>I hope that I will never need to face the agonizing choices presented by an unplanned pregnancy. In the worst case scenario, however, as a woman with access to resources, I will always have more options than the average woman. Despite Roe v. Wade, which supposedly made abortion a safe, legal option for all American women, it is no more a reality for many than it was 34 years ago today. This makes me sad and frustrated.
On Christmas Day, I wrote a post titled Christmas is About Reproductive Rights. To me, the story of the Annunciation is a story about a woman’s right to decide her own fate. Mary happened to agree to become pregnant. God didn’t force her to bear a child against her will. I posted a milder version of my interpretation of the story over at BlogHer, where it inspired a reader to blog about it on her own site. I am glad she did because I think she brought up many typical arguments from the other side, which I call the forced childbirth movement, a term coined by Lisa Jervis of Bitch magazine.
The main argument that gets my goat is that life begins when a sperm and egg unite. Yes, something does begin at the point, but it is hardly a “life” that has equal rights to mine as a human being. At this point, it is scientifically referred to as a zygote. A zygote is not a person. It is not even close to a baby. Assuming that it does not miscarry (i.e. – abort itself) on its own, which happens in approximately 15% of pregnancies, although possibly more because sometimes women don’t even know they were pregnant and miscarried in the first place.
If there is no miscarriage, according to Wikipedia, “the development of the zygote into an embryo proceeds through specific recognizable stages of blastula, gastrula, and organogenesis. The blastula stage typically features a fluid-filled cavity, the blastocoel, surrounded by a sphere or sheet of cells, also called blastomeres.” I am sorry, but this is still not a human being. It is something that is turning into a person and one day might be one assuming that there is no miscarriage. At the end of the 8th week, fetal development begins.
Again, according to my sources at Wikipedia:
The first trimester period carries the highest risk of miscarriage (natural death of embryo or fetus). During the second trimester the development of the fetus can start to be monitored and diagnosed. The third trimester marks the beginning of viability, or the ability of the fetus to survive, with or without medical help, outside of the mother's womb.
Now, my friends at the nonpartisan research institute the Alan Guttmacher Institute have real research, unlike the forced childbirth movement, which likes to make shit up. AGI notes, "In the United States, nearly nine in 10 abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and 56% occur in the first eight weeks." In fact, until the 1870s, the Catholic Church had no problem with abortion until the "quickening," which is around the fifth month of pregnancy.
Maybe – maybe – you can argue with me that outside of the first trimester, as fetal development gets underway, that this is a person with some rights. But it is still something that is growing within a woman that will affect her life forever. Pregnancy is not easy nor is it pretty. It is not something that just sort of happens for nine months with no effects on someone at all. At its best, pregnant women resemble the glowing angel of the motherhood myth. In reality, they are can suffer from minor symptoms like nausea, incontinence, back pain, back pain (which might never fully go away, impacting her ability to work) to life-threatening ones like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Birth itself can injure a woman for the rest of her life. Following birth, post-partum depression is a scary ailment. Anyone who has suffered from this knows it strikes viciously and unexpectedly with severe consequences. My friend Alex told me that being pregnant with her first child – a child she very much wanted – made her more supportive of the right to abortion than ever. She said she could not imagine going through a pregnancy when she didn’t want to be pregnant.
Women are people already. We have the right to decide if we want to undergo these risks or not. No one has the right to impose these risks on an unwilling woman. It is nice for you if your religion says that life begins at conception. Your religion is not the law, nor should it be. Your religion does not grant a zygote more rights to life than a living woman has. As a woman, I have a life. There are no debates about whether I am alive or not. As such, my rights always supersede the rights your religion grants a fetus. At the end of the day, women will always decide for themselves whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. The only difference is whether we have the legal right to a safe medical procedure or whether we need to seek out potentially life-threatening illegal abortions. AGI reports that 13% of pregnancy-related deaths worldwide are from unsafe abortions. These unnecessary deaths are undisputable blood on someone’s hands, and those hands belong to the forced childbirth movement.
Today I also have an article in Metro New York on the persistent lack of access to safe, affordable legal abortions in the US in the 34 years since Roe. Check it out. If you don't like it, please send them a nasty letter so that they print it and I can make fun of you. If you do agree with me, send them a letter so that they don't just get angry letters calling me a baby killer. And if it inspires you to action, check out the Haven Coalition website. We can always use more hosts or donations.