With respect to the burning question of abortion, I guess I could say that I am “pro-choice.” While any decent person must admit that it’s tragic when a women decides she should bring her pregnancy to term and give birth to a live, healthy baby, something we would hope done after grave and serious deliberation, if you’re morally serious you’ll admit that life is full of difficult and complicated circumstances and, well, you know. Surely it would be inhumane for any woman to be forced to have an abortion…
If you ever find yourself in an argument with a forced-birther (an honest term I use in preference to the dishonest euphemism “pro-lifer,”) you may have had drawn on you something they think of as an absolute, knock-down, clincher checkmate rhetorical question “What if your mother had aborted you?” Sometimes, when dealing with a blackmailer, the best response is simple defiance, and the response to this question is an instance of such. Just look them in the eye and say steadily and firmly “I wish she had.”
Perhaps for some of you this response — if you are so bold as to venture it — is just a clever way of telling an annoying fanatic to fuck off. About myself, though, I think there is an important sense in which it is an honest response. If my life really is, on balance, suffering, then surely I would have been better off never having been, and having been aborted would have been one path to that result.
Of course, there are certain things you just can’t say in many contexts, and perhaps the “I wish she had” response is one of them. You will bring a lot of hate down on yourself — complete with accusations of filial ingratitude and insistence that you need to se a therapist — if you venture to say certain forbidden things, and this might be one of them.
So it is with a certain delight (that I read a recent short essay by Lynn Beisner in the Guardian in which the writer comes right ought and says without hedging or hesitation “I wish my mother had aborted me.” Ms. Beisner is mostly motivated by an understanding of the difficult, suffering-filled life of her mother, whom she obviously loves and whose suffering she wishes could have been prevented, and might have been, had her mother taken a different path in life and not given birth to — and had to care for — a child she was not ready for. But Ms. Biesner also has an understanding of her own life as filled with suffering, and grasps further the key philosophical truth that non-existence is not an evil.
Abortion would have been a better option for me. If you believe what reproductive scientists tell us, that I was nothing more than a conglomeration of cells, then there was nothing lost. I could have experienced no consciousness or pain. But even if you discount science and believe I had consciousness and could experience pain at six gestational weeks, I would chose the brief pain or fear of an abortion over the decades of suffering I endured.
The story of mother and daughter is heart-rending, but a must read if you wish to take mortal matters seriously. In all, it left me with strangest feeling of philosophical exhiliration mixed with human sorrow.