by Page Lee
Pro-choice feminist is the camp in which I pitched my tent in my early teen years.
But my perspective shifted after a revelatory conversation with a friend. She told me her mother had almost aborted her but had changed her mind at the last minute. This transformed the abortion debate from theory to in-my-face reality. If my friend’s mom had gone through with her abortion plan, my friend would not exist.
I remember that conversation with my friend whenever the pro-choice/pro-life debate crosses my windshield. It was such a significant pivot point in my thinking on the issue that I knew I could never consider abortion myself. I came to believe that a fetus is a life, being knit together in its mother’s womb, and it deserves the chance to be born, grow up, be loved, experience joy and sorrow, and become someone’s friend.
The rubber met the road on this philosophy when, at age eighteen, I had a pregnancy scare. I missed a month of my period. I had so little experience with anything like this, that I didn’t realize I could just walk to a drugstore and buy a pregnancy test. Instead, I told my parents that I needed them to make me an appointment for a pregnancy test at my doctor’s office. Of course, my parents went through the roof, and thus began one of the worst nights of my life. My mom panicked, paced, and yelled that I had to get an abortion. I was about to head off to college, and if I had a baby instead, I would throw away my life, everything we had all worked for over the past eighteen years.
I cried on my bedroom floor, ironically in the fetal position, and told my mom that I would not have an abortion. I couldn’t do it.
My dad, sitting on my desk chair, tried to be the voice of reason. I hadn’t actually taken a pregnancy test yet, he reminded us. Let’s wait for those results before we weep and fight about what to do next.
The following day, my mom took me to Planned Parenthood for the test. Silent tension sucked up every molecule of air in the car on the way to the clinic.
We could finally breathe again only when the result came back negative. We all cried in relief. My parents bought me flowers. From that point on, I knew I needed to make some different choices, so I would not find myself in such a scary predicament again. I never wanted to have another person’s life hanging in the balance of my decisions.
I knew if I found myself pregnant at any point, I would have the baby, whatever my circumstances. With these principles, I packed up my tent and relocated to the pro-life camp.
My parents, on the other hand, have remained staunchly pro-choice. Tension between us has returned, as we process the Dobbs case and wonder about its sequelae. I don’t know that we’ll ever see eye to eye on the abortion issue. For them, it is a question of women’s bodily autonomy. For me, the paramount issue is whether abortion is murder. Those are two different concerns, running parallel to each other. Is there a point where they converge?
I had a heated discussion on these topics with a friend the day after Roe was overturned. She told me her grandfather was born to a poor, single mother and then given up for adoption. He’d gone on to have a difficult life within his adoptive family. She wonders, if abortion had been an option to her great-grandmother, would she have aborted the person who eventually became her grandfather? And would that have been better all around? Aware that she was erasing the possibility of her existence in this hypothetical scenario, my friend said that would be a price she’d be willing to pay. If she never existed, well, that would be okay, because it would mean a desperate woman several generations ago had been able to terminate her pregnancy. For my part, I told my friend, I am really glad her grandfather was born, her parents were born, and she was born. The world is enriched by each of their personalities, perspectives, accomplishments, and care for the people around them. I hope this conversation can serve as one plank of a bridge we can build between the pro-choice and pro-life camps.
Page Lee is a writer, college admissions advisor, educator, and parent in Cincinnati. Her blog can be found at: https://2020hindsight273287663.wordpress.com/