Every woman should have the right to make the choice not to dedicate her entire life to another person, or even her body to incubation. The 35-year-old married woman who doesn’t want kids? The 15-year-old who didn’t have access to protection? The 23-year-old who doesn’t want to be chained to a fling? They all should have the right to say “no” to what happens in their bodies, no matter the circumstances.
This has always been my belief ever since I was old enough to be part of the conversation. When I would vocalize my pro-choice opinions around those who didn’t share them, I wasn’t met with anything harsher than “You’ll feel differently when you have a child of your own,” or “You’re still young.” Because I’m a generally subdued person, I didn’t defend my liberal opinions or the rights of women any further.
When my own pregnancy test came back positive, the embryo inside me was the size of a poppy seed. My cluster of cells wouldn’t graduate to “fetus” for another four weeks, but if I had decided I didn’t want it to determine the course of my life, I wouldn’t have been able to make that decision without a slew of political agendas thrown at me. But those cells are alive! Yeah, so are the cells on my face, but no one throws a fit when I exfoliate.
Now that I am older and the mother of a child that was wanted, planned, and oh so very loved, I can say they were right. I do feel differently — I feel far more justified in loudly voicing my reasons for being pro-choice. In fact, I have some additional reasons.
For starters, I didn’t love my baby the moment that second stripe appeared. My husband and I obsessively gathered information before trying to get pregnant. We read books, talked to doctors, and listened carefully to the input of seasoned parents. The cliche I often heard, regarding whether or not I was emotionally ready, was that I would become a mother once I found out I was pregnant. It turns out that one isn’t quite so universal as they claimed.
I loved the idea of having a baby, of starting a family, of the exciting challenge ahead. There was no way we weren’t going to carry through with the pregnancy, but I felt there was nothing tangible for me to put these emotions onto. Only a ton of puking and exhaustion — two of the many sacrifices I had to make now in order to be given the opportunity to meet the new little love of my life later.
Those sacrifices gathered together to make one bold and somewhat morbid thought. Throughout the majority of my pregnancy, and certainly every time I was face-first in the toilet, I couldn’t help but think I wouldn’t put myself through this if a baby wasn’t something we desperately wanted.
My career suffered. My friendships suffered. My health, finances, and happiness suffered. In order to make myself feel better, I would list out the reasons why I had nothing to complain about.
This baby is planned and healthy.
The father is my loving and devoted husband.
I do not have any serious complications.
We are financially stable.
But this exercise only reinforced the idea that if I didn’t have that list of positives, I wouldn’t be having this baby. Given my position in life, I could logically justify why I didn’t consider my options when I became pregnant — and why I would have if circumstances were different.
However, being pro-choice complicated one sobering reality of pregnancy — its fragility in the early weeks.
Because my husband and I were so thrilled to start our family, we were telling people our good news when we were only 6 weeks pregnant instead of waiting until the chance of miscarriage dropped at about 12 weeks. While most of our close friends and family were excited for us, there were times we were met with apprehension. People made a subtle effort to calm our joys or very bluntly told us to put our celebrating on hold until we were in the second trimester.
I acknowledge that I probably surround myself with people who have similar pro-choice viewpoints as me. I also got pregnant at a time when Planned Parenthood was under attack, making arguments that tried to define humanity far more commonplace and heated. Yet it was eye-opening that half of the public would have stoned me for having an abortion while others barely wanted to acknowledge it until it was more viable.
How can we simultaneously accuse people of killing a baby if they don’t want it, but tell them not to be excited over its life if they do?
When I was about 8 weeks pregnant, I thought I was having a miscarriage. As I cried for the potential loss of my future family, I didn’t know who would accept my mourning as justified and who would shrug it off with “that happens.” I spent a great deal of time accepting that as a pro-choice woman having a planned baby, I was allowed to mourn the loss of my embryo, my future child, if I did have a miscarriage and how another woman could view those same cells as an unwelcome medical condition. Thankfully, I had a healthy baby seven months later, so I never needed to take this past a thought experiment.
Being pro-choice doesn’t mean being pro-abortion. It means that women should have the option to not go through with a pregnancy, and to not be harassed for making that choice. But it also means women who do choose to have a baby should be able to celebrate that choice, or grieve it’s loss, whether it is within the window of legal abortion and elevated miscarriage risk or not.
My son is now a thriving 5-month-old, and I am still firmly rooted in my pro-choice beliefs. Hearing his laughs and feeling like a bona fide mother don’t make me reminisce on my pregnancy with a newfound idea that implantation implies personhood. I am grateful that I was able to choose when it was time for me to expand our family, making it a blessing for myself, my husband, and my son.