Why I am Pro-Choice
When I was in tenth grade, I read a medical thriller about infertility treatment. I was fairly impressionable, and there was a scene in the book where a wealthy couple (off screen) elected to abort a child because it was the wrong gender. I decided, naturally enough, that there out to be a law against that, and in my youthful passion decided to write my persuasion paper for Expository Writing on the need to limit access to abortion. My teacher didn’t blink.
The thing about this assignment was that it was a RESEARCH paper. Opinions and emotion were fine, but hard to footnote. So, in this time before internet searches, I looked through scads of microfiche, then read the source materials behind each of those first books and articles.
To my surprise, couples using in vitro to abort babies of the wrong gender was something that could not be substantiated ANYWHERE. In fact, once I really looked, none of the horror stories of wrongfully aborted babies could be confirmed with anything beyond an anecdote passed on to the author by someone else not directly involved.
Women, my research suggested, had abortions for one of four main reasons: inability to feed another child—often because the pregnancy would cost them their job—a bad, often abusive social situation that would become even worse with a baby in the midst of it, rape, and health concerns.
It seemed to me that the best way to prevent abortion was social change: fighting poverty, helping women escape abuse, preventing rape, and improving health outcomes for mothers and babies. Restricting access to abortion, it seemed to my 15 year old self, would not accomplish any of that.
Then I came across the stories—backed by horrific statistics and plentiful data—of what women did in this country when abortion was illegal. Of what women still do in places around the world where abortion is illegal or unavailable. I read of the septic wards for victims of illegal abortions, and my father reluctantly told me his own experiences caring for such women during his internship in the 1940’s. Women would get paid on Friday, have an abortion that night, and be dangerously ill with infection by Monday morning. The interns would admit an entire floor of them on every Monday; by Friday, those who would recover were well enough to go home, and the rest had already died.
Finally, after weeks and weeks of research, soul searching, and thought, I handed in my paper…entitled “Condemned to Life: The Case for Abortion Rights”.
My teacher, again, didn’t blink.
I’m not sure how many teachers today would allow a student to write and research such a topic. I feel blessed to have attended the school I did, to have had the teachers I had. They let me figure out things on my own, let me come to my own answers, and taught me the discipline and research skills to look beyond what I THOUGHT the answer should be. And, looking back thirty years later…I still believe that that 15 year old I was –got it right.