“You’re getting better at this,” I thought. It was more of a wish than a reality. It was my seventh pregnancy and I was looking at the ultrasound monitor while the doctor searched for a heartbeat.
There wasn’t one.
“That’s four in a row,” I thought. I had been hoping this one would work out, but, nope. I bit my lip and focused on the cracks in the ceiling.
Later, I sat talking with a friend, trying to shrug it off and reassure her that I was fine. We were good friends, but we didn’t always agree on certain issues. Abortion was one of them. We rarely talked about it, but for some reason I was feeling a little feisty.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” she had said.
“Why? It wasn’t like it was a person, right?” I replied, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.
“Well, that doesn’t matter. You wanted this pregnancy, so I’m sad for you,” she said.
Oh? Was that the difference? Wanting or not wanting a baby determines his value?
I knew my friend was trying to be supportive, so we didn’t discuss it further. But the idea of value and where it comes from has been on my mind ever since that conversation several years ago.
A lot of social issues… race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration… have advocates pushing us in a positive direction to remind us that we are all valuable. Whatever your race or wherever you come from, you are important. Male, female, non-gender, both, questioning, are all equally valuable. No matter what combination of traits and attributes you are, you’re awesome! That value does not come from some external source. I don’t give it to you. Society doesn’t give it to you. You are born with it. It’s yours, and no one can take that away.
Unless…. you’re a few weeks old in your mother’s womb. Well, then, your value is up to her.
How does she decide that? She hasn’t met you yet. She doesn’t know if you have hazel eyes or curly hair. She doesn’t know if you’re silly or super smart (likely both). She has no idea who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing. And yet, she gets to decide if you’re worth it. To put it bluntly, she gets to decide if you live or die. But her choice doesn’t last indefinitely. Depending on where she lives, as soon as she knows she’s pregnant with you the clock starts ticking. If she waits too long and you keep growing, well, it’s harder to deny you’re a human being with all of that value we talked about.
One thing likely on her mind is the fact that creating another human being, like I’ve been doing for the last 37 weeks (different pregnancy), will take a toll on her body. Each body is different and some experience minimal changes while others go through some pretty rough stuff. No doubt as a woman makes her decision whether she’s willing (or able) to go through with a pregnancy, a big part of her thoughts focus on how the experience will affect her body, both during and after. And sometimes… her body simply decides for her. Spontaneous abortion as the body naturally decides what to do with you is something a woman doesn’t get to choose. But that doesn’t determine or change your worth. It just determines the outcome.
Equally at play, and out of a woman’s control, is the fact that it’s no easy task for 46 chromosomes of DNA to put you all together. Sometimes everything is great and viola! There you are! Other times it just doesn’t work out. As I’ve personally experienced again and again, we don’t always get to choose whether we get the miracle. And that’s just the way it is. But that doesn’t determine or change your worth either.
When we talk about abortion, wanted pregnancies or unwanted pregnancies, successful or unsuccessful, we cannot continue to squabble about whether a person is a person — at 4 weeks gestation or 40. Life at conception or life at birth is not what determines your value. The fact that you start growing at all, the miracle of all of those cells dividing like crazy to form a beating heart, wiggling fingers and toes… that’s a potential. That’s valuable. An abortion takes those growing sets of cells that would otherwise keep growing into a living, breathing person with bad hair days and a quirky sense of humor, and puts an end to it. Sometimes that decision is made out of necessity, sometimes out of choice.
Look, I’ve just spent the last month writing about all the things women have to deal with. Morality, birth control, people picking apart the technicalities of rape. It is important to clarify and assert a woman’s right over her body. We need to understand that, value it, and protect it. But, that’s not the whole story. No matter how much we might try to ignore the other part of a pregnancy, there is still a fetus with lots of potential…. and it’s growing. Regardless of when “life begins”, when a woman decides to have an abortion that fetus will be the one to make the sacrifice and give his mother a sigh of relief, respecting her rights at the expense of his. We cannot pretend that abortion has no price. A sacrifice has to be made by one person or the other. Either the mother decides to make that sacrifice and go through with her pregnancy, or the fetus has to make a sacrifice and stop…. stop everything. Stop growing, stop all of that potential.
The initial cluster of cells, throbbing and quickly dividing, if allowed to continue will become a person. We can’t ignore it just to help people feel more comfortable. We should allow that to sink in and feel its full weight. Yes, after everything is considered it might be determined that an abortion is needed, but that doesn’t change the value of the potential, doesn’t change the value of the price being paid. It just determines who must make the sacrifice.
I can’t emphasize this enough. There will always be a sacrifice. Our mothers decided to make that sacrifice for us, allowing us to fulfill our potential and come into this world. “Unwanted” potentials might make the sacrifice as their chance for survival ends in exchange for whatever other factors were considered.
Each and every pregnancy comes with a price. As we talk about abortion and the choices we make, we must never forget that.