My friend won’t let me kill my baby. Or, to be much more accurate, she wants politicians and laws to decide when or if it’s okay to kill my baby. I’m 23 weeks pregnant and I’ve had a human life in me since the day I got the first positive pregnancy test. Now, we’ve named her, she’s a she, she wiggles like crazy, she’s about a pound and a half with almost all fully functioning organs (just her lungs need serious continued growth). She’s been “viable” since 2 weeks ago. Still, she’s inside of me. My body. Not someone else’s. If I wanted to kill her, that’s my right.
The language I’m using is provocative. If anti-choice and pro-choice believers want to come to any sort of agreement on the issue of personal choice in abortion we need to be willing to speak or at least hear each other’s language. I’ve written my description in horrifying terms: killing a baby. It makes my skin crawl just reading the title of this essay. But I realize that’s how my friend would see it. And, in my own case — for me — that’s how I see it, too.
Since I can remember, I’ve known in my heart I couldn’t have an abortion. Of course we can’t ever know what the future holds, but I went to extraordinary measures to avoid pregnancy. I didn’t have intercourse until I knew I would be able to care for a child. Then I always used birth control. No matter how wasted I got (those were some challenging times, the 90s) I never had sex without birth control. Because, as I’ve said, as soon as I know I’m pregnant, logic or science aside, I feel I’m carrying my child inside me. Immediately I begin the relationship that will last for both of our lives where I will care for that child forever.
My position as a pro-choice woman is just as strong, however, as my personal choice not to have abortions. There are several facets to this position. The first, and the least digestible for the anti-choice movement, is that I believe knowing when life begins is a personal and spiritual decision. I have friends who believe life begins with the quickening (feeling movement of the fetus). I have friends who have had multiple abortions who still aren’t sure when life begins. I also have friends who believe life starts at conception, but for personal reasons have had abortions. This aspect of the pro-choice movement is typically pointless as we debate with the anti-choice believers. To most of them, abortion is always murder.
Carrying a fetus, a baby, inside our bodies is an exclusively female ability. It is this fact alone that makes abortion different than all other laws governing our bodies. We have laws that say we can not physically beat each other up. We obviously have laws against murder. We have laws that try (in vain) to prevent self- or other-harm through drug use or acts like drinking and driving. And, as soon as an infant is outside of its mother, we have laws protecting that child. Thankfully, infanticide is illegal in our country. There is no comparable situation, however, where men or boys have a life growing inside of them.
When we begin legislating decisions for one gender and not for another, we say one gender has fewer rights than the other. Therefore, no matter how difficult it is for some people to accept, no laws should govern what happens to a life inside a girl or woman. Until my baby is born, what happens to her is entirely my decision. And I will fight for every woman’s right to control her own body as fiercely as I will fight to keep my own baby safe and healthy.