Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

This is a really sensitive topic for a lot of people, and I want to preface this post by saying that while we chose not to do prenatal genetic testing, I in no way oppose other people doing those tests.  This is a decision that we wrestled with, which is why I want to post about it here.  A few bits of background information:

(1) Neither my husband nor myself come from ethnic backgrounds that normally flag a couple for a lot of genetic tests.

(2) I’m relatively young (26), so I was not at a high-risk for having a baby with a genetic defect.

(3) My husband is from Peru, where I’ve heard anecdotally that genetic testing is not common.

The genetic testing that we were offered (a first trimester screen or nuchal translucency test) would not have told us definitively whether our baby had an abnormality.  Rather, it would have given us a set of odds that the baby would be born with such an abnormality.  Every baby would have a certain set of odds based on the results of the tests (like 1 in 1000 or 1 in 300), so I thought that however I looked at the results, I would have a nagging feeling that my baby could have something wrong with her.  I’m prone to anxiety, and being exposed to a lot of stress is supposed to be bad for a fetus, so I thought that for our family it was not a good choice.

My husband felt strongly that regardless of whether we knew something was wrong with her, she was our baby and we were going to have her.  It was very black and white for him.  He made me feel a bit morally inferior, because even though I am opposed to most types of abortion, I wondered about bringing a baby into the world that I knew would suffer and have medical problems.  I thought that the advantage of knowing in advance about a defect was being prepared and having time to do a lot of reading and meet with a lot of specialists.  But the disadvantage would be a long period of worrying and being upset, and perhaps I would be less likely to bond with my baby/pregnancy.  My husband seemed like he could still fall in love with a pregnancy that we knew would have medical problems, but I wasn’t sure of my own fortitude in that area, so it seemed better just not to know.

I was praying a lot about the decision, wavering and debating and discussing with people, when I finally decided that primarily because of my tendency toward anxiety, I didn’t want to know.  I once I made up my mind, I felt peace about the decision, and decided that the trade-off was worth it even though if there was something wrong I wouldn’t have months to prepare and educate myself.  Then I read this beautiful post about a woman who gave birth to a daughter with down syndrome and she did not know in advance.  For me, reading her birth story reinforced the choice we made.

Most of the people I’ve talked to have opted for the test.  In fact, everyone I’ve talked to except for one person opted for it.  It was more because of my own personal struggles with anxiety that we chose not to.  If you’re reading this post because you are trying to decide what to do, I hope that you’re able to make a choice that brings you a sense of peace as well.  You should also feel free to hit people who admonish you not to worry too much while pregnant because it’s bad for the baby.  Hitting those people is probably an excellent stress reliever.

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I thought polygamy and illegal immigration weren’t polemic enough, so I decided we should talk about abortion, too.  Actually, I found the quote below at a fantastic blog called “But Now to Live the Life” at http://goodfellowfamily.blogspot.com/ and I wanted to share it with you.  This family has moved to Peru with their 4 small children to be part of an organization that is teaching poor women in Lima how to knit and then selling the hats that they make to conscientious consumers in places like the US.

As someone who self-identifies as Christian, I often have a hard time articulating my stance on abortion in a coherent form, especially since I was fervently pro-choice before becoming Christian.   (I had this quote on my wall for years: “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body.” – Margaret Sanger.  Shabam – that’s a powerful quote.)  Obviously becoming a Christian who is against abortion has resulted in some serious whiplash for me.  (I hate those terms, btw: pro-choice and pro-life.  They are an excellent example of a linguist shamelessly using their powers for the purposes of evil fear-mongering.  But I digress.)

The family at But Now to Live the Life talks about [Tony] Campolo, who gives my position a name: consistently pro-life*.  He writes that this means, “…life is sacred and should be protected not only for the unborn but also for the born. This requires that there be commitments to stop wars, end capital punishment, and provide universal healthcare for all of our citizens- in addition to stopping abortion.”

Christians today display a tremendous amount of cognitive dissonance when they vote against education about contraceptives, against abortion, and then refuse to fund public welfare programs.  How are these mothers supposed to raise the unwanted children that will result from this policy?  Where will these unwanted children go?  How can you protect the life of a fetus and then show no concern for the life of a child?

As a consistently pro-life Democrat, I believe that the first step to preventing abortions is providing affordable health care, affordable day care, a living wage, and appropriate education.  I do not believe that making abortion illegal is some panacea that will stop women from making tough choices when they cannot provide for unwanted children.

My point today is more that if you oppose abortion you should also oppose the death penalty, and support caring for living children.  However, on the issue of making abortion illegal, I recognize that there are many complex issues at play here.  Let’s assume that you don’t know when life begins.  Is it at conception?  After certain neural systems develop?  In the absence of clear evidence, it might be best to err on the side of caution and support life at conception.   If that’s the case, then having an abortion might be killing a life, which means that from the perspective of people who think life begins at conception, this is murder and should be stopped at all costs, even if it takes longer to set up affordable day care or a living wage.  After all, who would put off stopping genocide in order to pass other laws first?  In that sense, I get people who want abortion to be illegal immediately.

And yet, I think the best way to reduce abortions (you won’t eliminate it, as in the case of women whose lives are in danger) is to make it viable to bear and take care of a child, and that these involve long-term policy changes in many arenas.  I like this idea of being pro-life in a consistent manner for people of all ages, and yet I think my personal stance of long-term change rather than immediate change doesn’t make sense in the context of life beginning at conception.  I believe this anyway even though within the logical framework I’ve set up (we should assume life begins at conception until we know otherwise) it’s not rational.

Do you see any inconsistencies in what you think about abortion?  What principal are you basing this stance on – the sanctity of life?  Or personal freedom?  How do those two principles interact when the rubber meets the road?  I think the most interesting question on this issue is, can you put yourself in the shoes of someone on the other side?  Zealots make me nervous.

*A shout out to all you Whorfian Hypothesis folks – isn’t it satisfying to have a label for your political stance?  I love how this neatly ties in opposition to the death penalty.  Most excellent.

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