The Right To Choose

photo by Salimatu Amabebe (2017)

As I sit here watching my two children play together, my kind five-year old and my sweet one-year old, I think about what a blessing they are to me. And what a journey it’s been to have them. I love my children beyond measure or reason. Since becoming a parent I’ve learned many things. Want to know one thing I’ve learned? That it’s not easy. It’s not easy to be pregnant. It’s not easy to give birth. It’s not easy to be a mother. It requires a lot of support. A steady community. Emotional stability. It takes time. A lot of time. It’s a life change you have to be ready for. If you’re not emotionally, financially, spiritually, socially, or mentally prepared to have a kid, you should not be forced to have one.

I can’t help but feel that the abortion debate is really about control. If it were about the sanctity of life, we would have affordable childcare and parental support. We would have environmental protections. We would all have access to healthcare and clean water and healthy food. There are a million reasons for having an abortion. I believe that, whatever the reason, the decision is never made lightly. It’s made when it’s necessary. Each situation is unique and valid. Just like each woman is unique and valid.

I had an abortion when I was 20 years old. I was in college. I lived in a dorm. I ate raw oats stirred into hot chocolate mix when I was too lazy to go to the dining hall. I did not have the support (or emotional maturity) I would have needed to be a mother at that point in my life. I think about it sometimes, about what my life would have been if I hadn’t had a choice. I can’t even imagine. I would have been completely derailed. I wouldn’t have the family I have now. I wouldn’t have any of the things that I have now.

When I found out I was pregnant at 20, there was no question in my mind. I couldn’t have a child. I knew that immediately. And I knew I had a choice. It was a choice that I had never exactly imagined making, but there I was. And I was thankful for the choice. Thankful I had another option. Thankful that I had the power to make the decision that was right for me. Thankful that I could avoid a fate I wasn’t ready for. In fact, my dominant emotional memory of that experience is the feeling of being thankful.

I remember getting ready for my appointment and googling the beliefs of different cultures and religions throughout history in relation to pregnancy and abortion. I learned that Judaism allows for abortion if the pregnancy would harm the woman, physically or emotionally. I learned that many Native American communities let all matters relating to childbirth fall under the purview of the woman. It made me feel better, somehow. Like I was part of something bigger. A lineage of women. Through the decades in America, there have been shifting predominant stances on the ethics and implications of a woman’s right. I am not well versed enough in world or national history to know where our society falls currently in the grander context of things, but I do feel that, in my own lifetime, abortion is becoming increasingly more stigmatized.

The circle of life is eternal. How to tell when it begins? Are we women mothers when we are born? Our eggs live inside of us even then, after all. Are we mothers when we conceive? Are we mothers when we give birth? Are we mothers when we say we are? I think that, when it comes down to it, everyone has to make that decision for themselves. And that’s the key to it all. Make the decision for yourself. But not for someone else.