Things Anti Choicers Say: “Every Pro-Choicer Has Already Been Born”

I was planning to write about roller derby today. I’m afraid, though, that you’re going to have to wait a little longer for rhapsodising about the joys of knockin’ people over on eight wheels. I’m letting you know this because just as soon as we sort out reproductive rights for all and dismantle the kyriarchy, everyone will get to blog all day long about their favourite things. I’ll turn this into a food and derby blog, write reviews of my favourite books, and yarnbomb my balcony. I’m not sure what you lot will do, but it’ll be great.

In the meantime, though, we have to keep doing this. Sorry ’bout that. Might as well get to it, though, eh? In the wake of my post the other day on antichoice responses to BPAS in the Irish Times, I’ve had a few conversations here and on Twitter. This morning I woke up to this in my inbox:

There are a lot of flippant responses I could give. Let’s take a look at the premises behind this one, though, and see what comes out of it.

1. That we would be horrified at having been aborted ourselves

This reminds me of another thing I hear a lot from anti choice activists. A few years ago, I was out at a pro choice counterdemo to an anti choice march. Someone came up to me and, after calling me a murderer a few times, shouted in my face, “Aren’t you glad your mother was pro life?”. (Of course, my mother was standing a few yards down to me, carrying a massive “Keep Your Rosaries Off my Ovaries” sign.)

What this is about, though, is the idea that pro choice is a fundamentally selfish position, and that pro choice people have never considered the possibility that we might ourselves have been aborted. Additionally, it’s about the idea that the choice between abortion and carrying to term is something other than a deeply personal decision that a person makes.

Don’t think so? The result of my mother having aborted me would be that I would never exist. I rather like existing, so I can see how the thought of nonexistence would disturb people. I’ve had a sleepless night or two in my time contemplating my inevitable future nonexistence, and I’ll bet you have too. Abortion, though, is only one way of many that I or you could have never existed at all. We might have been miscarried. There might have been something good on TV, or an important errand to run, when we would have been conceived. Any one of our twenty-greats-grandparents, making the tiniest change to a single day of their lives, could have caused our entire families to never be.

Sure, I’m glad that I wasn’t aborted. I’m also glad that my billions-of-years-old newly-vertebrate ancestors didn’t get eaten by anything before they could lay the eggs of the next generation of our ancestors. When it comes to abortion, though? Knowing that my pro choice mother made a choice to carry me to term and be my parent is deeply comforting to me. The existence of any of us, both as individuals and as a species, is the result of innumerable trillions of chance events and meetings. But at one point, at the very end of that scale, someone decided that I should exist. That I was wanted and loved.

I am pro choice now. Give me a time machine and a chance to meet my mother when she was pregnant? And I’d still tell her to make the choice that was right for her. And if that meant I never existed in the first place? It’s just one chance of many.

2. That being born before we make our minds up only applies to pro-choice people

Here’s something that it took me a while to get, when people accuse pro choice supporters of all having already been born. Yes, we were born decades ago. So were the people we disagree with. So has everyone any of us has spoken to, met, passed on the street, seen on TV, or read about in history books. Sure, it was a thing to shout at people. But it didn’t make any sense.

Unless you give agency to fetuses. If a fetus could think, desire, understand and fear, then maybe it would seek to continue to exist.

There’s no evidence- or reason to believe- that fetuses can do anything of the sort. A fetus doesn’t know what life and death are. It doesn’t know that there is a world outside. It has never eaten, cried, or even taken a breath. There’s evidence that fetuses sleep through their entire gestation (yes, even when they’re placing well-aimed kicks at their parent’s tenderest vital organs) due to a combination of their blood oxygen levels and sedating hormones produced by it and its placenta. Even if awake, though, a fetus couldn’t have an awareness of what an individual is, of it being one, of what life and death and the future and other people are- the most basic kinds of self-awareness don’t really start to develop until a baby is a year or so old.

Yes, every pro choice person has been born. So has every anti choice person, and every person with the most basic idea of what that sentence means in the first place.


Things Anti Choicers Say: “Every Pro-Choicer Has Already Been Born”

10 thoughts on “Things Anti Choicers Say: “Every Pro-Choicer Has Already Been Born”

    1. 1.1

      Oh, yes. The choice isn’t between abortions or no abortions. It’s between safe abortions and pregnant people being traumatised, permanently injured, or killed trying to end their own pregnancies.

  1. 2

    I also feel like this comeback from prolifers seeks to capitalize on those stories of people who claim that they “should” have been aborted for some medical reason, but they’re so glad to be alive and that is somehow an argument against abortion. Some of those stories involve people with severe disabilities, whereas some use the horrible “what do doctors know anyways” trope… you know, the “doctors told my parents I’d never survive/never talk/never live independently but my parents ignored them and look at me I’m just perfect!” bit.

    A lot of pro-lifers simply cannot wrap their brains around the idea that prochoicers may not be moved by these stories, and I find that infuriating. Great, there are people alive that have conditions that were diagnosable in the womb and could have led to their abortion, and some of those people are happy they lived. Great, sometimes doctors and/or diagnostic tests are wrong, and fetuses that appeared to have serious medical problems turn out to be relatively healthy adults. Why should either of those facts erase the rights of a pregnant person?

    1. 2.1

      Exactly! Again, it’s this equating of an adult (who, yes, gets to enjoy their life and be happy they have it!) with a fetus (who is not yet a person).

      It’s also insulting as hell to use people with disabilities as props in a fight for women and trans* men’s bodily autonomy- the worst kind of ‘divide and conquer’. I wonder how many people there are who (were thought to) have disabilities that were diagnosed in utero and their parents decided to continue with the pregnancy.. who grow up to need and appreciate their own reproductive rights? Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they’ll never have to make their own decisions about pregnancies!

  2. 4

    After reading this post, it made me consider one thing I’ve never considered before. Would banning abortion just make someone not wanting to be pregnant say “Oh, I can’t get an abortion, guess I’ll just carry this baby for 9 months and once it’s born raise it for 18 years…” I guess if I honestly had to answer that question, I would have to say no. If they truly did not want to be pregnant, they would find a way to end it. Well written Aoife. (P.S. Can I ask how your name is pronounced? It’s very unique…)

    1. 4.1

      Exactly, James! Banning abortion here in Ireland didn’t lead to less abortions. It’s led to Irish women travelling outside the country for abortions (fortunately we’re a small country), and where they can’t afford that, to resorting to buying medical abortion pills online. Again, it’s actually lucky that we live in a time where there are doctors who will prescribe abortion pills online after online consultations- not because that is ideal, but because the alternative is that pregnant people go to desperate measures to induce miscarriages. The difference when abortion is legal is that the people who would end their pregnancies anyway, can do so safely.

      And my name is pronounced EE-fah. Kind of rhymes with TREE-fah. It’s a very common name here in Ireland 🙂

  3. 6

    I love my mother, and the thought of me being something forced on her for a “pro-life” agenda makes me sick.

    Hey, that’s something to throw back at them I guess: “Wouldn’t you be willing to die for *your* mother?”

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