Sunday, June 24, 2007

Finding a nugget of the positive

"I was betrayed by a pill"

Norine Dworkin-McDaniel laments that her chemical abortion experience wasn't the easy, safe, totally private and liberating process she expected it to be. She feels betrayed.

This is hard for me. I don't find her at all sympathetic.

Imagine, for example, a child abuser wanting to warn other child abusers about his own bad experience. He'd gotten an antibiotic-resistant strain of syphillis after having unprotected sex with a child that had been passed around a circle of abusers. And he was lamenting how betrayed he felt that nobody warned him to use a condom. How unjust and just plain wrong it was that exercising his right to sexual fulfilment led to such an unpleasant and dangerous experience for him. And he wanted to warn other pedophiles to either use a condom or to be sure to only rape kids that hadn't already been "used" by somebody else.

That's how sympathetic this woman comes across to me.

But as C. S. Lewis said, "When a man who has been perverted from his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God's eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend."

This woman honestly believes that all women are 100% entitled to kill their unborn, that it's 100% self-evident that women are entitled to kill their unborn, that society owes it to women to in every way facilitate and support and honor and praise the practice of killing the unborn. And she's risking becoming alienated from her friends and social network, in order to put forth an unpleasant truth. I have to give her credit for that. And Marie Claire does deserve credit for being brave enough to publish an account of an abortion that wasn't all about how safe and liberating and othewise wonderful abortion is.

They're taking a stand for truth, bravely, and in the face of risking attack from both sides. From the prolifers for endorsing the killing of the unborn. From the prochoice for "giving the other side ammo to attack our hard-won reproductive rights". Both the author and the publisher knew they were taking an unpopular stand, but were willing to stick their necks out for something true, to warn others of a risk to health and life. You gotta give them credit for that, even if, as it does with me, it really sticks in your craw.

HT: After Abortion


Alexandra said...

I read that and thought of you! I disliked the woman. Mostly because I thought that she kind of embodied the "perfect pregnancy or no pregnancy" frame of mind, which I dislike. She wanted a child, and was actually getting ready to try to conceive one, but she aborted the child she turned out to be already pregnant with because she worried that some cocaine use in the first couple weeks would mess the baby up? That sort of thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not least because, to my limited understanding, the first couple weeks you kind of get a bit of a buffer zone -- it takes a bit of time before you start really affecting fetal development, doesn't it?

I was sad that she had such a bad experience, though, and grateful that she shared it with the magazine.

Christina Dunigan said...

I don't wish such a wretched experience on anybody, but I couldn't put her on my list of people who've gotten undeservedly screwed over in life.

Still, at least she's trying to bring unpopular facts to the forefront, even though she knows it'll bring flac on her. That's an admirable thing in itself, as deplorable as the context is.

JacqueFromTexas said...

A 38-year-old woman that does coke-hmmmm...not exactly a model citizen.

She's also so insistent on having everything about pregnancy being to her specifications that I'm afraid that when she does determine it's the "right time," (she's already out of the healthiest child-bearing window) the child might have a chromosomal abnormality- and this woman has no qualms about aborting any child that isn't her idea of perfection (even in areas unrelated to the child, like timing and MATERNAL ILLICIT DRUG USE.)

Perhaps I am not as good a person as you are, Christina, but she can cry me a river over anything she "endured" over killing her own child. It seems like a sliver of justice to me.

Christina Dunigan said...

Considering I'm personally hoping for mercy, it'd be pretty petty of me to want justice for everybody else! ;)

L. said...

Sometimes compassion comes naturally.

Sometimes it doesn`t come naturally, but you force yourself to act compassionately, against your feelings, simply because it`s the right thing to do.

Christina Dunigan said...

Sometimes compassion comes naturally.

Sometimes it doesn`t come naturally, but you force yourself to act compassionately, against your feelings, simply because it`s the right thing to do.

Interesting coming from somebody who says she's prochoice in large part because she just doesn't feel any compassionate feelings toward her fetuses. ;)

L. said...

True -- I did not feel anything at all for my fetuses. In the case of abortion, I think we would be at adds about the definition of "...simply because it's the right thing to do," because you would insist that the right thing to do is to gestate my unwanted fetuses under all circumstances, even if my life were ever seriously at risk, whereas for me, choosing abortion in most circusmtances would be a no-brainer!

Actually, when I wrote those words, I was speaking mostly of my own mother, who has some serious problems. I truly dislike my mother and feel no compassion at all for her suffering, but I have to go through the motions of caring "simply because it's the right thing to do."

Christina Dunigan said...

I know you didn't have your own unborn in mind. That's what made it ironic. In other circumstances you're able to see that the right thing might not be what you want to do, but that you have to do it anyway simply because it's right. You can recognize that in other circumstances. Just not when it comes to the unborn. Why is it only in that circumstance that one's lack of a feeling of compassion lets one off the "You still have to do the right thing" hook?

L. said...

Oh, I daresay it`s not only the case unborn in which my lack of compassion lets me off the "do the right thing" hook. I can think of plenty of other situations, too, in which "the right thing" was open to question.

Remember, too -- my "right thing" is different from your "right thing." We won`t agree there. Sometimes, under certain circumstances, I think abortion would be the "righht thing," and having a baby those circumstances would be a selfish, wrong decision.

And other times, in other circumstances, of course, we would agree.

Notice I didn`t say, "THE LAW forces you to act compassionately, against your feelings, simply because it`s the right thing to do." Nor do I believe that`s desirable, when it comes to either fetuses or one`s mean-tempered, aging parents!

Christina Dunigan said...

But sometimes, L, the law does step in when we fail to do the right thing -- when we drive drunk, when we abuse children, when we neglect our elderly and dependent parents.

One legitimate purpose of government is to keep the strong from just trampling the vulnerable. And it's hard to get much more vulnerable than a fetus in the womb.

L. said...

Oh, I don't know about that, Christina -- many pregnant owners of the wombs around the fetuses would be equally vulnerable if all of their medical decisions were dictated by judges. But we can go on about this forever, can't we?

Forunately, my mother doesn't need an organ transplant or any money. But imagine if laws required that I was obligated to give her my kidney, or pay for her nursing care, simply because of the mother/child relationship? I would likely object, refuse, and therefore become a criminal.

Oh, and it occurred to me later -- remember my long-ago unwanted pregnancy, the one I miscarried and flushed down the toilet? I was going to carry it to term simply because my husband wanted it, so I guess you can't say that my "lack of a feeling of compassion" lets me off the "'You still have to do the right thing' hook." I just think "the right thing" varies from case to case.

Christina Dunigan said...

L, the vast, vast, vast majority of abortions have nothing to do with any medical risks to the mother.

I guess it often comes down to who do you sympathize with -- the woman who loves her unborn, or the woman who has not feelings whatsoever for it and/or wants it dead. And I"m gonna come down for mother love every time.

L. said...

I'm not sure I even believe in the concept of "mother love" that you seem to think is so important. Certainly if it exists, it has nothing to do with biological connections at all.

Christina Dunigan said...

L, is the love you have for your kids any different from the love you have for your spouse, friends, siblings, etc?

L. said...

No, it's identical -- without the sexual component I have for my spouse, obviously! I love my friends the way I love my children, the way I loved my grandmother, etc. I love many people with whom I don't have any biological connection -- and I fail to feel any love-like emotion for a few people with whom I do.

Christina Dunigan said...

I wonder if that's a common difference between prolifers prochoicers.

I love a lot of people, but that love pales beside the love for my kids and my granddaughter. Ditto my sister for her daughter, who is adopted.

There seems to be something for a lot of women in being a mother that just ups the ante.

I remember my mother at a funeral, speaking to my aunt's niece by marriage. She said, "When your husband dies, he goes from your side. When your child dies, he takes part of you with him." It's been 43 years and she still weeps over my brother's death. I don't know anybody who grieves the loss of a parent or spouse or friend the way the women I know who have lost children grieve.

L. said...

Well, I do know plenty of people who grieve the loss of a parent or spouse or friend as deeply as women who have lost children grieve -- and some of those people are even pro-life. I know a few pro-life women who are just as devoted to their husbands as they are to their children, and if they had to choose one or the other, they couldn't: life without their spouse is unimaginable to them, or so they have told me. And I can think of one woman I know who grieved for the loss of her mother more than she grieved the loss of her premature baby -- perhaps she just didn't have enough time to get attached to the baby? She accepted the little girl's death as God's will, but was angry that her mother was taken from her.

I can honestly say there was nothing about becoming a mother that "upped the ante" for me. I don't think the feelings I have for my kids are special or unique in any way. In fact, I deeply resent it when people try to label me as "a mother" -- it's a role and an identity I mostly reject, or at least want to keep compartmentalized in very narrow space in my overall life.

Christina Dunigan said...

Though it's father love rather than mother love, Dave Barry describes it eloquently.

I'm not saying that people - even parents -- don't desperately love people who aren't their kids. I'm just saying that for a lot of us, becoming a parent changes everything forever. And it's a connection between us. One of us will say, "Having a baby changes everything," and the other will smile and nod, and there's nothing more to say. Becoming a parent changes everything for us, forever. We're no longer the center of our own universe. That child is. And will always be. Not in a way that means that we no longer have a life, but in that our own life is no longer the most important thing. That child's life is. Period. Paragraph. Finis.

Again, I wonder if that's part of what sometimes divides us, at least the women. When losing a child is the worst thing imaginable, something you'd choose paralyses or blindness or maiming or death to avoid, the idea of abortion is anethema. The idea that the death of their child is something somebody else would march for, lobby for, fight for, demand as a right, is incomprehensible. Women who actually want to abort are using a thought process so alien to us you might as well speak of somebody who geniuinely wants to be tortured to death in some psychopath's basement.

And if such a person existed, could you take the attitude, "Well, if that's what they want, we have an obligation to make it happen for them"?

L. said...

Yeah, taht's why I think pro-life people and pro-choice people will never fundamentally agree -- the fact is, I would certainly have an abortion in some circumstances. I would do what you consider "incomprehensible." You no more understand why I would do it than I would understand why you would do anything to stop me from doing it.

Christina Dunigan said...

But it is interesting, and perhaps useful, if only in maintaining a bit more civility, to understand one another a bit more.

L. said...

True -- but I don't believe I am a "typical" pro-choicer, if such a person even exists. I am probably not a "typical" mother, either.

And actually, I think most pro-choice parents feel more like Dave Barry than like me, when it comes to their children.

I remember when the author Ayelet Waldman claimed in this essay that she loved her husband more than her children ---

--- there was a huge outcry against her, even from liberal pro-choice quarters. In fact, even I think the woman is a bit out of whack, after reading her whole essay.

Christina Dunigan said...

James Davison Hunter found a large contingent of what he dubbed "personally-opposed prochoice." The women among them found abortion a horrifying prospect they'd never want to endure themselves, just like a prolife woman would. But depending on your prespectve you could either say:

A. They respect that other women don't share their horror of abortion and are therefore entitled to avail themselves of it if they want to.

B. They don't think other women are entitled to the same help they'd want if they were pregnant in bad circumstances, and are perfectly willing to abandon them, either out of contempt for those women or because being "prochoice" is expected in their social circle and that's how they prove their "tolerance".

C. Some mix of A and B.

I'd say C, myself.

L. said...

I know a few B's in real life, and I know a few C's, but the vast majority of the pro-choicers I know come closest to A's -- remember, I go to a Catholic Church. Many of my pro-choice friends are Catholic, so their opinion is certainly NOT "expected in their social circle." Even in San Francisco!

Christina Dunigan said...

"Individual results may vary!"

I was once in a (non-abortion-related) support group. The woman heading it was "personally opposed prochoice", a member of the Religious Coalition for Abortion RIghts, and said that she'd never dream of submitting herself to something as horriffic as an abortion, but she had to allow for other women to make that choice.

Shortly after I stopped attending that group, one of the other women called me, crying. A young woman in the group, call her Sally, had told the group she was pregnant. She cried piteously, saying that she didn't want to kill her baby but she felt trapped. Her boyfriend would leave her and her landlady evict her. The leader kept telling her that she appreciated how sad it all was but that clearly she was right -- abortion was her only option, and they'd all "support her in her choice."

But it wasn't her choice! She felt trapped in it! She kept saying again and again that she didn't want to do it but felt she had no other option. And Ms. "I could never imagine undergoing something so horrible" had no qualms whatsoever about abandoning Sally to it.

Wouldn't it have been more loving, much more respsectful of Sally's REAL feelings, to say, "Another week won't make or break an abortion appointment. Why don't we all commit to seeing what we can do to find help for Sally? Maybe we can come up with someplace she can live to finish school? Or maybe you can call Christina and see if she knows anybody who can help, since she once was in a similar situation where she thought abortion was the only answer but somebody helped her find another way. We'll pull together for a week and see if we can help you avoid this, since clearly it's not what you want to do."

But no. It was "respect her choice." Which wasn't Sally's choice -- it was her boyfriend's choice! Sally was weeping and saying she DIDN'T want to do it! That she saw it as "killing her baby".

Clearly that support group leader was in Group B -- "Too horrible for me, but I can't be bothered to help other women avoid it."

It would have been Situation A had Sally had no qualms about the abortion other than maybe being scared of surgery in general, had Sally chosen abortion on her own initiative because she did not have any desire to allow the ZEF to come to term.

I had no phone number for Sally and she never showed up again at that support group so the other woman couldn't even tell her to call me that I was willing to help her, as my son's godfather had helped me. I never found out if she managed to get help at the last minute or if she submitted to an unwanted abortion because she couldn't get any real help.

To this day I want to look up that support group leader and give her what-for, for abandoning Sally to something she would move heaven and earth to avoid herself. It struck me as caring far more about proving her "prochocie" credentials than she did about Sally.

L. said...

Yes, the group leader sounds like a "B." I've known people to do the opposite -- people who are vehemently pro-choice in that they want abortion to be legal, but when faced with someone actually experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, they helped her avoid abortion. Sometimes you just don't know which is which until your opinions are put to the test. I have one friend whom I thought was an A who turned out to be a B -- when I thought I was pregnant once, and my husband didn't (at that particular time) want another baby, she told me it would be wrong to bring a baby into the world unless both parents wanted it, and wrong to do anything to risk my marriage to the father of my 3 other kids. So much for my "choice!"

Regarding the group leader that you knew, she wasn't just an woman-on-the-street -- she was involved in the issue, leading an abaortion rights group. People who are involved in some capacity are likely to have more polarized opinions. I'll bet they account for lots of the B's and C's. Even on pro-choice blogs, I've encountered mostly B's and C's. But I know many A's in my real lie -- even some surprising ones, whom I would have expected to be pro-life because of their religon.

Christina Dunigan said...

People who are involved in some capacity are likely to have more polarized opinions.

True, that.

I've seen a lot of "man on the street" on both sides bailing.

One man told me of a co-worker who approached her supervisor tearfully, telling him she was pregnant and didn't know what to do. He just bailed, saying "You know I'm Catholic so I'm not qualified". But I've heard women who have had abortions tell me that they'd deliberately go to people they suspsected opposed abortion, figuring that they'd get somebody like the friend who helped me when I was pregnant with my son. They were figuring, "This person will be against abortion, so he/she won't even raise the issue but will look at every other option." Only to have that person either opt out "I'm against abortion so I can't counsel you because I'll omit that option" (thus abandoning her!), or to have them turn out to be abortion advocates in odd places, eager to prove their "prochoice" credentials.

The women in question felt abandoned and betrayed, and ended up aborting. Not only aborting but often taking it as a sign that God had abandoned them, since they'd gone to a Christian with the prayer of finding a way to avoid abortion.

"All have sinned and fallen short," the Bible says. I've seen prochoicers pull out the stops to help women, I've seen prochoicers leave women in the lurch or bully them into unwanted abortions, I've seen prolifers pull out the stops and help women, and I've seen prolifers abandon them, like that supervisor or my one online friend's Catholic grandmother.


L. said...

I always think "pro-choice" and "pro-life" can be best summed up by what kind of legislation an individual supports, rather than how they would act in a particular circumstance. For example, even if I were to talk several women out of having abortions, if I truly believed it was in the best interests to do so, I don't believe that abortion should be against the law. And I would consider someone who refused to help a partcular pregnant woman, for whatever reason, to still be "pro-life" if they consistently sought to make abortion illegal.

Christina Dunigan said...

I always think "pro-choice" and "pro-life" can be best summed up by what kind of legislation an individual supports, rather than how they would act in a particular circumstance.

I think that this is how they self-identify, and that therefore this is how we have to use the words.

This is something I try to get across to a lot of prolifers, that they ought not to just let the person's self-identification as "prochoice" mean that much in and of itself.

But it gets hard. We don't have words in the language to describe what people really espouse when they're living out their daily lives! And people can always say one thing and do another, on both sides of this an any other issue.

I've known people, for example, who would say the most appallingly racist things, but who never treated anybody differently based on the color of their skin, not even to object when their daughter dated somebody of another race. Then there are people who'd never let a racist utterance past their lips, who would never associate with folks of what they consider undesirable races.

L. said...

I hear you on the racial stuff -- remember, I married an Asian guy, and you'd be surprised what kinds of things I've heard come out of the mouths of my loving friends and family members over the years.

"Pro-life" and "pro-choice" are indeed hard to pin down sometimes. Some people (including you) are what I think of as "100% pro-life" -- you would want to try to have babies even if impregnanted through rape, or even if your life were at risk. Other people I've known would (and, in fact, did) abort in such drastic circumstances, but still consider themselves "pro-life" and still think MOST abortions should be criminalzed.

And what exactly is "100% prochoice?" What if I think a particular woman's choice of abortion is wrong in her case -- do I just shrug and say, "Oh, well, it's her choice -- not my business" -- or do I let her know what I think? If I do express an opinion that doesn't support her choice, does that make me less than "100% pro-choice?" Even if I don't believe in passing laws that would stop her from making what I think is a bad choice?

Christina Dunigan said...

I was surprised the first time I read James Davison Hunter's analysis of how thought broke down on the issue. I was gonna describe the breakdown but realized I can't remember all the terms he used to describe them. And since I have to leave for work before I'd have time to look it up, it'll have to come later.

The groups that stuck in my head were:

"Reticent prochoice" -- really very uncomfortable with the idea of abortion, but they're very afraid of the consequences to women if it were criminalized so they want it legal. But they are not only willing but glad to see restrictions and even attempts to dissuade women.

I think of these folks as allies, if your aim is to limit the damage, because they want to limit abortions, too. They just fear that criminalizing it will do more harm than good. I get ticked off that people will pull a "Prolifier than thou" attitude and refuse to even DISCUSS things with them, much less work with them!

We already discussed the "Personally Opposed Prochoice". But in a nutshell they're prochoice -- sometimes even pro-abortion -- for everybody else, but prolife for themselves.

Then there's the disgusting "conveniently prolife." They talk the talk, but as soon as they hit a glitch in their own lives they climb on the abortion table with a guilty conscience but an unwillingness to practice what they preach.

I don't have time at the moment to discuss this in depth, but I just wish I could get people to set aside the labels and preconceptions once in a while and see where they can actually accomplish some good together.