by Ruth Moss
I have a confession, which is that I haven’t always been pro-choice. To be fair, I was raised as an evangelical Christian and my “only in cases of rape and incest” views were actually pretty damn liberal amongst my peers!
When I rejected the religion I was brought up into, I started to reject the “pro-life” stance I’d been taking. It happened slowly, mind you. I came, at first, to view abortion as a kind of “sometimes-necessary evil”. I supposed, that in some cases, say, where contraception had failed, or where economic circumstances were such that a baby would be born into breathtaking poverty, or where a baby would be so severely disabled they would have no quality of life or… well, you get the picture.
I thought of abortion kind of in the way my sister-in-law (a vegetarian) thinks of meat eating. Not particularly nice, and she’d never do it herself, but as long as it’s done as humanely as possible and as little as possible it was the best of a bad job.
Gradually my views started to change. But it wasn’t until I became pregnant and had a baby myself that I realised I really was totally pro-choice. Because pregnancy was awful; the morning sickness (and afternoon, and evening sickness, and night sickness), the exhaustion and lethargy and sheer inability to move on occasion; and then the labour, with the pain which was like torture to me and about which I still get flashbacks; then the episiotomy which had me weeing standing up for several weeks (and I still can’t use my mooncup even now); the pelvic floor problems, the occasional leakage; the sleepless nights… and this was all for a much-wanted and much-loved child.
(Don’t get me wrong, I know not every woman’s pregnancy is like this. There were some complications in my case – won’t go into them now – and I know for some women a pregnancy is a joy. I think if I ever have a second child it might be a different story.)
The thought of putting another woman through this, against her will? Seems like torture to me. And that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about being anti-abortion. Forcing women to endure pregnancy and labour against their will.
However, once you identify as “pro choice” you have some uneasy decisions to make. Are you pro-choice all the time? Are you, for example, pro-choice whe it comes to women aborting only female foetuses? Are you pro-choice when it comes to abortion for foetuses where the resulting child could have a disability?
And… are you pro-choice when it comes to the other choice, the choice to keep the foetus, and have a baby? Are you pro-choice when it comes to, say, a post-menopausal woman gaining fertility treatment to conceive a child? Are you pro-choice even in an over-populated world? Are you pro-choice even though you believe motherhood is a problematic, even patriarchal construct?
Are you pro-choice, all the time?