it was never about babies
I need to get something off my chest, and it’s about the way we talk about abortions.
I am pro-choice, so if that’s a tough one for you, I’ll catch you on the flip side.
Have you ever noticed that women who get abortions fall into one of two categories in the mainstream narrative? There are sluts, and there are sad saints.
Sluts are the unmarried girls and women who are sexually active and find themselves both accidentally pregnant and poor/in school/working full-time/without health insurance/trapped in a toxic or abusive relationship/simply not interested in mothering. These are the women whose abortions you’ll often hear anti-choice narratives calling “convenience” abortions. The way the anti-choicers tell it, these women are popping abortion pills like Tic-Tacs, never mind that there is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that women rely on abortion as a reliable, repeat method of birth control. That would be like burning down your apartment building every time you saw an ant in the kitchen. It’s not a thing, guys.
Sad Saints are good women. They’re married, wanted the babies, and discovered a tragic problem at the 20-week ultrasound. Or they’re unmarried, but found themselves pregnant against their will, through rape or incest. These are the women whose abortions you’ll often hear anti-choice narratives calling “exceptions.” These are the abortions that you’ll often hear cited as valid even after certain pregnancy milestones.
So, I have a Megalodon-sized problem with the way the Sad Saint abortion story frames the way we talk about abortions, and about women who get abortions.
Take off your rings and get your hair in a pony, because I spent the afternoon listening to a sealioning anti-choice blowhard on Twitter who feels that it’s just tragic the way some women find themselves in heartbreaking situations. (By some women, he means married women.) (I guess you only have a heart to break if you also have a ring on your finger?) (Honestly, I was not totally clear on how the slut-to-saint transformation worked.) (I guess this guy never got any strange before he got married, or, no, actually, he did, but that was before he “found the truth.”) (Convenient that he’s pro-monogamy now that he’s monogamous.) (Almost like he wants other people to be subject to his own personal values.) (Weird. So out of character for him.)
I fucking hate hearing the story of the Sad Saint’s abortion for so many reasons.
First, and most, and deeply, and always, because the only time you will ever hear that story, it will be because a mother who lost a baby is telling it. She should never have had to experience that loss, much less defend the way her heart broke, much less weather a random crapmackerel’s ignorance and judgement about how she survived. When someone tells you they had to make that impossible choice, the only human response is compassion, comfort, and possibly pie.
That act of sharing hurts every time, and the only fucking reason they do it is to defend the right of other parents to make those merciful, devastating choices for themselves. And every time these parents share, some fucking 22-year-old bigot named Matthew whose moral certainty outpaces his life experience by a factor of about 4,000 pops up in their email telling them that one time he heard a story about a fetus that was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 but was born totally healthy and what if they murdered a healthy baby, have they thought about that. Doing the Lord’s work, there, Matthew. Nice.
I fucking hate that parents who already have to survive their own perpetually breaking hearts also have to also choose between hiding that broken heart as if it's something to be ashamed of, or surviving Matthew’s ignorant gut-punches when they are brave enough to be open about their loss. They shouldn’t have to affirm again and again and again that their choice was devastating, but that it was less devastating than the alternative.
I fucking hate the story of Sad Saint’s abortion because it gives anti-choice activists cloud cover to appear moderate in their radically oppressive position that they should be able to make choices for all of the women everywhere, who, inexplicably in this year of our Trump and Kavanaugh and R. Kelly, still want to have sex with men.
They love the sad late-term abortion with the white hetero married couple because then they can give one example of a time that the decision, while still wrong, while still not what THEY would have done, was at least a tough one, this time. Some of them might even say, “I understand why you did it, Megan.” See how reasonable they are?
No! Actually, I don’t! Thanks for asking! Grudging exceptions to forced pregnancy are not reasonable, not moderate, not ever, not in any capacity, not fucking once. When you make an exception you reinforce that this is a special case, separate from the rule, that the normal process of pregnancy for every woman should be mandatory birth. That’s unreasonable. That’s extreme. That’s oppression.
I fucking hate these narratives that some abortions are understandable, while others are abominable. Understandable abortions come to those for whom tragedy arrives unbidden. Abominable abortions come to those who should have known better than to do sex.
The people who make those qualifications care less about babies than they do about virtue, and they care most of all about ensuring that all women feel a measure of pain. That’s the promise they make to us, as certain as if we were all in a fucking 1970’s horror movie, because we really kind of are:
No matter what, one way or another, women who have sex should expect pain.
If the woman endures the pain of rape, she is excused from the pain of forced pregnancy or shame around her abortion.
Also, if she survives the pain of late-term abortion for a wanted but unviable child, she is excused, as well.
But those who can't file under rape, incest, stillbirth, or fatal complication? They will feel the pain of forced pregnancy.
And if those women manage to maneuver their way out of forced pregnancy, then they will feel the pain of abortion shame and in some cases, criminal prosecution.
When you make the acceptability of body autonomy conditional on the extent of the trauma that the woman has had to experience in the course of attempting to exercise that body autonomy, you are dealing in the currency of women’s pain.
You are participating in a marketplace of pain. You judge the pain of women you’ve never met by deciding whether they asked for their pain, or whether they were powerless to avoid it. Are they complicit or just victims? The answer will determine the nature of their punishment.
You will permit her to buy an exemption from the pain YOU'LL cause her, if she has suffered enough, and deeply. “I don’t need you to shame my abortion; I’ve already lost my wanted child.” “I don’t need you to force me to have the baby; I was already raped. My pain check has been paid in full.”
When you pretend that some abortions are okay and others are not, you tip your hand, champ. You show your ideology, which is not about human life at all, or at least not the fetal lives you claim to want to protect. You care about punishing women. You care about punishing women who fuck. You care about punishing women who do not want children.
Because I hate, and I mean I hate with the fire of a thousand jalapeño poppers, the idea that married women who wanted pregnancies are the only ones who deserve options or compassion in the difficult position of needing an abortion. And when I say difficult, I don’t just mean emotionally or spiritually difficult. I mean the logistically, financially, medically difficult position of needing an abortion. What about girls who wanted to go to school or move away or become artists or lawyers? What about young women who don’t have dreams but could someday? What about women? All of them? From anywhere? Don’t they deserve to experience the full breadth of human actualization, including sex, including ambition, including motherhood if they want it?
What a silly question. Of course we don’t. At least, Matthew doesn’t think so.
And I speak now to Matthew:
Matthew? Fuck off. Like, totally off. Fuck off up the stairway to heaven where you can report to Jesus that you spent your days on Earth bullying girls on Twitter. Not sure that conversation’s gonna go as expected, but hey, you do you! Actually, strike that last bit: You don’t do you. You fuck off until I say stop.
I’m a mother by choice who’s never had an abortion. Let me tell you what that means:
I had access to health education including comprehensive and fact-based sex education that taught more than abstinence. I knew what pregnancy was, how it happened, and how to prevent it far before I ever got close to having sex.
I had access to contraceptives without interruption from the point at which I became sexually active until the point at which I decided to try to get pregnant. Sometimes those contraceptives were very expensive and I had to make choices about what I was going to cut out of the budget to afford those contraceptives, but I always had something that I could cut. I’m not on any recurring medications and I have no chronic illnesses to manage. I was lucky enough to be able to go to Planned Parenthood four times to get birth control. If I’d gotten pregnant before I was ready to become a mother, I might have gone to Planned Parenthood for an abortion. I don’t know. Neither do you. Don’t guess what I would have done. Don’t you fucking dare guess, Matthew. You’re supposed to be fucking off right now.
I have never been raped or subjected to incest.
Both of my pregnancies were healthy and routine. Both of the fetuses that my body grew were healthy and viable. The fact that I’m batting a thousand in the pregnancy department is largely lucky. It’s partially due to contraceptives that ensured I didn’t get pregnant as a teenager when pregnancy complications are much more common. It’s partially due to health care that ensured I was in good health before I conceived, and also that I was educated about what the fuck folic acid is. But it’s mostly random fucking lightning striking luck.
I am a mother by choice who’s never had an abortion. Let me tell you what that does not mean:
It doesn’t mean that I’m smarter, better, kinder, more ethical, or closer to godliness than a woman who has had an abortion.
It doesn’t mean that I can be trusted to manage my own body better than a woman who has had an abortion.
It doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to more freedom or dignity than a woman who has had an abortion.
You have to understand that it’s humiliating to see exactly how many people assume I’m too stupid, dirty, and unreliable to operate my own organs. Or worse, how many people think I’m okay because I’m married and I have kids and no abortions under my belt, unlike those other stupid, dirty, unreliable women, the ones who got “convenience” abortions. To them, I’m not stupid. I’m just a cudgel they can use to beat the stupid ones.
Guess what, turdbucket? No woman’s life is nothing. No woman needs a baby to justify her presence on this Earth. A woman’s freedom is significant. Her choice to compromise that freedom with motherhood is significant, and hers to make. You think you have the right to whip out a calculator and balance the equation of her life versus your ideas about a body you’ve never inhabited? How dare you? Your opinions on her life, her freedom, her body and her choices, are none of your fucking business, you stupid assfaced nutsack.
The sad and funny thing about Matthew is that he really has no idea how hard he’s being worked. “Babies are being murdered the day before their due date!!!” Where. Where, Matthew. Where. Show me. Tell me.
No, but keep fucking off. I didn’t say stop yet.
Someone convinced Matthew that he had a sacred duty to save the babies, and that the best way to save the babies was to punish women, and that sounds like a pretty good gig since we all know that women deserve pain.
But it was never about babies. If it had been about babies, Matthew would be talking about free universal preschools, affordable housing, medicare, and paid family leave.
It isn’t about BABIES, Matthew. Or, oh, I’m sorry, are you out in these streets with a bullhorn and a poster advocating for early interventions for disabled children? Are you calling your Senator demanding higher salaries for preschool teachers and better nutrition in school lunches and national minimum paid family leave so that the baby can bond with its parents without fear of economic instability? Are you petitioning adoption agencies to make sure that every single one of them does not discriminate against queer families? Since, you know, you care so fucking much about THE GOD DAMN BABIES, MATTHEW?
It’s not about babies. It’s about women. It’s about finding another reason to justify hating women. It’s about keeping us small, owned, and quiet. It’s about forcing us to weather the humiliation of engaging in debates about whether or not we qualify as sovereign bodies. As if that’s a two-sided issue.
When you attack women in the name of babies, but do not ever actually show up for babies, it’s not about BABIES. It’s about HURTING WOMEN.
And this nonsensical narrative of good abortions and bad abortions, between good women and bad women, is all about hurting women, too. When you use one woman to beat another women, the only ones getting bloody in that fight are women.
Come at me and tell me that I should be grateful my mother chose life. Truth is, I don’t know if my mother even had a choice, and you don’t know if your mother did, either. Don’t you dare fucking guess, Matthew. You’re supposed to be fucking completely off, and if you don’t like being told what to do with your own body and how, when, and where you fuck, then it might be time for you to stop and think about how that shit feels.
If you liked this post, you may also like David Brooks, you absolute wasteland of a human being and The One About Abortion.
Women’s lives are not nothing, and our voices are something, too. I really appreciate you reading this post, and sharing it if you felt it was valuable. Thanks for being here.