Pro-Choicers Hate the "What if I Hadn't Been Born" Question. Here's Why.   

What Women Really Think
Oct. 24 2011 3:45 PM

Pro-Choicers Hate the "What if I Hadn't Been Born" Question. Here's Why.   

The pro-choice movement relies on a carefully crafted image to make its position seem responsible and caring: that women should be allowed to abort their unplanned pregnancies because unwanted children grow up poor, neglected, abused or some combination thereof. It can’t allow for the possibility that some “unwanted” children actually grow up in loving homes and become responsible, even successful, adults; or that couples who take responsibility for unplanned children can be as good of parents as couples who wait until they’re ready to have a family.

Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is Slate's managing editor.

And when they are presented with evidence to the contrary,out comes the name-calling.  Amanda, in your post on the “Conceived in Rape” tour, you wrote that pro-lifers are “misogynist sex-phobes” and claimed that “anti-choicers playing the ‘what if MY mother had an abortion card’ are simply exploiting … politeness.” Is that your blanket assessment of the pro-life movement? Can you not allow for the possibility that someone who is opposed to abortion has turned the issue over in their mind repeatedly, that they’ve struggled with it? That they concluded after much thought that, on one hand it’s ugly to subject women to have children they didn’t plan for but it’s uglier to do away with innocent lives just because they are inconvenient, to the tune of 50 million abortions since Roe v. Wade went into effect?

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As I have written about before, I was born to teenage parents in 1972, before Roe v. Wade. I don’t know what would have happened had abortion been legal in Ohio then, but the timeline is such that I’ve always counted my lucky stars to have been given a chance to be born.

Before I go further, I will allow that, as a rape survivor (yes, I must have won some lottery for interesting life experiences), the “Conceived in Rape” tour you write about creeps me out to some degree. At the same time, these people have lived their lives having to deal with the knowledge of their conception, and the knowledge that half their genetic material comes from a monster, so it seems unfair to pick on them.

But the “what if my mom had an abortion” applies to more people than those whose mothers were raped.  It applies to people born in the mixed up days before Roe v. Wade when abortion was legal in some places and not others. It applies to everyone who’s ever been adopted.  Of course, it really applies to EVERYONE, but some of us have more cause to dwell on it than others.

And I think the reason that we freak out the pro-choice movement so much is not that we’re woman-hating sex phobes. It’s that we fly in the face of the narrative about how awful life is for unwanted children. We give lie to the claim that a fetus is just a clump of tissue. We offer painfully real evidence of what happens if you don’t have an abortion. It’s very easy to say “but what about all the times that you have sex and don’t get pregnant?” Duh.  But once something has been done, it can’t simply be undone.  An aborted fetus had a heartbeat, and a brain, and, depending on the gestational age, tiny arms and legs and maybe even fingers and toes. It was human.

I don’t know if the world itself is a better place because I’m in it. Frankly, I’m rather average and to a stranger might not appear the least bit interesting. There’s nothing remarkable about being a working mom with three kids living in the burbs and schlepping to Target in my SUV.  But my life is precious to me.  It’s funny—many people are pro-life because of their religious convictions. I am pro-life at least in part because I’m not religious. I don’t believe in fate, or that God has some purpose for me. My being here is accidental and miraculous and I value every second of it.