Struggling with infertility for the past seven years, I can see how the process — fraught with anger, disappointment, and constant confrontation with the seemingly effortless joy of others — would make some women bitter towards those who’ve had abortions or who support abortion rights.
After all, if more poor, or young, or desperate women were forced to have babies and give them up for adoption, there would be more infants available for us virtuous, relatively wealthy, mostly white families, right? And how dare some irresponsible whore throw away the chance we’re so very much hoping for? It’s easy to be bitter towards those who don’t want something that you want, and can’t have, not a little because it gives you a focus for your anger and hurt.
But my own efforts to have a baby have only made me more supportive of abortion rights, because here’s something I didn’t realize before I started seeing more doctors than I could count on my fingers: Nobody’s actually able to make, with any certainty, the female reproductive system work.
I don’t mean they don’t know how, generally, people get pregnant. I mean that the range of things that can go wrong is seemingly limitless. Responses to treatment, prognosis of conditions, all vary so wildly from person to person that the best medical advice on the planet often comes down to, “Well, let’s give this a whack and see what happens.” Or so the bruises on my abdomen and the overdrawn notices on my checking account can attest.
Things can go wrong at any point, and often do. I try to stay off the infertility internet as it just makes me crazy, but the other night with my husband out of town and my hormones like a science experiment, I found myself reading the heartrending story of a woman who desperately wanted children, and was finally having a baby, and lost that baby, halfway through her pregnancy.
Tucked into this terrible story was an even more terrible fact: Faced with the unimaginable loss of their beloved child, this poor couple then had to spend hours, days, trying to find a doctor who would remove the child’s body. Because the surgery was considered abortion, doctors were allowed to excuse themselves from performing it. Catholic hospitals were forbidden from providing it. Offering it was a sure-fire way to find your clinic on a hit list of right-to-life fanatics who delight in shaming women despite knowing almost nothing about them.
I remember similar stories following the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas doctor who was one of a very few who would perform late-term abortions. Stories of women whose pain at the loss of their babies was compounded by the difficulty of finding someone to take care of them at a time when they needed it most, because we have given the state the power to all but force a woman to bear a child against her will.
We think, and talk, about outlawing abortion in terms primarily of how it will prevent those who want abortions from having them. We don’t talk about how outlawing abortion will affect women who do want children and, in their darkest hours, are faced with the need for a medical procedure of which they would never avail themselves otherwise.