I have always been pro-choice, and I can say with near certainly that I always will be. But my personal feelings about abortion haven’t always been so solid. There was a time when I believed I wouldn’t have to think twice about my choice, should I be faced with an unwanted pregnancy; now I’m pretty sure I could never have an abortion. But in debates over reproductive rights, there’s not a lot of understanding for women who share my views.
As a teen, I knew I had a lot to accomplish in life; I was pretty sure that having a baby was on the list, but I knew I didn’t want it to come before college, work, travel, and having some time to make careful choices about who I make babies with. That hasn’t changed—which is part of why I use one of the most statistically effective types of birth control available outside of tubal ligation. But should my IUD fail me (which, believe me: is a possibility that intermittently fuels my paranoia), I would likely be spending the next few months rearranging my life to get ready for a baby.
You might wonder if I had some kind of religious awakening, or suspect that I have some kind of deep-seated moral objection to abortions. I didn’t, and I don’t. I’m still pro-choice, and I would gladly hold a friend’s hand through the procedure should she need my support, whatever her situation or reason for her choice.
The moment that made the choice seem different for me personally happened to be September 11, 2001. It has nothing to do with the twin towers, actually: That just happened to be the (very memorable) day that my medical ethics professor had appointed for our class to view the University of Washington’s collection of preserved fetuses. We didn’t say or do much that day, aside from silently amble around a lab that had been filled with formalin-preserved fetuses at various stages of gestation. The professor’s point wasn’t to scare us all away from abortion—in fact, our class was discussing stem cell research, not reproductive rights, and he wanted us to see what stem cells and fetuses really looked like, to inform our debates. But what I took away from the display was the feeling that, past the stage of being able to take Plan B, an abortion would be a very, very difficult choice for me to make.
I’ll spare you descriptions of what fetuses look like at various stages of the game—my goal isn’t to convince anyone to feel guilty about their choice, or to force my own impressions on readers.
But I think there should be more room in the discussion for people to have complicated opinions about abortion and reproductive rights. Women, in particular, should be able to separate their personal and political opinions: I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of my personal objections to abortion for fear of being branded a pro-life or anti-woman. And pro-choicers shouldn’t be branded as amoral baby-killers, either; as if we’re always at the ready to make flippant life-and-death choices, or somehow don’t understand the gravity of an abortion at all. I highly doubt that a woman who’s in any stage of pregnancy doesn’t understand the magnitude of her choice, or feel torn over the decision—but either way, I think it should be hers.
To be honest, I still can’t say with 100% certainty that I would never get an abortion under any circumstances. But rape or genetic defects nowithstanding, I know that at this stage i my life the most likely outcome is that I’d scrape together my resources and figure out a way to become a good mom, even if it came at a time or with a personal that didn’t fit into plans quite like I’d prefer. But this is my personal choice, and it doesn’t change the fact that I think every woman deserves to make her own.