In my English class in school, we’re currently reading Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. The first is about a couple and the growing distance between them after the wife gives birth to a stillborn child. It’s beautiful, and incredibly sad, and I, as I am prone to do, began to cry as I read the husband’s confession that while his wife was asleep, he had held his son in the hospital, something his wife had never gotten or expected him to do, and that pained them both immensely.
When I told my English class the next day that I had cried during that passage, everyone laughed–I’m known to cry a lot. And then one of my friends, joking, asked me how I could care so much about a dead baby if I’m so pro-choice–and I realized it’s something worth talking about because many people see the two as mutually exclusive, even if not my friend.
When I heard his question, I immediately thought of this quote that I had read in a pamphlet created by the National Abortion Rights Action League called Why I Provide Abortions by Dr. Liz Karlin. She said “Women have abortions because they have a sense of what it is to be a good mother.” To me, that quote really strikes a chord in that it exemplifies how an abortion is not simply a selfish act on the part of the woman, but an act based on her idea that she is not ready to be the mother, and does not want to bring a child into the world without the kind of mother he or she deserves. A woman who has an abortion knows that the baby she would have would becoming at the wrong time or in the wrong place or from the wrong person, and does not feel right about giving life to something under those conditions.
And yet hearing about a dead baby makes me cry. Why? Because babies that are wanted are beautiful things–they light up a couple’s life, provide infinite fulfillment (and fights and struggles and other tasks of parenthood), and, simply, bring life to this world. The loss of a wanted baby is, to me, one of the saddest things in the world, as it is a loss of a being who, before even being born has been the object of so much love, care, and attention–it is tragic, and deserves to be cried about.
I guess what the dichotomy comes down to for me is my faith in trusting women to decide for themselves if they’re ready to be mothers or not. Women who get abortions don’t take take the decision lightly, as they shouldn’t–but it’s important that they, as women, be able to make the decision based on where they see, or don’t see, parenthood fitting into their lives. An unwanted baby is a tragic thing, too.