Over at Slate, Rachael Larimore has written a somewhat convoluted piece, partially in response to Amanda Marcotte’s earlier article in which she explores the trend of touring “I was almost aborted” speakers. Larimore argues that pro-choicers are actually afraid of the “What if I hadn’t been born?” question because it challenges our supposed perception that “…some ‘unwanted’ children actually grow up in loving homes and become responsible, even successful, adults.”
Perhaps it is too much to ask that this belief can be dispelled by pro-choicers simply saying, no, we know that some “unwanted” children do okay. We also know that many women who decide to proceed with an unplanned pregnancy end up being fantastic parents. We also know that some adopted kids have great lives and contribute a lot to society. We even wish for these things, and try to facilitate the frequency of these events by supporting many things that help make them possible: accessible, funded daycare and childcare; the de-stigmatization of single motherhood; financial and emotional support for new parents; and on and on. Pro-choicers have a wide range of concerns outside of abortion (that’s why we call ourselves “pro-choice” and not “pro-legal-abortion”) – we would like to see pregnant people have access to all the information and resources they need regardless of their chosen pregnancy outcome.
Larimore thinks that we are scared to answer the question: “What if I hadn’t been born?”, but personally I don’t think it’s that difficult. Putting aside the fact that, had that one thing changed, an infinite number of alternate worlds is created, the answer is quite simply: “then you wouldn’t be here.” There’s a lot more to it of course: maybe things would have been a little easier for your mother; maybe she would have had another child later on, that she could have loved and cared for more; maybe things would have been worse for her, and having you saved her from going down a difficult road. Maybe someone more competent would have your job; maybe your partner would have fallen in love with an unstable person who killed them in a jealous rage, changing a lot of other lives; maybe everything would be exactly the same; maybe maybe maybe.
The reason pro-choicers often deflect this question as meaningless is because it is. There is no way for us to know what would happen if a different choice was made. The question itself is a shameless emotional baiting tactic that anti-choicers use in two ways: 1. asking it about themselves to make you feel like a jerk if you don’t care about them not being born, or 2. asking it about you to make you feel like you’re so lucky to be alive – as if you would even know or care if you had been aborted. “What if your mother aborted you?” the anti-choice protesters would hurl the question over the fence at us, back in my clinic escort days. “Then I wouldn’t be born,” we would answer back. What if the moon were made of blue cheese?
Everyone makes decisions in their lives without knowing how things might have been if they had taken a different path. That is part of being human. You can tell a pregnant woman what could happen until you’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day she can only choose one of two options – continue the pregnancy, or terminate it – and then she lives with the outcome of that choice. The pro-choice movement is not interested in the game of telling women what *could* happen. All we want is for her to be free to weigh those possibilities and make that decision herself.