Monday, November 21, 2011

My Almost Abortion




When I was first conceived, my father told my mother to have an abortion. This was not a new request. My father made the same demand when my mother was pregnant prior to my conception. He justified the abortion of my sibling by saying that my parents didn't have enough money or it wasn't the right timing or they were having too much fun reconstructing Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a child right now would basically gum up the works. So, my mother obeyed and had the abortion. Later, she told me it was one of the worst experiences of her life and that she would never do it again.

So, you can foresee the ultimate conflict: mother was "pro-life/anti-choice" and father was "pro-choice/anti-life." What are two conflicting ideologies to do? Well, in my family's case, my father chose to threaten my mother with physical violence if she did not obey his wishes. She obviously did not and he beat her for it.

So, Where Do I Stand?
Since abortion was legalized nation-wide, more than 40,000,000 abortions have been performed in America. (Source: Alan Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood), Centers for Disease Control, National Right to Life Committee, and Central Illinois Right to Life). That's roughly 4,000 abortions per day. The most recent data on abortion statistics notes that approximately 1,293,000 abortions were performed in the United States in 2004. World-wide around 46,000,000 abortions are performed annually and that's about 126,000 abortions each day on the earth. (Source: Center for Bioethical Reform). Based on research, approximately 95% of all abortions are performed as a means of birth control. 1% for rape or incest, 1% because of fetal abnormalities, and about 3% due to health problems of the mother. (Source: Central Illinois Right to Life).

Now, I know there are many arguments for each side of the debate about abortion. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, almost about the same time my parents discussed whether to abort my sibling, and the debate on its constitutionality is as old as I am. The pro-choice debate goes something like this: Women have an implied right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution. Women should have a right to control their bodies. On the other side, the pro-life supporters proclaim that a fetus is a person and deserves protection.

To me, both views are valid. Women as well as men have liberty over their persons and should be able to choose what happens to their bodies. Whether it is a medical procedure, a touch, tobacco smoke, or an abortion, all people have the right to choose whether to permit the contact or not. Also, a fetus, whether of "viable" age or not, is a person. With the age of viability dependant on medical advances, one day in the not-too-distant future it will be possible that a fetus will be conceived, brought to full term and born via artificial means. Even the U.S. Supreme Court recognized this medical inevitability in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Moreover, the law in various ways imbues fetuses with legal rights. Whether it is a pregnant woman who is a victim of a tortious battery or a testator who wants to convey her estate to a fetus, civil law protects against and sustains such legal acts. Finally, the Preamble to the United States Constitution recognizes "the Blessings of Liberty" secured "to ourselves and our Posterity," so why shouldn't we, too, recognize and secure the liberty of a fetus since "ourselves" applies to born citizens of the U.S. and "posterity" applies to those unborn citizens?

I wholeheartedly agree that a woman does have liberty over her body, but I also believe that a human fetus has a liberty interest which is just as compelling and substantive as the mother who carries him or her. If my liberty ends where your liberty begins, shouldn't the same maxim be applied to the children carried inside of us?

Pro-liberty
Further, I am not pro-choice or pro-life. I am pro-liberty. To me, the real choice is not whether to have an abortion or not. The real choice is whether to have sex or not. Once a person uses their liberty to have sex, they have made their choice. In the United States, when a fetus is formed, that human fetus has fundamental, constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property that should not be infringed upon.

I understand there are exceptional circumstances, such as rape and incest, or when the mortal life of the mother is in serious jeopardy. (Notice, I didn't say "economic life" or "social life" of the mother. This is in response to a story I heard while in New York City: a mother carrying twins aborted one of the fetuses because her NYC apartment was too small. Being inconvenienced by square footage restrictions is not what I call an "exceptional circumstance.") When these exceptional circumstances occur, I believe the liberty of the mother has been violated and thus, she is justified in remedying the violation. Abortion is not the only option, however, in cases of rape and incest. Adoption or even raising the child are viable choices that must be made by the mother.

But, for me, beyond these three exigencies, aborting a life who has as much liberty and "freedom to choose" as I do does not seem fair to the fetus. It sounds more like a "fast fix" for a problem created by lack of self-control and an abundance of selfishness which echoes my in utero experience.

Epilogue
My parents divorced a few years later after my almost abortion. But even though more than thirty years have passed, that dramatic preface to my birth still weighs on me. What if I had been raised with an older sister who taught me how to be more thoughtful to women? What if I had an older brother who had helped protect me from the nightmares and challenges of childhood? What if I had been aborted, too?

I know my views about abortion may not be novel but I'm interested in your experience and reactions to my thoughts. I know there are class arguments as well as arguments regarding "fetal pain." I'm not deaf to either camp and welcome respectful dialogue.

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