If recent right-wing insanity has driven you over the edge and you’ve decided to tell the world that you think Planned Parenthood is a good place or abortion care is a good thing (or even decided to share a personal story), you will need to get prepared for the muck that’s likely to get slung your way. Fortunately, once you move beyond your inner circle of people who matter, much of what flies through the air will be ignorant comments and insults from people who don’t. As someone who is public about why I am pro-abortion, and about my own story, here are eleven lame shaming themes I’ve encountered, along with my responses.
- You should be against abortion because you exist.
Example: How would you feel if your mother aborted you? (comment)
How would I feel? I wouldn’t. Try this exercise: How would you feel if your mother had partnered up with someone other than your dad? How would you feel if she had a headache the night you would have been conceived? How would you feel if she had rolled over in the opposite direction after sex on that key night in history and a different sperm got to the egg first? Hint: People who don’t exist don’t have feelings.
- It’s a baaaby.
Example: “It is a tragedy that Tarico killed her first-born because she wanted a ‘better baby.’” (LifeNews) “These babies, and we all KNOW these are babies, have committed no crimes, yet you and yours sentence them to a horrible, painful death.” (comment)
First “born”? Uh, no. That was the whole point. My firstborn (who exists only because of my abortion) is now a junior in college and, although I’ve had my moments, I’ve never once tried to kill her. But the LifeNews writer’s slip perfectly reflects the anti-abortion movement’s inability to tell a fetus from a child. Zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus: To Pro-life advocates they’re all babies or pre-born children. They use these words over and over, as if repeating them often enough will somehow make us all decide that an acorn is actually an oak tree and having a carton of eggs in the fridge is the same as owning a dozen chickens.
- If it’s human, it’s a person.
Example: The fetus is alive and has human parents and human DNA so we know they are human. After this people will come up with conflicting arbitrary definitions of what makes a human a person. The only definition that makes sense is that someone becomes a human at conception because that is the only meaningful change in someone’s life. (BennyW) “How could a human individual not be a human person?” (Pope John Paul)
At one point, Pro-lifers co-opted the Dr. Seuss phrase, “A person’s a person no matter how small”, from the book, Horton Hears a Who. Seuss’s widow Audrey Geisel, a long-time supporter of Planned Parenthood, was not pleased. In the book, the phrase refers to tiny people who sing and shout and live in community with each other and who value their own lives and world. That’s what makes them people—not sharing Horton the elephant’s species.
Even children recognize that human and person are two different concepts. That is why we are able to imagine a Seuss character or fictional extra-terrestrial like Wall-E, or even an intelligent animal like a dolphin as a sort of person with moral standing. What makes personhood is the ability to feel; to have preferences, desires and intentions; to be aware and even self-aware; to live in relation to others; and to value our own existence. Fetal “personhood” trivializes each of these.
- If you’re capable of abortion, you’re capable of killing anyone.
Examples: “Not sure why we need to put time limits on these things? 3 months . . . 3 years, by all the arguments listed above we should be able to snuff out the kid whenever it becomes convenient.” “If somebody is making things inconvenient for you just slaughter them. Kind of like ISIS.” “To quote Mother Teresa – If a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.” (comments)
Look around you. Almost a third of the women you know over age 40 have had an abortion—and many of them have had several. How many of them do you think have killed an infant? Infanticide was practiced regularly on every continent by our ancestors who had no other means to control their fertility, but where people have access to modern contraceptives and abortion, infanticide becomes exceedingly rare. Most people have little trouble differentiating abortion from murder and they instinctively choose abortion over infanticide just as they choose contraception over abortion when both are freely available.
- You must be a bad mom, and your kids would think differently of you if they knew about your abortion.
Example: How does your daughter feel knowing that you killed her sibling? (comment)
One of my daughters wouldn’t exist without my abortion and the other one adores her. How do they feel about my abortion? Grateful. The Christian Right constantly slurs women who have ended pregnancies by suggesting that we love our children less—or are incapable of loving children at all. In reality, the vast majority of women who have abortions either already are or go on to be devoted moms. Six in ten women who have an abortion already have a child. In fact, our commitment to mothering is why many of us choose to end an unsought or unhealthy pregnancy.
- God loves each and every precious “snowflake.”
Example: “God doesn’t make mistakes. God makes miracles happen.” (comment) “The Magisterium of the church has constantly proclaimed the sacred and inviolable character of every human life, from its conception to its natural end.” (Pope John Paul)
If God doesn’t make mistakes, the existence of babies with no brain or no limbs or a teeny, slow-suffocation quantity of lung would suggest that He’s a rather big jerk. In these situations, prayers for healing fall on deaf ears. Miracles are on the rise, but only because compassionate doctors fix God’s mistakes by repairing defective infant hearts and palates and other incapacitating deformities.
If every snowflake is precious in His sight, God has a peculiar way of showing it, because spontaneous abortion is a critical part of reproduction—one of the key mechanisms for producing healthy babies. Most fertilized eggs self-abort at some point before maturing into babies—billions to date. Why? Spontaneous abortion stacks the odds in favor of healthy babies being born to healthy moms who will be able to nurse them. Therapeutic abortion supplements spontaneous abortion when the natural “abortion mill” in a woman’s uterus fails to identify and expel an ill-conceived pregnancy.
- If you abort a defective fetus, you can’t respect or value people with disabilities.
Examples: “You aborted a baby that *might* have been blind? All the blind people in the world, and Helen Keller, spit at your selfishness. Shame on you. What on earth will you do if your child ever becomes disabled? Kill her?” (comment) “Valerie, I hope that someday you will know the kind of joy that my “bundle of risks” has brought to my life. Veronica will be 26 tomorrow. She will never walk, talk, see normally, feed herself, be toilet trained, etc. She has the mental ability of a nine-month-old. It is my privilege to care for her each day.” (comment)
Pro-lifers forget that to many of us, a fetus is a potential child like the countless potential children we have said “no” to by abstaining from sex or using birth control. For me and my husband, who see it this way, it would have violated our moral values to carry forward a fetus infested with parasites, as in our first pregnancy, or one with knowable genetic defects, which we ruled out in the second. Would we have loved and cared for a baby born blind or a child who got injured along the way? Of course! What a bizarre and insulting question! Fencing my yard and teaching my kid not to play in traffic doesn’t mean I would abandon her if she were to get hit by a car.
- Women like you are naïve victims who need protection from your own ignorance.
Example: “. . . once a father or a mother who are seeking an abortion see an ultrasound, it’s true that upwards of 90 percent of them decide not to have an abortion.” (Rachel Campos-Duffy) “If abortion were not legal, I never would have chosen to have one.” (anti-abortion activist Hannah Rose Allen)
Forced ultrasounds, scripted warnings of (false) abortion risks, legally-mandated descriptions of fetal development . . . . According to the latest anti-abortion strategy, the only way to protect hapless females from physical and psychological harm is to take the choice out of our hands. How inconvenient that abortion is far, far safer than childbearing, which kills 800 American women each year.
In other disappointing news for Pro-lifers, women who have abortions don’t suffer increased rates of anxiety and depression. Also, in contrast with Campos-Duffy’s fabricated statistic, 98 percent of women who see the images from a mandatory ultrasound go through with their abortion, meaning they know their own minds. It’s true that deciding to end or carry forward a budding life is a big deal. And like any big decision, some women or men will regret their choice. But 90 percent of women report that the primary emotion after their abortion was relief and, even among those with mixed feelings, 80 percent still say that the choice was right for them.
- Abortion is selfish.
Example: “There is no better example of selfishness leading to an even greater evil act; the destruction of an innocent human life. This selfishness is so obvious and disgusting that abortion proponents manufacture and inflate all sorts of ridiculous situations to make their case as though the only option is to kill.” (comment)
Set aside the fact that on a planet denuded by human need, one on which almost 20,000 children starve to death each day, it can feel selfish to have a baby . . . . Yes, choosing, instead, to finish high school is selfish. Choosing to save for a reliable car or first month’s rent is selfish. Choosing to join the military is selfish. Choosing to become a teacher or doctor or engineer or artist is selfish. Choosing to prioritize time with your husband is selfish. Choosing bubble baths and bedtime stories with the kids you already have is selfish. But choosing not to do these things can also be selfish!
I could go on the offense here: Choosing to spend your time and money pursuing the (dubious) bliss of heaven is selfish. So is “letting go and letting God” manage decisions (like parenthood) that are your responsibility. So is trying to impose what seems best for you on everyone else. Everything we do is selfish to some degree. That doesn’t mean our decisions can’t also be wise, prudent, loving, brave, generous or altruistic.
- A child is the punishment you get for slutting around.
Examples: “You should keep your legs together.” (comment) “Your lack of control over your own hormones, stupidity, carelessness, laziness and inconsiderateness created another life within you.” (comment) “[Better birth control would] turn our girls into whores (like you) who are as well versed in preventing pregnancy as any working girl.” (comment) “She should have to deal with the consequences.” (comment)
I confess, I’ve never been able to wrap my brain around this one. On the one hand we are told that every child is a blessing, no matter how ill-conceived. On the other, we are told that a child is what slutty sluts deserve for having sex outside of marriage. Even more twisted: If you got raped, the baby is a blessing. If you had sex of your own free will, it’s what you had coming. Can we at least pick one or the other?
- God hates abortion even more than He hates fags.
Example:“God HATES those who shed innocent blood!” (J. Melton)
Given that women have been ending ill-timed pregnancies for millennia, the Bible is remarkably quiet about abortion, with a few vague references that together can be interpreted in either direction. One writer even prescribes a rather nasty abortion potion. Mercifully, a growing percent of people, including many Christians, don’t think the Bible is the perfect word of God. More and more see human handprints all over it, especially in its demeaning passages about women.
Someday unintended pregnancy may be a thing of the past, and abortion may be largely obsolete. Until then, millions of us will be guided by our own moral values and life goals to end pregnancies we believe are ill-conceived, so that we can devote our lives to the people and dreams that we hold most dear. If God’s self-appointed messengers insist on arguing and insulting and shaming us–well, that’s their choice to make, just as we make ours.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.