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:
— gary banner (@gary_banner) November 4, 2013
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.
- Yes, Abortion is part of Reproductive Rights (reproductiverightscanada.wordpress.com)
- Blood Candle (katjewrites.wordpress.com)
- Abortion. Is it as black and white as we make out? (girlwiththafro.wordpress.com)
- Clearing up Abortion: Feminist Stereotypes and Misconceptions (feministfalsehoods.wordpress.com)