Essay:The Lost Woman in the Abortion Argument

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As I sit here editing RW pages on abortion I find myself in a strange "mental space" of trying to address the issue on some kind of logical, articulate, "rational", cold way, while every bit of me rebels at such a stupid and "untruthful" sense that such articles portray about the abortion decision. For a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, abortion is not ever a cold balance sheet of logical arguments about what to do and not to do. Nor is it a reflection upon the law, nor a moral or ethical study about life, or when life begins, or if a child can live outside of the womb. In fact, in my experience - right or wrong, selfish or not - the only real question that comes into play is "What is best for me?"

I say this, knowing that unlike most of the editors on this page, debaters in their pro-life rallies, and politicians who make the world's laws, I've actually been there. I've faced an unwanted pregnancy twice and aborted twice.

My choice at 18 from a night of "being stupid", and my choice just 1 year later after a violent rape were nearly the same process - I knew I did not want to be pregnant. I did not want to carry a child. I wanted to end the pregnancy. And I knew it almost instantly, with very little "debate" or "consideration" necessary. (The Right can yell all they want about how we as women do not *really* know what we want. How we need legislated and enforced "time to consider" our decisions. I beg to differ.) It was, it is a personal decision that no one who is not living my life and wearing my skin can possibly understand. It was not a political choice; it was not an economic choice; it was not a choice I mulled over for weeks or months (which is good, cause any abortion is both safer and perhaps morally less problematic the earlier you do it), it was an almost instantaneous acceptance that an abortion was right for me.


The argument that women who are raped should be offered services that us "stupid" women (and yes, I will admit with all the self-awareness and reflection I posses in my 40s, that I was stupid. I was, even then, decently intelligent; I was in a great college, working on scholarship... - but the guy was hot and he didn't want to use a condom. I was a geek, and the odds of me sleeping with the hottest guy in school ever again were pretty damn low. As I said, I was stupid.)...the argument that us "stupid women" should not be allowed access to abortion is hollow and shows a view of women as "sexual property to be kept clean". Rape is not your choice, therefor you are still pure and you should not have to deal with the pregnancy. Stupidity, however, *is* your choice, and you should have to be punished with a baby for having sex and being a stupid 18 year old geek.

But what people ignore, lie about, or simply have never considered is that the emotions, the "turmoil", the "tragedy" as it were of the pregnancy itself are no greater from being raped than from just being stupid. Being pregnant when you do not want to be pregnant is traumatic, rape or not. And the circumstances around the pregnancy might easily make a pregnancy arising from rape less traumatic than one arising from stupidity, or the other way around. This is not to argue that there are not a host of other emotional and physical issues arising from and being part of the rape or incest that are not present with stupidity, but I'm here talking only about the pregnancy itself. Looking at the laws on abortion and the way rape and incest are discussed leaves me with the first conclusion that abortion laws are not about babies, they are very much about punishing women for having sex.

Clear Risk to life of mother[edit]

Almost every article on abortion at wiki, and the vast majority of essays or comments to essays, and prior to the most recent attack on women - virtually every law written contains these words:

...clear risk to the life of the mother...

I'm editing articles and see this phrase over and over "clear risk to the life of the mother" and I find myself extremely disturbed by the language, because it means, if you understand the laws, that someone else is telling me what risks I must take in my life.

Two examples[edit]

There is a 34 year old women, who is the mother of a precocious 3 year old little girl. A women who is vested into her career, who has built a life with a partner who she adores, has a network of family and friends who all help each other and love each other. This woman chooses to have a second child, and wants that child dearly. But, as life is want to do, during the pregnancy something goes wrong. In her 5th month, she develops a tear in her uterus. She visits her doctor, the one who has been her obgyn for 10 years and who saw her through her first pregnancy. That doctor tells her that the tear is a serious issue, but a strange and fluky issue. As a small tear, it is not an immediate threat to her life. But as the baby grows, it will increase the pressure on the weak spot. Now many, even most women can survive with this tear because the expansion of the uterus is slow enough. But if it should rip, because of the amount of blood flowing to the uterus, you have less than 5-10 minutes to be IN surgery. Even if you are hospitalized, the odds of dying if the uterus tears are nearly 100%. The odds that nothing will go wrong are very high. The odds of death *if* something goes wrong, are even higher. The mother, who has this already fulfilled life, must ask herself what risks she wants to take. It is her life. The risk is hers.

Now, the legal problem. Law after law, statement after statement says "Clear Risk to the life of the mother". Does this woman have a "clear risk?" And if not, why not. And why should someone else be able to define when a "risk" is a "risk".

In the US, many laws are written in such a way that your life must be in immediate threat, not some possible future threat that may or may not come to pass, no matter how extreme it be if it does come to pass. Kansas and Oklahoma and South Dakota require a panel of doctors all agreeing that you are at a clear risk. This language and the necessity of a panel suggests that you'll be a "clear risk" when you are bleeding out after an accident, or when you have end stage cancer. Then everyone agrees, you now have a "clear risk".

But should dying be the only risk? And just how "risky" is risky enough for politicians? What about a 10% risk that you will die? Is that sufficient? Is it a 25% chance you will die before you have any say? The risk must be "clear". To others. To outsiders. People who will not live or die based on the laws. People who look at your uterus and say to you "eh, you're fine... don't worry about it". Leaving me with the second conclusion that other people think they are better at making choices for you, than you are. Especially the men who never have to face this kind of scenario.

The Lost Woman[edit]

I don't know about you, but I want to live. I love being alive. And I don't even have that mythical 2 year old in the example to be the mother of and watch grow up. I don't even want to live for the husband, or the job. I want to live for me, cause I rather like being alive.

Why do we think that some doctor, some lawyer, even the father of the child should have any say in your right to be alive simply because you are pregnant with another life. Why should anyone think that such a life, the potential of a child that cannot feel, has not experience the world, and frankly cannot say "I want to be alive" has as much or more value to your body and your life than you do ?

Why should my life, and the choices I make about risks be the jurisdiction of some person that isn't me. Why should you get to condemn me to possible death, when I could choose to avert even that slightest possibility if I want to live?

In the discussion of abortion, far too often the individual woman and her views, her hopes, her sorrows are channeled into something absent and irrelevant. We talk about "women" in the abstract "women's rights" in the rare cases we talk of them at all. We spend most of the time talking about life - when it begins, what it means to be alive, its relative rights to "the mother". We talk about the law - privacy, right to control medical decisions, subjection of a class. But we so rarely look into the eyes of the woman who is sitting in a doctor's office, saying to herself "I can't be pregnant now, it's not right for me". Or saying "I don't care that I *might* life, I want *to* live." We so rarely hear the stories of the 45 million voices who looked at a doctor and said "this is right for me, here and now".

The articles here are on RW are as they should be. Cold and analytical. Presenting the facts as we know them, the statistics, the laws and the arguments. We attempt to make points, and convince others of our views. We debate. We calculate. We argue.

But abortion, when you are facing it, is not, cannot be analyzed, debated, or calculated.

Abortion is. And you do it, or you don't. And you move on.