked out who was pregnant when she walked in, I would. High-five for your future. High-five for access. High-five for being able to make the right decision for you. High-five, lady.
We like to think of abortions as these things that women turn to in times of distress and crisis. You all know the story of the typical lady getting an abortion. She’s young. The condom broke or she skipped her pill or it was a one-night stand and they were drunk or they’re in love and they didn’t think it could happen. But now she’s a week late and she’s spent 4 days crying on the floor of her bathroom wondering why her period is late and why she’s throwing up so much and she’s afraid to tell her mom. So she ditches chemistry and goes to the pharmacy and buys a pregnancy test while wearing sunglasses and a hoodie and goes home and it’s positive so she takes 10 more tests (despite the fact that these things can cost $14+ a pop) and she crumbles onto the bathroom floor, AGAIN, because now she has to make a truly difficult decision. Is NOW the right time to become a mom? Now or do I wait? I want to go to college first. I want to get a job first. But here I am, with this baby. WHAT DO I DOOOOOO? Finally, after weeks of careful thought, and tons more crying, bravely and heartbroken, she makes the decision to MURDER HER BABY… so she can have the future she dreams of. And then she has to disclose to every boy she dates in the future that she had an abortion and her life is always kind of empty forever. The end.
But that’s not really how it works. Sometimes it happens like that. But not always. Not even usually… Let me personal-anecdote you for a second.
I am a 35 year old, married, mother of two. I’ve been pregnant four times. The first time I was pregnant, it was a surprise. Not a OOOOOHHH NOOOOO surprise, but a “we’ve been trying for over a year and we’ve seen a reproductive specialist and we’re giving up” kind of surprise. The short story is that this pregnancy was ectopic. It wasn’t really a heartbreaking decision to abort as much as a “what is going on? what is happening? is this real? am I going to die?” decision. My “choice” was A. save myself or B. save neither myself nor the baby. Mostly it was just scary that the first time I tried to reproduce, the first thing my “baby” tries to do is fucking kill me. But it was a baby we wanted. It wasn’t an accident. It was planned… ish. And yet we aborted.
Plenty of women who have planned pregnancies end up having to terminate for a number of reasons—medical or otherwise. Abortions aren’t a thing for the irresponsible and reckless and clueless. They’re part of the reality of simply having a working uterus.
Fast forward two live births and one heart-breaking miscarriage later. Now I’ve had all the pregnancy I can handle. I am done with that shit. That part of my live is over over over. I love my kids… at least half of the time. But I have limited amounts of money and time and sanity and patience. And of those resources, I’ve allotted all I’m willing to allot for children. If I were to get pregnant today, I wouldn’t have to think about it. I would have an abortion. It’s not that I’m “not ready” to be a mom. It’s not that I’m waiting for the right time. It’s not that I’m single. It’s that I simply detest being pregnant and I don’t want more kids. And my husband (quietly) detests when I’m pregnant and doesn’t want more kids. There will be no crying. There will be no hand wringing. There will be no thoughtful contemplation. There will be no more kids. Not in my body. Not in my house.
And the idea that women think long and hard and have to make a difficult decision that sometimes must end, tragically, in abortion is one that many of us are taught is true. (Admittedly, it took me a long time to shake.) It certainly has roots in Christian ideals that conception=life, and clings to the falsehood that all women are somehow biologically programmed to be maternal, that we all will become mothers, God willing.
It also, sadly, perpetuates a damaging untruth that good women are good mothers and good mothers love their children instantly and unconditionally and begin bonding from the first drop of pee on that stick. To not have that bond makes you damaged. You are unloving. Unfit. When the reality is that most women do not bond with their babies for weeks, even months. after they are born. They don’t fall in love with the stranger who declared squatters rights in their womb. And that most certainly includes women who had planned and wanted pregnancies. Not bonding with an unwanted clump of cells threatening to ruin your life isn’t really un-maternal or un-womanly. It’s pretty fucking normal. Not every pregnancy is a blessing.
Continuing to discuss abortion in terms of heartbreak and shame only promotes the idea that abortion is heartbreaking and shameful. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. But it doesn’t have to be. And there’s no reason to be discouraging women from making the choice not to have a baby if the right choice for them is to not have a baby.
Let me say that more clearly: We should not be discouraging abortion. If anything, we should be encouraging it as an equal or even superior option to carrying and giving birth to a baby you don’t want and/or aren’t ready for and/or can’t care for.
As long as we have women, we will have pregnancy. And as long as we have pregnancy, we need abortion. We NEED it.
Any of you have an opinion on abortion? On Secular Woman’s new project? On Hemant’s thoughts?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.
Featured Image: Amy Davis Roth