the good of babies
a post on everyone's favorite topic: abortion!
This debate is exhausting. Most of the time, the arguments just aren't meaningfully engaged. It always regresses into unfounded accusations, straw mans, and ad hominem attacks, leaving no room for a civil or reasonable discussion. An exception to the usual clamor is Other Feminisms, one of my favorite newsletters that promotes authentic dialogue on this most divisive issue.
I typically avoid these debates for all of the reasons mentioned above. Now that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, I'd rather not be silent. I'm not writing this post to argue with or attack anyone. I'm simply offering my own perspective.
I don't identify as pro-life anymore mainly because, like others, I've been disillusioned with the mainstream movement for years now. Still, I'm opposed to abortion. I don't think it's good or empowering. It is an act of violence against defenceless human beings in one of their most vulnerable states, and I cannot be indifferent to that. I don't think post abortive women, even the ones who don't regret them at all, are heartless murderers. If anything, I wish they knew how loved they are. This is where my religious beliefs come into play: God's mercy is infinite. And it is always available for anyone who seeks it.
And while religion does partly inform my stance, it isn't necessary to defend unborn babies. Life begins at conception. This is not a matter of opinion, religious or otherwise! It just doesn't make sense to me to arbitrarily decide when life begins or when it becomes valuable. History has taught that those arbitrary standards dehumanize large swaths of people and deprive them of their so-called inalienable rights.
Fetuses, even the wanted ones, are regularly referred to as parasites and clumps of cells, or compared to tumors. Imagine what it's like for women who mourn their miscarriages or abortions to hear those cruel remarks. Similarly, women are often demonized by pro-lifers. Imagine again what it must be like to be called a whore or told you should've just kept your legs closed! No wonder some women react by embracing 'I love abortion' slogans.
It's unfortunate that some of the most vocal on either side genuinely despise women and babies.
The divide between the pro-life and pro-choice positions hinges on a woman's bodily autonomy superseding a fetus' right to life. The life of the fetus does not matter more than their mother; both lives have equal value. That's where we disagree. Again, I'm not interested in trotting out this debate.
What I am interested in is thoughtfully articulated in this piece by Paul Fahey, where he writes that overturning Roe is good, but not enough:
I think reversing Roe v. Wade is absolutely essential. That decision undermined the basic rights of an entire class of people based on their level of development and functioning. It is grotesque ableism enshrined into law. Because it is a ruling of the nation’s highest court, any legal route to protecting these rights begins with a reversal by the court.
However, although reversing Roe v. Wade is essential, it is far from sufficient. By itself, this anticipated Supreme Court decision would simply place the imposition that accompanies children onto their mothers—women who are often already in vulnerable positions due to poverty, lack of medical or psychological support, or abusive situations.
Last night, New Wave Feminists, a pro-life group led by Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, released a statement in response to the news. It said, “Now is not the time to brag, or gloat, or celebrate. Now is the time to get to work and create a world that supports and protects not just the unborn person in the womb, but the equally as human and valuable people carrying them.”
It is not a solution to simply shift the serious imposition caused by children onto women. It is not pro-life. And it is not Christian. A nation shaped by Christianity would freely and gladly take on the imposition of children.
But we don’t. Ours is a nation that values profit over the flourishing of children and families.
That last salient point is true even within pro-life policy. It is demonstrably false that anti-abortion activists don't care about women or children after they are born. However, it’s the politicians and lawmakers who are guilty, on both sides of the aisle.
Ours is a nation that values profit and war. The United States continues to send billions of dollars in military aid to Israel in its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians; surely there’s a way to allocate funds to children and families here?
A lot of the challenging work pro-lifers do to accompany women isn’t federally funded. I agree that a lot more, too much in fact, has to be done to make these organizations more visible and to better equip those that lack robust resources. But the fact is that a lot of ordinary people tirelessly give of their time, money, and energy to do this work without a glossy PR machine or celebrity endorsement.
With this new Roe ruling, unborn children will be legally protected. But to echo Simcha Fisher, "I've wanted Roe v. Wade overturned my entire life. So why don't I feel better now?"
So much of what calls itself the pro-life movement (and the pro-choice movement, too!) is a pantomime, a show […]
When lives are at stake—the lives of babies and the lives of their mothers—what makes the difference is probably less often abortion law and more often things like whether or not women have a place to live and food to eat, a job, child care, health care. Whether or not anyone is kind to them. Whether or not anyone behaves as if they are important. Whether or not anyone acts as if they are worth spending time on. Whether or not people show that they will stick with them. This has always been the case, and always will be, no matter what the law says.
I deeply sympathize with anyone who is terrified because of this new ruling. A lot of pro-lifers have maintained that their goal wasn't focused on eliminating access to abortion, but eliminating that need altogether. It's hard to figure out how to do that when people on both sides are constantly shouting each other down.
I know all of this has become monumentally more difficult. I don’t believe in punishing women who get abortions, if that wasn’t clear. Please keep in mind that I am just one person and I don’t pretend to have the solutions, beyond doing what I can where I am.
A friend of mine once said she couldn’t see the pro-life mindset as anything other than whimsical. Maybe it is, imagining a world where abortion is not only unnecessary or illegal, but unthinkable. Being pro-life encompasses so much more than opposing abortion. In fact, for me and plenty others, it is our concern for all marginalized people that makes us care for the unborn.
Maybe it’s also whimsical to envision a world without hunger, poverty, war, or injustice. But then, what’s the alternative?
If you actually read this post despite disagreeing with me, thank you! I am not enabling comments because I’ve seen how the most sound, compassionate posts from pro-lifers are met with unimaginable vitriol.
A few organizations to support, if you feel inclined:
New Wave Feminists has actually been at the border providing aid to migrants.
Let Them Live is mutual aid for pregnant women.
Abide Women is dedicated to reducing maternal mortality rates, particularly for Black women.
Please please please donate to or share this fundraiser for a disabled woman in Canada who needs to find housing so she can continue to live. This is absolutely a pro-life issue. She should not be faced with a death sentence simply because the state failed her.