Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My mother almost killed me in the spring of 1973 ...

I'd dashed out to get some NYQuill for one of the roomies who has a bad cold, and while in the BiLo parking lot, this commentary plays on NPR.

A Name and the Choices It Represents

Now, with a begnning like that, I was, of course hooked. The story is about how her mother, unexpectantly pregnant at 22, almost has an abortion. Somehow, on the bus ride to the Laurel clinic, she changes her mind, and decides to keep the baby. The child was named after the clinic, Laurel.

[I'll transcribe portions of the commentary, with my own responses]

In 1973 abortion was a foregone conclusion in her circles of friends … and it was a political statement to have an abortion, an automatic decision, and abortion meant freedom.
(That's true, it would seem, of some circles in 2005 as well, surely. Think Planned Parenthood's campaign to sell "I've had an abortion" tee-shirts.)

As she turns 16, her mother talks to her.

She [mother] did use it [her story] to illustrate the obligation of sex. She said we all make choices, and we live with our choices. She said she never regretted her decision to have me … so I think a lot of what we mean when we say we have a right to choose. Choice isn’t about doing the first thing that pops into your head, or doing what your friends tell you to do. Choice is about considering all the information at your disposal, and the honest feelings in your belly, and then making a decision. Choice is hard. Choice is about living with your decision, accepting responsibility for what you’ve done. If a choice is easy it really isn’t a choice. My mother chose to give birth to me, and accepted one set of burdens and gifts.
So, a woman's right to choose. But only after a lot of soul searching and hearache? The sincerity of the struggle changes the nature of the outcome? "This is really really sad. It's going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you"? (Again, this is not to in anyway denigrate the genuine struggle women, and men, face, in such situations.)

Here's the kicker.

If she’d had an abortion, she’d simply had had a different set of burdens and gifts. So my story doesn’t support a political agenda, but I hope it makes an argument for care and consideration.
Simply. That's the word that got me. A different set, a different outcome. Simply. And yes, I did think, "Lady, you'd not be around. You'd be dead. Not because of an unfortunate tragedy, or an illness. But because you were not convenient. Because your mother decided to kill you." And yes, at least at first blush, this story does support a political agenda (and why is supporting a political agenda such a horrible thing anyway?). It supports the agenda that says that an abortion is simply about a different set of outcomes. For the mother. And, a rather deadly different set. For the child. And that, in a civilized society, that's legal. And ok.

The commentry continues, trying to make a comparision with a miscarriage.

Last year I miscarried in the middle of a step aerobics class, and I was really scared that the loss of my child, would in some way awaken latent feelings about my mom’s choice. I thought I might mourn the miscarriage as a real death...
[As opposed to an unreal one? Or just the passing of some tissue? Those were my exact thoughts when I first heard this. However, I certainly don't want to come across as belittling her experience. Especially since I've never had, and can never have, a miscarriage].

… and judge my mother for what she almost did. But that didn’t happen at all. Instead my miscarriage felt, disappointing. Like a job I’d applied for, really wanted, but not gotten. I’ve thought a lot about this, and here’s how it makes sense to me: if you plant 100 seeds in a garden, you can expect to find healthy trees growing from about 3 of them. Some seeds will die because of forces completely beyond your control, and some will die because you’re a bad gardener. We’ll all just have to live with that.
Um. There's some really confused thinking here. Is this truly analogous to having an abortion? Is ripping out the fruit of one's womb the same as being, vaguely and nebulously, a "bad gardener?" In this context, a "bad gardener" implies an incompetent one. A mother who has an abortion isn't being incompetent. She's twisting what it means to be a mother. She's not a gardener at all. A gardener doesn't poison her garden.

And no, we don't have to live with this.

[PS: Yes, the language here might sound harsh. And judgmental. Yup. In my judgment, in the judgment of many, and in the teaching of the Church, an abortion is always and everywhere wrong. A grave evil. Just like murder. This doesn't mean that one should treat women who've had abortions like outcasts. For one, many post-abortive women need healing (.pdf link). Nor is this just to feel self-righteous in condemning. Being pro-life cannot stop there. As long as we shame unmarried pregnant women, as we continue to tolerate or exacerbate the conditions that push women to make this terrible choice, we're not being very pro-life at all.]

[PPS: According to the NPR page, the author is a podcaster for nextbook.com. Turns out it's a gateway to Jewish literature, culture and ideas. Interestingly enough, in modern Judaism, human life is considered not to begin at conception. A recent First Things articles, "A Jewish-Catholic bioethics" explores some of these differences.]


Laurel said...

I think we could have a long conversation about gardening... but I found it interesting to read your post. Thank you.

Gashwin said...

Lauren -- I readily admit my ignorance on all things horticultural (in fact, I'll readmily admit my ignorance on a whole lot of things). I'm a city-slicker after all. Thanks for stopping by, and glad it was interesting. Best wishes!