In response to the state of New York’s decision to bed down the rights of women to an abortion
, conservative commentators and various right-leaning and Republican commentators have gone into overdrive condemning the ‘baby murder law.’ To quote the section that has some folk frothing at the mouth: “The law also addresses late-term abortions. Under New York’s Reproductive Health Act, they can be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or when necessary to protect the life of the mother.” Need I point out the words ‘
when necessary to protect the life of the mother’? This is not an arbitrary extension of the right to abortion until the day of delivery.
Now, there is plenty of politics behind the scenes – anticipating a supreme court bench weighted in favour of conservatives, Democrats anticipate the overturning of Row v. Wade and a return to a ban on abortion even as many countries elsewhere in the world go on to legalise it. I don’t want to go into that, because making moral judgements using years of legal battles as a precedent is convoluted and pointless. The question is whether abortion SHOULD be legal and whether it is MORAL. The law, current or past, here or in the USA, cannot provide the answers to such questions, it can only legislate the answer.
And with the goal of answering the question, on behalf of myself and my wife (who stands 100% behind this post), I want to tell you a story: We’ve been for an abortion. I try not to dwell on those days too much, because it was a nightmare. But here it is.
Three months into an exciting and happy – planned – pregnancy, a scan showed a thing we never thought possible. Anencephaly. (Don’t click on that link unless you’re prepared for some graphic detail). In our case, we had a fetus without a fully formed head. A second opinion with one of the most respected sonar specialists in the area confirmed the situation and presented a choice – carry a child to term with 0% chance of life beyond birth and high risk of miscarriage at any time, or an abortion.
We chose abortion at fourteen weeks, and even in a country where abortion is not particularly contentious (in principle), what followed was excruciating. A looong weekend spent waiting, after a scan on Maundy Thursday. A night in the maternity ward, surrounded by crying babies to remind us what we were losing. Nursing staff who were outright hostile, until they realised the medical decision that prompted the procedure. And yes, invasive surgery, discomfort, and a tough emotional journey. Months of explaining ourselves and responding to comments like, “You had no right – only God can make that choice” and “You are a murderer” and “I am so sorry, but God always has a plan” and “Are you trying again? You need to try again straight away” and sometimes just a Glare.
Ten years later, my wife still remembers anniversary of the day, every year.
At this point, you might be tempted to suggest that our story only proves abortions are a terrible thing that nobody should go for one, and ideally, ever be allowed to go for one. Stop. Listen carefully. Abortion Is Not A Thing That People Do Because They Forgot To Take Their Birth Control. People put themselves through a process that is traumatic and difficult because the alternatives are far worse. Going for an abortion is ‘inconvenient’ (to be euphemistic). It’s painful. There is social stigma, judgement, insensitivity and condemnation. There is a lifetime of being judged. And yet people do it because the alternatives are worse.
Nobody – literally nobody – thinks that having an abortion is like popping down to Macdonalds for a milkshake and fries. It’s an emotional gauntlet. So much so that many people are willing to do it illegally when it isn’t legally available. Imagine for a moment putting yourself through an illegal abortion. Fear, stress – and the knowledge that you have no recourse if it fails – possibly jail, one way or the other. Imagine the situation you need to be in, in order to consider that the best option. If that is hard to imagine, lucky you. Try again. Because I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah? So? Babies are hard work. That’s no excuse to murder them. We’ve been there. It was hard, but we managed.”
Let’s try again. If you’ve raised children, think about what you had in your favour. A job? A partner with a job? A partner who supports you? Nobody who raped you? Family or friends to help and give advice? Access to doctors when you need them? Your health? Your mental health? An education? Money? Now imagine doing it again without some or all of those things.
Now. I am going to assume for a moment that your objection to abortion is truly compassionate, and not steeped in the same sort of insane religious fervour that lead to the crusaders baptising perceived infidels in greek fire to show them Gods love.
Keeping in mind that people who have an abortion are putting themselves through trauma that’s probably only marginally better than whatever nightmare they face as an alternative…why aren’t you offering better alternatives than a crusade to make abortion illegal? Adoption? Education? Poverty alleviation? Because, you see, if there really was a better option available to women than abortion, they would probably take it.