17 February 2012

Why I'm Pro-Choice

(copied over from my tumblr.)

I made a comment on a friend’s Facebook post today that I am going to expand on here, because I have so much more to say. This post is emotional and more confrontational than I normally get, and if it offends you — well, it does. I’m not going to apologize for that. I do welcome honest and respectful discussion of differences. I don’t allow personal attacks.

I think a lot of us are thinking about choice and our reproductive freedoms today, and how these things are being threatened. In 2012 we are forced to defend not just freedom of choice, but even contraception, and the idea that women should be able to choose when they want to become mothers without having to “keep their knees closed.” The idea that women who don’t want to get pregnant should just not have sex ought to be a laughable relic of the 1950s, as outdated as doctors doing advertisements for the health benefits of cigarettes, and yet. This week, this happened in Virginia. A choice quote from the article:
Of course, the bill is unconstitutional. The whole point of the new abortion bans is to force the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade. It’s unconstitutional to place an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, although it’s anyone’s guess what, precisely, that means. One would be inclined to suspect, however, that unwanted penetration with a medical device violates either the undue burden test or the right to bodily autonomy. But that’s the other catch in this bill. Proponents seem to be of the view that once a woman has allowed a man to penetrate her body once, her right to bodily autonomy has ended.

I am fortunate to live somewhere that is generally liberal, and most of my friends have opinions on these issues that I’m likely to agree with. My conservative friends are fewer in number, and for the most part we tacitly or openly agree to disagree when it comes to political and religious issues. I even can welcome educated discussion of issues, when both parties can share opinions and maybe learn something. And then there are the people who I can’t even talk to anymore because they make it personal. The people who have told me outright that my personal strongly-held beliefs are offensive. That I *should* be pro-life (anti-abortion, that is) because I struggled with infertility, because I adopted a child from China “where they force women to have abortions and hysterectomies, you know.”

I know. I do know, and that’s why the whole process of infertility and adoption made me even more determined to speak out about the importance of choice. I’ve tried to explain that adopting a child does not, nor should it, automatically make one “pro-life.” That it made me even more convinced that legislating anyone’s fertility, anywhere, in any way, is a terrible thing. But there are always going to be people who will not understand that point of view. These are the people who say “but what if Mimi’s birth mother had had an abortion? She was so brave to have a baby when it was against the law! And Mimi wouldn’t even be here otherwise.”

No, she wouldn’t, and now that Mimi is my daughter, I recognize that possibility with a feeling like my heart is being squeezed to shreds in my chest. But here’s the thing that no parent really wants to acknowledge, but we all know is true: I wouldn’t know. If you hadn’t gotten drunk that night … If you’d gone to a different bar … If you’d rolled over and gone to sleep instead of getting frisky, even though you were both tired … If you hadn’t had procreative sex on a certain date, your kids wouldn’t be here either. And you wouldn’t know. If Mimi’s mother had decided to abort, or if she’d been taken out of her house by soldiers and forced down to some village clinic, the result would be the same. I would never have known Mimi, and I wouldn’t be mourning her. I’d be parenting a different Chinese daughter, perhaps, and having the same thoughts about her.

The tragedy isn’t that Mimi’s mother might have chosen to terminate her pregnancy, because in China, it’s not so much a matter of choice. The REAL tragedy is that Mimi’s parents, for reasons we might never be able to completely know, were literally or otherwise forced by circumstances to abandon their hours-old newborn in a place where maybe, someone would find her and take her to the police station.

(Not Mimi's orphanage, but a typical mid-2000 Chinese SWI)
The police would take a picture, run a tiny ad in a local newspaper in the middle of literally dozens of similar notices of abandonment, and then cart her off to the social welfare institute where she would spend the next 27 months, with 100 children and ten or so caregivers. Where she would learn not to cry when she was hurt or hungry because there weren’t enough caregivers to come running every time some kid cried; where she would get a massive infected wound on the back of her head from lying on her back in a crib in temperatures approaching 90 degrees; where she would learn to walk only in a walker, so that at two-and-a-half she had a bowlegged toddle like some aged cowboy; where she never learned to chew solid food and didn’t know what to do with a spoon; where she was restrained, with straps, in her crib and on a potty chair. Restrained. With leather straps.

THAT is the tragedy. Not that her mother might have aborted her and  I would never have known her; that because of Chinese laws legislating fertility millions of babies end up in Mimi’s place. They never get to run around the dusty streets of their parents’ village or town in split pants, ride on their daddies’ shoulders down to market, perch in front of big sisters on bicycles and go off to school. They don’t learn the language their parents and grandparents spoke. They don’t know what it means to celebrate the holidays their parents celebrate. We can try our best, but we can’t make them Chinese, and we can’t give them back to the family that in all likelihood loves them and grieves them, and that’s the tragedy.

So why am I pro-choice? Why am I in favor of free birth control, sex education, and Planned Parenthood? Because the woman who carried Mimi inside her body and gave her life doesn’t have any of those things, and doesn’t have a voice, and doesn’t even know where on earth her daughter is. I can’t change what happened to her, and what happened to Mimi; the only thing I can do is keep working and speaking out so that it maybe, someday, stops happening at all.

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