Would Your Mother Be Better Off Without You? 

What Women Really Think
Aug. 16 2012 2:34 PM

"I Wish My Mother Had Aborted Me" 

When is abortion the best choice for everyone?

Katie Neudert / Shutterstock.com

“I wish my mother had aborted me.” It’s hard to think of a more provocative sentence, but an essay with that title popping up in various corners of the feminist blogosphere turns out not to be nearly as sensationalist as you’d think. Instead, Lynn Beisner, the pseudonymous author, offers a calm and compelling rebuttal to anti-abortion activists’ favorite rhetorical question: “Aren’t you glad your mother didn’t choose abortion?” Beisner is not. Her mother’s life was unquestionably worse after having a child, and Beisner herself had to suffer decades of poverty and abuse. They both would have been better off, she argues, if her mother had decided not to have her.

What’s remarkable about this piece is that it comes from a perspective not of despair or bitterness but of compassion. It’s not that Beisner is miserable and wants not to exist. Rather, she wishes her mother had had the resources to make a better decision “because I love her and want what is best for her.” Scores of commenters have shared similar stories, showing empathy even for mothers who were abusive, neglectful, or otherwise too damaged by their situations to be good parents.


That empathy underscores the importance of “choice” in “pro-choice.” Whereas anti-choicers like Rebecca Kiessling actively celebrate the fact that their mothers’ decisions were constrained by law or circumstances, pro-choicers like Beisner recognize their mothers as full human beings with agency and value beyond maternity. They envision fulfilling, coercion-free lives for their mothers, even if that means they would never have been born.

Beisner's philosophy even applies to situations—like my own—in which no great agony is prevented. My life has not been particularly difficult, but I wouldn’t mind if my mother had had an abortion—there would be no me to do any minding. If she’d aborted me, she probably would have gone on to have different children, and they would have had just as much inherent human value as I do. In fact, it’s likely you know and love people like my mom’s hypothetical kids, who exist precisely because their mothers had abortions earlier in life. My alternate-timeline mother would have built her life the way she wanted, and no one, including me, would have been hurt.

Liberals tend to believe that all it takes to win a political argument is to coolly distribute facts and statistics, like a caterer with a tray of champagne glasses at a wedding. Facts are necessary, of course, but they’re watered-down Budweiser compared to stories like Beisner’s. People ignore numbers, but they don’t ignore “I wish my mother had aborted me.” As long as anti-choicers are spinning (sometimes obviously false) narratives about last-minute epiphanies and divine deliverance, we need people like Beisner to tell their own stories—even the deep, dark, painful ones—about the necessity of abortion for women’s equality.



The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

How Did the Royals Win Despite Bunting So Many Times? Bunting Is a Terrible Strategy.

Federal Law Enforcement Has Declared War on Encryption

Justice and the FBI really do not like Apple’s and Google’s new privacy measures.

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?