July 20, 2004

Shall I Buy a Book, or Abort My Baby?

I have a few things to say about the Amy Richards story.

First of all, this is what it is, boys and girls. Abortion in America. I've read a sampling of the articles about people who are shocked—shocked!—about the story of Amy Richards and the selective reduction she had when she found out she was pregnant with triplets.

When I found out . . . I felt like: now I'm going to have to move to Staten Island. I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it.

I think the problem people have is with the apparent nonchalance, the sort of frivolity they see in her decision.

My immediate response was, I cannot have triplets. I was not married; I lived in a five-story walk-up in the East Village; I worked freelance; and I would have to go on bed rest in March. I lecture at colleges, and my biggest months are March and April. I would have to give up my main income for the rest of the year. There was a part of me that was sure I could work around that. But it was a matter of, Do I want to?

Ultimately, she decided to kill her two twins and let the singleton live.

But the fact is, most abortions are had because of a much smaller level of inconvenience. A lot of abortions are chosen by high school girls and college women who could easily make adoption plans and deliver healthy babies. They could give this gift to the world and themselves by delaying less than a year of schooling. And in most cases, they wouldn't even need to go on bedrest.

The problem people are having is with the attitiude. Society's stance is, "I don't mind young women having abortions as long as they feel bad about it. Provided they agonize over the decision, it's okay."

Say what? "We don't mind your terminating the pregnancy, but you must feel some guilt."

I have a friend who got pregnant when she was in college. She did the expected thing and got an abortion. They stayed in touch. She once told me she felt sentimental about this particular guy, though they'd broken up long before.

"Why?" I asked.

"You know," she replied. "Blood of my blood."

"If you're so weepy about it, why did you guys kill the baby?" I asked.

We want our daughters to do the convenient thing. We want them to eliminate the fetuses, because it would break their little teenage hearts to give their babies away. We want sentimentality, but only in short, staccato bursts. ("She shouldn't have to give her baby away. So we're encouraging her to kill it.")

Plenty of women have abortions for reasons a lot more frivolous than selective reduction. At least in the case of selective reduction there is a significant chance that one or more babies would die anyway. Not so with a healthy singleton inside a 20-year-old girl.

We need to re-think our approach as a society, because our current position is, "hey, one term in your college education is worth more than a human life. It's your body. This entity is no more significant than an appendix."

Then we are surprised when someone socialized in this culture takes us at our word.

There is no "safe, legal and rare." We are way beyond that kind of thinking. It is a dodge. It is a lie.

Where we are is, women and girls put their own convenience ahead of the lives growing inside them. And the men in their lives—and often their own parents—pressure them to do it.

Why do we want so much to pretend that it's something other than what it is?

Secondly, I'm tired of hearing abortion compared with the raising of a child. That's a false dilemma, and most of you know it. Women should have these children and let them be adopted into loving homes.

And, third, this is all too real to me. I had an abortion when I was 19, mostly because my boyfriend made it clear that he would make my life miserable if I gave birth to the baby. (He did anyway, but that's another story.)

I felt no regrets until a few years ago, when the failure of my infertility treatments led to to realize that was my one chance to have a biological child. And now, married and living in a nice house in the suburbs, I've been waiting for six years, and must resign myself to another long wait—a year or two, they say—while the adoption process rolls along. It wouldn't take so long if more girls and women made the right choice. And I'd feel much better asking them to do the right thing if I had myself.

Reading the original comments on Michele's entry made me cry over the tragedies of those who have suffered miscarriages and infertility: a new life is a gift. It really is. We should, at the very least, accord it some respect.

And twins and triplets? I've wanted mutiples since the moment my husband and I decided to have three "pre-embryos" put inside me during our first in-vitro cycle, knowing we would never selectively reduce, unless my own life was in danger. I had to think long and hard about whether I could manage bedrest and a high-risk pregnancy. I'm 5'1", and at this time I weighed maybe 110 pounds. One implanted, and I was pregnant for a few days before it died. That was two years ago. I went through two more IVF cycles. No dice.

Even now, though, I hope: at the adoption agency I wrote down that we want twins. The odds are long, of course.

In conclusion, I'm a hypocrite. Because I'm just as appalled by Richards' brutality and callousness as anyone else is. And I would have adopted her twins in a trendy, intellectual New York minute.

Repeal Roe v. Wade. Take this issue back to the states. And let's slow this thing down. Please.

UPDATE: I finally got a chance to read Michelle Malkin's thoughts on this. She has a useful post on the article, and some thought-provoking comments by readers as well.

Posted by Attila at July 20, 2004 01:47 AM

Great post.

Posted by: Emily at July 21, 2004 08:52 PM

Thank you. And thank you for the good work you're doing.

Posted by: Attila Girl at July 21, 2004 09:01 PM

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