This is the first of a two-part series of open letters about the controversial issue of abortion. A women’s right to abortion is coming under threat. Now more than ever, it’s important to remember why it was legal in the first place. This first open letter reminds us of that, and the second one in our series (soon to come) tries to give us some insight from the other side of the fence. You can’t argue against something you don’t understand, and our second letter helps you see it from the other side.
I was nineteen when I discovered I was pregnant. A teenager. I remember sitting on the side of my pink and white bathtub – I was home for summer break between freshman and sophomore year –staring at the pregnancy stick in my hand, and knowing that I wasn’t ready to have a baby. I wasn’t ready to become a mom, wasn’t ready to give up college, wasn’t willing to go through nine months and delivery to give it up for adoption.
Was it a selfish decision? You might say so. It was made in my own self interest, just as most of my decisions are. Most of yours are, probably, if you think about it. Wear a seat belt? Your own self interest. Going to college? Self interest. I also like to think of it as a not entirely selfish decision – it saved my boyfriend the unwanted financial and emotional burden of being a teen dad. It saved my unborn baby the awfulness of being raised by someone who didn’t have the resources to be a good parent.
But I should back up here. I’m not sure “unborn baby” is the best way to talk about my pregnancy. The reality is that you (as a pro-lifer) and I disagree fundamentally on what constitutes a life. I don’t see a group of fertilized cells as a life. And I get that it’s hard to pick a point or draw a line and say something is alive – a human – and something isn’t. So for me, I think it’s the moment the fetus can survive by itself out of the womb. I just don’t think a sentient being is created the minute a sperm fertilizes an egg.
In Freakonomics, Steven Levitt attributes a sudden decrease in crime in the mid 1990’s to the increase in abortions 18 years before. “People undergo abortions, in other words, for a reason: because they are poor, or don’t want a child, or live in an environment where it is hard to raise children. An unwanted child has a higher chance, when he or she grows up, of becoming a criminal. By removing a large number of unwanted children, legalized abortion ended up lowering the crime rate.”
Abortions allow women, like myself, to make judgment calls about whether they are able to raise a healthy, functioning child. “An unwanted child has a higher chance…of becoming a criminal.” I don’t think he’s talking about surprise babies or accidents – he’s talking about women who get pregnant and simply do not have the living situation necessary to raise that child.
If I had had that child at 19 and kept him/her, I don’t think the kid would have grown up to be a criminal…but he/she also wouldn’t have had a secure or stable household to depend upon and that would have given him/her plenty of issues. I would have had to make all of my decisions: career, social, etc., around taking care of a baby/child, and I honestly have no idea how I would have done it.
It would have completely derailed my life – a handful of cells barely forming would have dictated my entire world. I had it easier than most. I wasn’t a rape victim, I had supportive parents and a sweet boyfriend. But what about single moms who are stuck in a cycle of poverty? How can they get out if they have to pay for daycare and leave work early to take care of a sick child? In 2008, over half of unwanted pregnancies happened to women who were on some form of birth control.
Look, I get that you have a different definition of “life.” I get that this is often based on a very different worldview than my own. But that doesn’t mean you get to dictate what I do with my body. And maybe, instead of complaining about abortions, you should start supporting groups and centers that provide resources to poor people and single moms. That might have more of an effect on a reduction of abortions than yelling at women who are trying to make the best choice for their life.
Right To Choose
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