Despite moments of pessimism and consternation over the years coping with the never-ending nonsense of anti-choice folks’ actions and propaganda, I’ve always been predominantly optimistic that legality of and access to abortion will remain sure and firm in this country. It’s always seemed a sure bet that eventually the antique notion that abortion is some terrible thing that should be outlawed would head the way of the dodo. But more and more these days I feel an unshakeable pessimism sinking into my bones, where my spans of optimism are now the exception rather than the rule.
Some of this indelibly-inked pessimism came from a recent conversation with my best friend. We were chatting one afternoon and she mentioned that her pregnant partner had a prenatal check-up the next day. She said that it was the last opportunity for her sig to get an amniocentesis but that they’d decided to forgo having one.
I blinked. “Wait, what? Why?”
She explained that they had decided just to take their chances, that if the fetus was indeed possessed of some congenital disease or genetic defect, they didn’t want to know ahead of time nor did they want to do anything about it (i.e. abort); they would just roll with whatever the universe threw at them.
“So even if it’s 100% guaranteed that your baby will be born with some truly horrible disease that makes her life, whether a few hours, days or years, utterly unlivable – there’s no worse-case-scenario where you would consider an abortion?”
She turned both sheepish and defensive as she asserted that she and her partner just weren’t comfortable undergoing an abortion, regardless of the circumstances.
Now my bestie and I are tight. As lesbian former-partners we’ve been through lots, know each other like the back of our hands, and are politically aligned on pretty much everything; she’s pro-choice and knows well my degree of involvement in reproductive rights causes. So I just gaped and sputtered at her, gobsmacked: “But…but…?”
We then had a momentarily heated conversation as, in my knee-jerk incredulity, I leaped to point out the flaws in her logic: how she had clearly been psychologically duped by years of exposure to those damned billboards, how it was incredibly naïve and irresponsible to be so blithe about the prospect of bringing a child with severe abnormalities into the world, how she…I then stopped and realized what a complete jerk I was being. There I was – reproductive rights and choice advocate extraordinaire, brow-beating my bestest friend for her and her partner’s reproductive health choices. What an ass-hat.
We ended the conversation on a positive note, she is my bestie after all; I apologized for my zealotry and asserted my complete respect and support for her and her partner’s choices.
While I ended up feeling resolved in regards to the tiff between my friend and me, I’ve remained troubled by a larger concern that’s been kicking around in my head since that conversation – the billboard factor: the thought that years of unrelenting exposure to the deliberate misdirection, manipulation and half-truths of those ubiquitous cherub-faced please-mommy-don’t-get-an-abortion billboards could have seeped quietly into the psyches of rational-minded, reality-based people. My creeping suspicion is that under the barrage of relentless advertising over the years, even the most hippie liberal folks must be feeling hard-pressed to think of embryos/fetuses as anything less than fully-formed, thinking, talking, swimming, bouncing, giggling people.
And THAT is what’s given me a bad case of the grim-pessimisms these days, because if the most hyperbolic, highly- mock-able anti-choice propaganda is working on us liberal-minded folks – we’re in more trouble than I thought.