Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baggage Claim

We all come to abortioneering with some type of baggage. It's no secret that I would have an abortion in a heartbeat, no second thoughts, no regrets, no sadness. I've known this since I was 15 or so. And when I counsel women before their abortions, I am as neutral as can be, helping them to work through whatever issues they bring to the table. But I know that a part of me that never shows itself on my face or in my actions thinks, "Is it really that big of a deal?" because it wouldn't be for me. It's not conscious, and again I will stress that it influences my counseling to a negative degree, but I recognize it's there.

I've had a few co-workers who are 110% pro-choice, but in off-the-record conversations, they've admitted that if they got pregnant, they would probably have an abortion, but they wouldn't be happy about it. And these co-workers are the ones who say, "Yes, a woman can have as many abortions as she wants to! No judgment!" but they also counsel about birth control with just a little bit more umph. Because an abortion would be a big deal for them.

And then there are the women who say, "I'm pro-choice, but I'd never have an abortion." Those women in my life don't work at the clinic with me, but I'm curious about ones who do. It would be ridiculous of me to assume that every woman working at every abortion clinic in the world would have an abortion. (Although I'm now picturing some kind of reverse-Margaret Atwood-style novel about a world that's so pro-choice, women are required to have abortions just to prove that they mean it.) I think most of them would at least allow for cases of fetal anomaly or rape, but who knows? Readers, are any of you or your friends Abortioneers who would NEVER have an abortion yourselves? And if so, what do you bring to the table? Because I'll bet it's also a pretty amazing contribution.


  1. I think an example of an Abortioneer or even a pro-choice woman who would not have an abortion is one who recognizes that the argument of abortion is not whether it's right or wrong, but rather whether or not it should be safe, legal and available to women who do make that decision.

    In addition, a pro-choice woman who is struggling to become pregnant, and would choose to have a child even if her situation in another woman's shoes is inconvenient.

    Being pro-choice means supporting a woman's right to choose when to become a mother, even if that choice is not an abortion (the very definition of choice). So I can see where someone would feel that way.

    Then again, I think we can never say never. You might sit there and say an abortion would not be a big deal, and then feel very differently if it happened to you. And you might sit there and say you'd never ever have an abortion, and then have an unplanned pregnancy you just don't want to carry to term.

    Moral of the story: Trust women!

  2. Good questions! I did have a coworker who, when I first met her, was unexpectedly pregnant for the first time. She and her husband didn't feel ready at first, and actually debated contacting an adoption agency -- which, as you know, VERY few women even consider an option -- but eventually they decided to become parents. (To be clear, I don't know whether it was a whole-heartedly happy decision or whether they were still ambivalent, but by the time I bet her, she was definitely looking forward to it.) Anyway, as far as I know, abortion was not on the table, but throughout her pregnancy and ever since, she's been an excellent abortioneer and still going strong.

    Hm, and I have also known fellow abortioneers who are at a point in their lives where an unplanned pregnancy wouldn't be an unwanted one, and one or two others who are not at that point but say that they probably wouldn't have an abortion even so. None of them have said "never" though, or not accounted for more-extreme circumstances than their current ones.

  3. ---I think we can never say never---

    The most important point of all.

  4. When I was 16, I worked with an anti, a girl about my age. I always knew I was pro-choice and knew I'd have an abortion if I ever got pregnant, no questions asked. I got into a discussion with her once and she showed me the pictures that antis like to trot out. After seeing them I did say to her I wouldn't have an abortion, but I still wouldn't deny it to other women.

    Had I gotten pregnant, I think I actually would have ended up having one then, and I certainly would now. My bf is well aware that I am NOT having children until I am ready (8-10 years) and as such, if I got pregnant in the interim, I'd be visiting Pedgehog at her clinic in Toronto and I wouldn't bat an eyelash.

  5. I *WAS* the "pro-choice but would never have one myself" woman until I actually got pregnant. Then I became the "acutely aware of all the reasons a someone might choose to have an abortion" woman. When I felt tired and got overwhelmingly nauseous from certain smells, I found myself thing about a woman who might not other option but to work a strenuous low-paying job full of noxious odors that doesn't provide medical insurance, sick days, etc.,. When my sweet husband made me dinner or hustled me off to bed for a nap, I thought about pregnant women who had selfish, indifferent or outright abusive husbands and families. When I got the results of the prenatal test that told me that I was carrying a healthy child, I thought of women who had been told that their child had an abnormality that was "incompatible with life" and what it would be like to know that your pregnancy was not going to result in a baby they would take home and watch grow into adulthood. In short, being pregnant brought home the painful realities that accompany abortion. I learned that the whole "abortion as a form of birth control" is a contemptible lie, especially when discussing late-term abortion.
    The foundations of my previous beliefs are still there. I believe that people who are truly opposed to abortion on the grounds of "respecting life" should also support generous funding for pre-natal medical care (if not single-payer medical), housing for women escaping abusive partners/family members, subsidized childcare centers, strong laws protecting the rights of workers, mandatory 12 month maternity leave & financial support, etc.

  6. i can't imagine being completely certain either way, given that you never know all the particulars. i loved this post, though, the questions, the perspective, the nuance, the reminder that pro & anti really aren't always so black & white; there are many shades of grey.

  7. First, I love that reverse-Margaret Atwood novel idea. Second, I have worked with fellow Abortioneers didn't think that they would ever have an abortion. I have to confess that at first I found this surprising, but the more I worked with them, the more I understood how to separate your personal values from your work. I'm a better Abortioneer for working with them.

  8. My mom is like that. She said to me once, in one of the few conversations on the subject we've had, that she is pro-choice but would never have an abortion herself.
    I understand, to a certain degree, how having an abortion could be a difficult decision for some. It wouldn't be for me though.
    I have already decided that should I become pregnant, I will have an abortion. It's not because I feel like I need to prove anything. It's because I do not want to have children. Ever. Under any circumstances.
    Having an abortion wouldn't bother me emotionally. I think this is because I've already planned out my course of action ahead of time and won't have to panic "what do I do?!"
    However, getting an abortion would be pretty inconvenient. I'd rather not need one. It's not getting an abortion that's the problem, the problem is pregnancy. To put it another way, getting a filling isn't a problem, having a cavity requiring me to get one is.
    Not everyone is cildfree like me though. Some women facing. An unwanted pregnancy do want to be mothers but for whatever reason just can't right now. Moreover, not everyone thinks "what if" and makes a decision ahead of time, and some don't even decide until then how they feel about abortion for anyone, let alone themselves.
    Being suddenly in a position requiring serious introspection - and on a time limit - can be very stressful.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.