“I wonder how many people have abortions after they’ve experienced giving birth,” my partner, Brad, said a few hours after our daughter was born.
“I bet not very many,” I responded, still high from the fact that a tiny human just swam out of my womb and latched onto my breast. “I mean look at her… how could they knowingly destroy something so beautiful?”
Four years later, I know exactly how.
Before you start accusing me of being some kind of sick, twisted, child-hating, terrible mother, hear me out.
I love my child more than any other single human being on the face of the planet. I would beg, steal, cheat, lie and die for her in a heartbeat. I have made huge sacrifices to give her the happiest, healthiest childhood I was capable of offering.
I broke the law to give her a peaceful, gentle home birth. I broke the law again to obtain raw milk to nourish us through pregnancy and breastfeeding. I started eating grass-fed meat after a lifetime of vegetarianism. I sat up typing in the middle of the night with her asleep on my lap trying to keep my job as a reporter for the first nine months of her life. I quit my job (which I’d just spent six years in college and tens of thousands of dollars to obtain) right after breaking two viral stories and being nominated for a journalism award – and just as I was putting myself in a position to ask for living salary – because I knew I would either fail at my career, fail at being a mother, or do a half-assed job at each.
I tried every work-from-home gimmick I could think of to enable me financially to stay home with her. I walked around in crappy old clothes that didn’t fit anymore and didn’t get a hair cut for like two years. I walked with her to places people should never walk with babies, or dragged her out of bed at god-awful hours so we could drive Dad to work and use our only car. I spent the first three years of her life doing mind-numbingly boring activities, play dates, laundry, dishes and attempting to learn to cook from scratch to save money. Brad made just as many sacrifices, working long hours at a miserable job and feeling trapped, to enable us to buy real food (which is a rare and expensive commodity these days).
Now that she’s 4, life is getting a little easier. Without her breastfeeding so much and needing constant attention all day, I am able to write again, a little, and help Brad with his new food truck business. But we still have to work our asses off or we struggle to pay bills. We try not to think about how much less hard we would’ve had to work last year (our first year in business) if we hadn’t had to spend a huge chunk of our profits on a (top quality) babysitter. And now that food truck business has slowed down for the winter, I try not to think about how I ignore her all day everyday, leaving her to sit in front of pretend friends on a screen, as I try to get my own writing career started again.
When people ask me why I don’t hurry up and give her a brother or sister, I look at them as if they had asked why I don’t hurry up and chop off my right arm.
In addition to my personal struggle with motherhood, below are some other reasons I’ve changed my mind about abortion.
The books The Vegetarian Myth and Sex at Dawn have convinced me that overpopulation is a real and terrible problem. Ever since the dawn of agriculture humans have been reproducing at unsustainable rates. The books’ authors explain how agriculture gives humans a false sense of food security and encourages them to have more babies than the earth can support, but when a people’s soil is depleted of nutrients, they are forced to go forth and conquer more land, outward and outward, until there is no more land to conquer. When that happened – when about 99 percent of the earth’s 10 inches of topsoil was destroyed – the Green Revolution kept the agricultural pyramid scheme going a little longer. Instead of consuming outward, humans are now digging downward, deep under the earth’s surface for materials that can be chemically altered into a handful of synthetic nutrients – a poor substitute for the 84 natural minerals our bodies need, which are found in perfect balance in rich top soil.
The Vegetarian Myth author Lierre Keith argues the single most important thing an individual can do today to help save the planet is to not have kids. She says hunter-gatherers were careful to never overshoot their food supply, using natural birth control methods (including breastfeeding for 4-6 years) and even resorting to infanticide from time to time, when they deemed their population was multiplying too quickly, to prevent starvation and suffering later in life.
Lest civilized human beings start feeling morally superior to these “savages,” Sex at Dawn authors remind us infanticide was rampant in the modern Western world before access to birth control and abortion.
“For centuries, millions of European children had been passed through discreet revolving boxes set into the walls of foundling hospitals. These boxes were designed to protect the anonymity of the person leaving the child, but they offered scant protection to the infant. The survival rate in those institutions was little better than if the revolving boxes had opened directly into a crematorium’s furnace. Far from being places of healing, these were government-and-church-approved slaughterhouses where children whose existence might have raised inconvenient questions about the “naturalness” of the nuclear family were disposed of in a form of industrialized infanticide.”
While I’m not advocating infanticide, I am not judging early humans for doing what they deemed more compassionate than letting the whole of their tribe live in hunger and imbalance with the earth. And while I’m not thrilled about aborting unborn babies, I’m even less thrilled about having a planet full of billions of starving, sick people. Even in the “richest” countries the majority of us are fat and starving from our synthetic diet of NPK and other nutrient-devoid, filler “food.”
Unwanted children are statistically WAY more likely to be abused, severely abused and even murdered by their parents later in life. A Scandinavian study of 120 children whose mothers were denied their requests for abortion showed the unwanted children were far more likely to have insecure childhoods – defined as the child being removed from the home by authorities, being placed in foster care, and/or having divorced, single or deceased parents – far more likely to have received psychiatric care, far less likely to receive higher education, and far more likely to be on welfare/government assistance.
“Several of the case histories are so grueling, they cannot help but raise the question of whether it is more humane to prevent human life than to compel it into an existence that possibly could result in a cruel and painful death,” writes James Prescott in Abortion or The Unwanted Child: A Choice for a Humanistic Society.
“Dr. Resnick cites several means by which infants and children are killed. He states: ‘Head trauma, strangulation and drowning were the most frequent methods of filicide. Fathers tended to use more active methods such as striking, squeezing or stabbing, whereas mothers more often drowned, suffocated or gassed their victims’ … In Dr. Resnick’s study of 37 neonates, he found that 83 percent of infant killings were attributed to being unwanted by the mother, 11 percent to psychoses, 3 percent to accidental’ murder (child abuse), and 3 percent to ‘altruism.’”
Further, societies that punish abortion are far more likely to practice slavery, restrict adolescent sexual experience, punish extramarital sex, kill, torture and mutilate enemies captured in warfare, physically punish children and support war and capital punishment, Prescott’s research reveals.
While most people wouldn’t qualify it as abuse (I now qualify it as assault), the two times in my life that I snapped and smacked my daughter’s leg (once during a struggle to get her bedtime diaper on and once during a struggle to get her in her car seat) were during a time I was doing transcription work in the middle of the night instead of sleeping, trying to make ends meet. I will never forgive myself for laying an angry hand on a beautiful, innocent child. I can only imagine what mothers under far worse financial stress have regretted doing to their children.
The same people who advocate mutilating baby penises, beating children into submission, depriving them of sexual pleasure as teens, and then sending them off to war or some other slave-like job for the empire, claim to care deeply about human life while it is out of their grasp, in someone else’s womb. They claim to care so much about fetus “suffering,” that they are willing to force billions of unplanned/unwanted lives into a world of far worse suffering at any cost.
Films like “The Silent Scream” preys on women’s emotions by dramatizing alleged fetal pain and suffering during abortion procedures. In the article The Abortion of the Silent Scream, Prescott argues that – without a brain or nervous system – a fetus younger than three months can’t feel anything, much less “scream.”
Citing the work of a Yale neuroscience professor, Prescott explains:
“…brain neurons do not exist prior to four weeks in utero, that the peak period for brain neuron development is from two to five months in utero, and that the existence of neurons, per se, does not indicate the existence of a developed, functioning brain. Once the brain cell is born, there is a long process of migration of brain cells that occurs mainly from two to six months in utero during which the brain cells move (migrate) to their final destination in the brain. An even longer process of development makes possible the interconnectivity of brain cells which is absolutely essential for sensation, perception, conscious experience, thought, and behavior. The formation of brain synapses that make possible brain cell communication does not begin until about the third month in utero, and most are formed after birth.”
Citing other neuroscientists, Prescott also points out that the fetuses have no organized, meaningful brain wave patterns until 31 weeks, and concludes that “neither pain perception nor personhood exists at conception and that the beginning capacity for personhood may only begin at twenty-eight to thirty weeks in utero.”
For people who still look at the world through a black-and-white, right-and-wrong lens, abortion may be the perfect issue to prove to you that we do not live in a world of moral absolutes.
Is it wrong to have sex? No, as long as it’s voluntary. Is it wrong to use birth control pills, condoms, the pull out method or other natural family planning methods to prevent pregnancy? I hope we can all agree, the answer is no. Is it wrong to accidentally get pregnant when you didn’t want or couldn’t afford a baby? No.
Is it wrong to take the “morning after” pill to cause the uterine walls to thicken so that a fertilized egg/embryo cannot attach to them for nourishment? Or herbs to induce a miscarriage? No. It’s no more wrong than passing an egg into the toilet on her period each month, in my opinion. Is it wrong for a woman to chemically or physically expel (abort) an undeveloped baby (fetus) with no brain waves or consciousness from her body? I don’t think so.
Is it wrong for a woman who realizes her baby will be severely deformed or disabled, or that she has a good chance of dying in child birth to undergo a second or third trimester abortion? No, not in my opinion. Or how about a woman who couldn’t afford an early abortion, or who was scared and didn’t know what to do until the last minute, when she realized the child would be born into terrible poverty and suffering?
(There are a lot of myths and misperceptions about late-term abortions. This article does a good job dispelling them. They are very rare and usually done for very good reasons.)
Quality over quantity
The universe always finds a way to keep itself in balance (i.e. not letting humans overpopulate the earth). Some ways are crueler than others. I’m just glad we no longer have to resort infanticide to avoid propelling children into a world of poverty, starvation, disease, stress and slavery.
Quality of life is WAY more important to me than quantity of life. Having another child right now would not only severely diminish the quality of mine and Brad’s lives, it would diminish the quality of Nora’s life. It would take time, energy, attention, quality of food, quality of childcare and other resources from her. It would leave her parents more overworked, more stressed, less patient and fighting more. It would make her childhood – and perhaps adulthood – less happy, and she has not asked for that or done anything to deserve that.
As Osho says, miserable people have no business having kids, only blissful people do. I sometimes wish I had had the chance to find my bliss before Nora was born, so I could’ve welcomed her her into it, rather than chaos. I know everything happens for a reason and that her life will have a beautiful, positive ripple-effect on the universe. But if I ever become pregnant again, I am sure-as-man-made-hell expelling that life from my body and recycling that energy back into the hurting, out-of-balance universe.