Kathleen Reeves turned
her eyes to the way the recent and immediately notorious anti-choice
episode of “Law and Order” employed the “born alive” myth that’s so near and dear
the anti-choice heart. I would
like to tackle another hoary myth of the anti-choice pantheon that made it onto
the show, the “How would you like to be aborted?” ruse. On “Law and Order”, it shows up in the
form of one of the detectives suggesting he was nearly aborted by his mother
throwing herself down the stairs at 7 months—but instead, he was just
prematurely delivered. Like most
of the episode—including an exchange a few moments before when the same
detective suggests that forcing an 11-year-old to give birth is nothing short
of a the most wonderful thing you can do—the exchange only works if you share
the writers’ assumption that once penetrated, a woman can be assumed to have no
feelings or thoughts worth respecting, and should be regarded as nothing more
than a womb, and abortion is a frustrating misfire, much like when the clutch
goes out on your car.
But let’s deal with the attempt to get around women’s basic
human rights by appealing to the egotistical assumption that your own birth was
inevitable, and that the only thing that could have threatened this inevitable
trot to you existing was the legality of abortion. “How would you like it if your mother had an abortion?” ask
the anti-choicers, without realizing that’s like asking, “How would you like it
if the night you were conceived, your dad decided to go to bed early while your
mom stayed up to watch Johnny Carson?”
The answer is, you wouldn’t be here to regret their selfish actions in
the abortion or late show department.
It’s a trick of the brain that makes us think this question
has any meaning. We don’t remember a time when we didn’t exist, and for the slower-witted amongst us, this means
that not existing isn’t quite real.
But even anti-choicers who buy into this line have to know there was a
period before their lives began.
They may not feel it’s true, but they know it intellectually. In fact, the question buys into the
premise that we accept that our own “not-existing” was possible, because the
question assumes that before you were born, your mother had the choice not to
have you. The question therefore
folds in on itself in a vacuum of self-contradiction.
To ask it is to ignore the fact that any of us exist by pure
chance, and that many things could have changed it so we weren’t here. What if your parents never met at
all? I probably wouldn’t be here
for something as simple as my grandparents moving to a different neighborhood
in El Paso than the one they lived in.
That’s how my mother met my father, after all, but if she’d lived on the
west side instead of the east side, they probably wouldn’t have met at
all. It is, after all, a big city.
Does that make settling in one
neighborhood and not the other immoral, and if so, how do you know which is the
moral neighborhood? What if my
grandmother’s first husband hadn’t died in the war? I wouldn’t be here; that doesn’t mean that we should think
wars are some great thing because they set in motion series of events that lead
to certain births. Truth is they
also shut down another range of possibilities; think of all the children that
man could have had and didn’t.
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Some of us are here today because of abortion and birth
control. Many women tell the story
of the abortion that they had to have because the time wasn’t right for a baby,
but it led them on a path that made having a baby possible in the future. The writer Susie Bright is a good
In the case of my first abortion,
the aftermath was the beginning of my realization that I was capable and
desirous of having a child. I could feel the possibility, the confidence,
for the first time. I didn’t see that coming. I ended a relationship that I
hadn’t had the guts to say "No" to before. It was like I grew a
spine— and my maternal instincts— out of the abortion decision.
She now writes a column at Jezebel with her grown daughter
Aretha, a daughter that might not exist if it weren’t for legal and safe
Contraception and abortion (to an extent) allow birth
reduces the chances of having an unhealthy baby or having an infant die. It also improves maternal health, which
means that getting pregnant frequently increases the chance of
miscarriage. Abortion and
contraception play a role in creating not just life, but strong, healthy life,
and the medical community knows it even if anti-choicers don’t.
But at its base, the “What if you were aborted?” question
employs a model of reproduction that has no basis in biological reality. Anti-choicers treat the whole process
of reproduction as if getting pregnant is a rare and precious event, like finding
a giant lump of gold in your backyard, and as if nature was stingy about
attempts to create life. If this
was true, they might have more of a reason to get offended at attempts to
control when you give birth. But
outside of those people who suffer from infertility (in which case, they have
every reason to grab onto every chance at childbirth that comes along), the
biological fact of the matter is that our reproductive systems are all about
waste, all about killing billions in order to have the few that have the best
Using abortion and contraception to make sure that you can
give the few children you do have the best possible life fits neatly in with
the way biology does it. Men make
enough sperm in a week to populate the planet; women are born with almost half
a million eggs. Many eggs that are
fertilized never even implant, and even when pregnancy happens, 15 to 20
percent miscarry. Nature throws a
lot at reproduction, with the purpose of only having a few healthy babies as
the final outcome. This creates a
lot of “what ifs” that never come to fruition, and obsessing over what if too
long will drive you mad. On any
given day, there are billions of theoretical babies never born for the
thousands that are born. In the
grand scheme of things, abortion doesn’t even shut down that many doors as it
opens new ones.