Abortion Rights vs. Infertility: The New Mommy War?

So Christina Locke is finding it difficult to support her abortion-having friends because she wants another child, as she blogs for The New York Times:

My choice was either to be true to myself and my politics supporting women, or give in to my emotions as my friends described their choice. More than anything, I wanted another baby. I wanted what they had, and didn’t want.

The following month, I was pregnant.

Then I wasn’t. Just like that. Because that really is how it happens sometimes. Women can go from feeling exuberant and full to empty and exhausted in a matter of days. My doctor called it a “lost pregnancy” rather than miscarriage, and that helped. That felt less threatening.

I was sad and disappointed; both of those friends comforted and reassured me, as women always do.

We tacitly ignored any irony.

Part of me still wants to avoid the truth that my friends are mothers who sometimes have abortions. Do I support them or not? Can I live with myself if I don’t?

As with so many aspects of parenting, we make decisions now and are haunted by them for the rest of our lives. I am a woman who supports abortion rights. Before having children, I would have said that reflexively. As a mother, I no longer can.

It’s a topic I’ve addressed before, on my own trip through infertility hell, and on that score I have mentioned that my wanting of a child (and deeper understanding of all the complications involved therein) has made me a stronger supporter of abortion rights, especially in the currently insane political climate that says an embryo is a person, and makes fully terminating even a “lost pregnancy” an ordeal through needless bureaucracy. But as I move into the adoption world, having failed spectacularly at pregnancy, I find the judgment surrounding abortion even more difficult to take, and the piece above is a perfect example.

Here’s another: My husband and I met with an agency last summer. We were sitting in a small office where the well-meaning woman talked about how lots of chicks my age (I hadn’t told her how old I was) had “put off having children” while they “worked on their careers” and were now coming forward looking for babies to adopt. So already I was some selfish bitch too focused on work to breed, and not someone with lifelong reproductive issues who’d been trying to have children since age 27.

Then I asked about the average time on their waiting list (we knew it could be years) and she mentioned how it had changed over the years since she started her agency. “Abortion now exists,” she said. “There are a lot more support systems for women who get pregnant. Families are more supportive now.”

I think I was supposed to feel sad about that, and think about how much better life would be for me and everyone else seeking to adopt if abortion hadn’t existed and families weren’t more supportive. Would there be more adoptable babies for me out there if desperate, poor, frustrated and scared women were forced to bear children against their will and then give them up? Maybe. Sure. Let’s grant that the pool of available kids would be bigger if every woman who didn’t want a baby had to give birth when she got knocked up, as was the case once upon a time.

Let’s grant I might have a shorter wait for a child if women were coerced to surrender babies for adoption if those women were young or unmarried or their families disapproved, as was the case once upon a time.

Let’s grant that if Roe v. Wade had gone the other way, things might be easier for me.

And then let’s wrap our heads around this, which Christina Locke seems unable to do: Sometimes it’s not all about me.

My desire for a child isn’t about those other women. My desire for a child does not convey upon them any obligation whatsoever. And their desire not to have a child isn’t about me. How dare I ask them to endure misery so that I can have happiness? How dare I take advantage of their poverty, desperation, frustration, fear? Am I inherently better than them? Do I have any right to expect anyone else’s downfall, just so I can benefit?

No. I don’t. I don’t have any right to ask anything of anyone. Their lives are theirs.

If a child comes to me, it will be because that child needs a home. Not because some other woman was obligated to give that child to me. Abortion rights should make no difference in that calculation whatsoever.


Author: Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a journalism and politics blog, with her partners Adrastos and Jude. She is the author of It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal (2008, Heritage Books) and the forthcoming Chicago’s Historic Irish Pubs (with Mike Danahey) (2011, Arcadia Books). She also edited the anthology Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War (2005, William, James & Co.). Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three pet ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.


  1. Kevin says:

    Of course no one should be forced to give birth for the sake of someone else’s needs or desires. But what about the needs of the unborn child?

  2. aimai says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Ms. Hantschel. The original blog post your are commenting on really left me feeling sick and dizzy. Because between a world where everyone gets to parent one child (at least) and a world where every woman risks dying of an infinity of unwanted pregnancies lies a world without contraception and without abortion–both of which are equally under attack. I pity the women who opened themselves and their fertility issues up to this woman. I suppose they’ve learned the lesson everyone learns eventually which is that people who write about themselves for a living will inevitably write about the people in their social circle when they run out of interesting stuff to flog about their own lives.

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