By Jonathon Van Maren
Many of you will know that I spent a few weeks in Ireland prior to the abortion referendum on May 25 last year. All of you will know the heart-breaking result of that referendum, which resulted in abortion on demand becoming legal in the Republic of Ireland.
Since then, I’ve read most of the commentary written on what transpired. But nothing manages to compete with the sheer callousness of an anonymous column written in October for Refinery 29, titled “Just Because I Had An Abortion Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Grieving.”
The anonymous woman writes about how she’d always wanted to be a “mum,” and then seamlessly moves on to the passionate feminism of her adulthood. At some point in between her childhood longings for motherhood and her fervent adult support of abortion, presumably, she managed to obtain the schizophrenia necessary to celebrate one sonogram photo as a beautiful first baby portrait while seeing another as indicating a blob of cells to be targeted by an abortionist.
Anyways, the girl who longed to be a mother became a woman who longed for Irish mothers to have the legal right to violently offload their offspring:
Like every other liberal-minded feminist in the UK, I watched the Repeal conversations unfold in Ireland this summer with great interest. As someone with many links to the Emerald Isle and a passion for equality, I never questioned that a woman’s right to decide what happens with her body should be as implicit as her right to breathe. And yet, as someone who had also never been pregnant or in a position where they’d had to make this decision, it was more of an intellectual problem for me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t sympathise with people in that position, but rather that I didn’t have the emotional experience to be able to empathise.
On the night that the “yes” vote won in Ireland, I went out to meet some Irish friends at a pub. Everyone was giddy with joy at what seemed like a giant – albeit long overdue – leap towards equality, in a world that appeared to be marching in the opposite direction. One beer turned into two and then three, and as my brain turned foggy with alcohol and the weather took an inauspicious turn, I decided to pop in to see a long-term (but very casual) f**k buddy who lived nearby. Riding on a wave of excitement and fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol and arousal, risks were taken and personal boundaries pushed.
There is something truly hideous about somebody getting drunk and copulating with a casual friend to celebrate the fact that babies conceived in just such a fashion would soon be killed on Irish soil. You’ll notice, again, that the solemn claims of abortion supporters that this was an issue of utmost seriousness and not a matter of celebration vanished the moment they realized that they had actually done it—they had secured the power over life and death that they’d wanted so badly for so long. There is a core ugliness to this ideology that seems to have no bottom and is hard to truly articulate. But it gets worse:
A broken condom, a hazy memory and a morning after pill later, I awaited my period with more anxiety than usual. Like many of my contemporaries, I had taken a few morning after pills in my time and had never had cause to doubt their efficacy. But something felt different this time, although I couldn’t quite place my finger on what. I felt physically uncomfortable in a way I hadn’t before, as if I were an expanding balloon that needed to burst but couldn’t. Then, a week after my period was due, fully expecting to be proven wrong, I took a test and found out I was pregnant.
I had often imagined the moment I found out I was pregnant as a joyous one, something wholly happy and positive. I had watched close friends and relatives go through this rite of passage and joined in with their excitement. In my social circle up to that point, unplanned pregnancies hadn’t really occurred, and those who had crossed the threshold into parenthood had done so willingly and emphatically. And yet here I found myself, alone in my flat one Friday night in a maze of contradictions, shaking violently from the shock while trying to suppress an instinctive feeling of joy at finding out that for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t truly alone. As I lay frozen on the bathroom floor I let myself imagine for a moment that I would keep the child, and for those brief 10 minutes, the future felt exciting.
Take note here of the fact that this new mother has no illusions about what being pregnant means. She doesn’t talk about a “potential child.” She actually says that she “let myself imagine for a moment that I would keep the child”—her child, which she’d conceived the night that Irish voters removed the right to life of children in the womb and left them to the whims of women just like her. Soon, she began asking herself questions, as her child grew peacefully under her heart:
Did I want to keep it, which – while feeling like the most natural thing in the world – would simultaneously spell the end of the life I’d previously imagined for myself? Or did I want to terminate it, and forever live with the guilt of preventing a child from being born? Would I always wonder who that child was and what our relationship would have been like? Or would I always resent the child for abruptly stripping me of my independence and the opportunity to build the life I so desired. Suddenly, this “choice” I’d been reading about throughout the summer didn’t seem like a choice at all. I desperately wished that someone would take the decision out of my hands so that I wouldn’t have to live with the guilt…
Whenever I’d read about abortion in the past, I had naively imagined young women in vulnerable positions who were unable to support a child either emotionally or financially. By this logic, the reasons not to have an abortion in my case had decreased with every passing year: I had a good job, I owned a flat, I was happy in life with a good support network and, at 30 years old, was the exact age I’d imagined myself being when I started a family. And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling in my gut that this wasn’t the right time to have a baby. So, contradicting my natural instinct to nurture and protect the raspberry-sized cluster of cells swelling in my uterus, I booked an appointment at an abortion clinic; first for a medical procedure and then – when that didn’t work – a surgical one. I did this because, despite my desire to have the baby, it didn’t feel fair to bring a child into the world when I couldn’t say with absolute confidence that it was the right thing to do.
Read it and weep. This woman had her baby killed—not because she couldn’t afford the baby, and not because she couldn’t emotionally handle a child. She was the right age, and was surrounded by people who would presumably be thrilled to welcome her little son or daughter. But it was not to be, because she couldn’t “say with absolute confidence that it was the right thing to do.” She could, apparently, say that having her little one suctioned out of her uterus was the right thing to do, because that is what she did. But despite all this, the woman who was the mother she always dreamed of being oh-so-briefly wants her readers to know that she had the baby killed not for her, but for the baby. This, apparently, was an enormous act of self-sacrifice on her part, where she sacrificed the baby so that her baby would never have to experience resentment from her mother due to the sacrifices necessary to raise her. She hadn’t aborted the baby because of her own interests, she explains. She did it for very unselfish reasons:
When I later shared the news with friends, I was commended for making a difficult decision. They were “proud” of me. And yet, what the majority of these well meaning souls seemed to miss was that I hadn’t made this decision for myself at all. No. Absent the ability to think of my own interests in the situation, instead I had focused on the raspberry. Would it have a good start in life? Would I be able to provide a stable environment on my own? Would I be able to be the mother I knew I was capable of being, and which the baby deserved, given my lack of emotional readiness?
So why is she sharing all of this? It is so the rest of us realize that well-to-do, well-established women like herself, who decide to have abortions after behaving recklessly for no reason in particular, often feel jealous of those who made a different choice:
I write this because, despite the offer of counselling from the clinic, my lack of interaction with somebody who’d had an abortion meant that nobody had warned me about the guilt, the anger and the sadness that might follow. Nobody had told me about the crippling fear of never having another chance to be a mum. Nobody had mentioned the resentment I would feel towards others who were pregnant and able to carry their baby to term. The sense of injustice I would feel every time I saw or held a baby during the subsequent weeks. The jealousy of seeing strangers in the street pushing a pram. The longing. The grief. The regret.
It is time for us to start having an honest, open conversation about abortion and its emotional after-effects. Because, until we do, millions of women will continue to find themselves alone and confused when faced by this emotional downpour, and we can do better than that – we really can.
You’d think that when she says “we can do better than that,” she’d be referring to abortion. But no. She’s referring to the fact that people do not understand her jealousy and her grief. Of course, for her grief to be acknowledged, she would first have to truly acknowledge what actually happened: That a real little person, her son or daughter, died. That regardless of the strange spin she’s tried to put on events, she sacrificed her baby for her own self-interest. That the only “injustice” that was done was perpetrated against an utterly helpless child.
A baby conceived by a woman celebrating a referendum that would legalize abortion ended her short life at the hands of the abortionist. We truly do live in a cruel world, filled with delusion and in desperate need of compassion and self-sacrifice.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.