Thursday, September 25, 2008

A grain of rice

I had an abortion:

I know that I writhed in my twin bed, suffering from debilitating, convulsing cramps. My roommates, best friend, and boyfriend hovered around; they brought me pain killers, Tiger Balm, hot-water bottles, and applesauce, and all the while they stroked my head and conferenced in the background about how I was doing. I bled profusely as my body rejected the fetus that had been described to me as “the size of a grain of rice.” I threw up. And finally, I fell asleep.

She was "six weeks pregnant". Which typically means six weeks past her last menstrual period, with an embryo four weeks old. If so, Planned Parenthood was technically not too far off in describing it as "the size of a grain of rice": a four-week embryo is indeed about as long as a grain of rice, but it's no more "the size of a grain of rice" than any two people the same height are also "the same size".

And does size matter that much? Does being tiny make it okay to kill you? Thumbelina would find few protectors, it seems, in the prochoice movement.

"Six weeks pregnant." Four weeks into life:

Brain is well marked by its cerebral hemispheres. The hindbrain, which is responsible for heart regulation, breathing and muscle movements, begins to develop.


External retina pigment is visible ....

Primary cardiac tube separates into aortic and pulmonary channels and the ventricular pouches deepen and enlarge, forming a common wall with their myocardial shells.

The mesentery, which attaches the intestines to the rear abdominal wall, holds them in position and supplies them with blood, nerves and lymphatics, is now clearly defined. Ureter, the tube that will convey urine from the kidney to the bladder, continues to lengthen.

Hand region of upper limb bud differentiates further to form a central carpal part and a digital plate. The thigh ..., leg ... and foot areas can be distinguished in the lower limb buds.

Somebody who was never given a chance. Whose mother feels ashamed not for having snuffed him, but because other women have to go to more trouble to cut off every chance at life for their own children.

And that's sad.

What's really the size of a grain of rice, it seems, is the conscience.


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