Face it, anti-abortion advocates: Pro-choice is pro-life

When will the side of "life" acknowledge the lifesaving side of abortion?

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published July 6, 2015 7:32PM (EDT)

  (<a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/pflorendo#1ff13f6b'>pflorendo</a> via <a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/'>iStock</a>)
(pflorendo via iStock)

I know that arguing with the vehemently anti-choice faction is like arguing a can of soup — pointless and unsatisfying and possibly crazy. Yet for those who may not see the world in strictly black and white, for those who may yet be persuadable by the magic of medical facts, let me urge you to consider this irrefutable truth: That the so-called side of "life" so often comes down firmly on the side of obstructing it.

As Buzzfeed contributor Paola Dragnic's recent tale of the terminated pregnancy she had a few years ago that paved the way for her motherhood, plenty of women embroiled in the fight for safe reproductive options are women who desire children. Chilean journalist Dragnic says that after years of focusing on her career, "When I was 36, all I really wanted was to have a baby." Conceiving was easy, and she and her partner quickly shared the good news with their jubilant friends. Their joy was short-lived, however. By her third week of pregnancy, she was vomiting "30 times a day" and had swollen up "grotesquely." Her doctor dismissively chalked up her symptoms to her age and to psychological stress. She now calls his reaction "the first biased judgment in a long chain of obstetric violence that would continue throughout my pregnancy."

As she neared the 14 week mark, she requested a nuchal translucency screening to look for possible fetal anomalies and was told, "You’re not planning to abort if there’s something wrong, are you?" Then her brother referred her to another doctor to do the test, and the results were, unfortunately, "abysmal." Further testing confirmed the baby had the rare and usually fatal chromosomal disorder known as triploidy — a condition that also can carry serious and sometimes lethal consequences for the mother. Her placenta was already growing tumors "as big as grapes." And her doctor told her, "It’s serious, we have to take it out, but we can’t do it in Chile. Do you have enough money to travel." Because abortion is illegal in her country, her doctor had to refer her to a physician in Florida, but as the approval process dragged on she wound up having to go to the ER in a life-or-death crisis. And at four and a half months pregnant, she underwent a brutal induced labor.

Dragnic is now a mother of two, and she says she doesn't want her own daughter "or any other woman, to be tortured by a deaf government that makes us suffer in the name of a false morality." And as a mother myself — a person who was fortunate to be able to choose motherhood when I was physically and emotionally ready — I wish the same for my daughters and all our daughters. It enrages me that in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar, a woman with a planned and wanted pregnancy, died in agony of septicemia after the hospital reportedly told her family, "As long as there is a fetal heartbeat we can’t do anything." I am livid that earlier this year in Paraguay a 10 year-old child who'd been raped was turned down for an abortion. It infuriates me that here in the U.S., a nonviable fetus is given precedent over the final wishes of a brain dead woman's family. And I am heartbroken for the women whose lives are endangered by their pregnancies, who grieve for the fatally abnormal fetuses they carry, who have alarmingly limited options for safely ending their pregnancies.

Naturally, a leading "life" based site has seized upon Dragnic's Buzzfeed story to praise women who made "the opposite choice, to risk and sacrifice their own lives that their sons and daughters might live," noting that "any discussion of abortion, particularly one rooted in firsthand experience, is incomplete if it ignores the party it most deeply affects." This is the almost laughable classic stance. Even if there's a slight nod to the possibility that sometimes a woman might actually die bringing a nonviable fetus into the world, it comes with the caveat that a really noble and good woman would take the chance anyway. But don't worry, across the world, approximately 800 women a day die from pregnancy and childbirth complications, so you get your wish, team "life"!

I firmly believe that a woman should never have to justify or fight for choices regarding her own bodily autonomy. A woman seeking an abortion should not have to explain or apologize to anybody, period. But relatedly, I am really, really, really, sick of the despicable lie that abortion is just a straight up act of selfishness, committed by baby hating she-monsters and the devil doctors who provide them services.

All over the planet, women are being told every single day that they are disposable. They are being sacrificed at the altar of short-sightedness, being forced to carry out pregnancies that were never ever meant to go full term. And the tragic irony is that many of them are women just like Dragnic, who could, if given the chance, go on to have healthy children later. Dragnic's two kids are in the world now because of the end of her first pregnancy. But the fiercely delusional side of "life" doesn't see things that way. They don't want to consider the hard choices that make up reality. And they don't want to consider that if you say that a human life has value and you steadfastly refuse to value women, you're not just ridiculously hypocritical, you're being downright dangerous.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Buzzfeed Paola Dragnic Reproductive Rights