Once, yet again, we find ourselves discussing abortion. Once again we are defining it in the narrowest terms. For or against? Liberal or conservative reactionary?
Before I become contentious and argumentative, let me say that, from what I know, Planned Parenthood is an organization worth saving. Any Trumpian calls for its demise should be dismissed and ignored. Clearly and inarguably. And God forbid any woman should subject herself to a filthy back alley abortion.
But what if there’s some nuance to this issue? What if not aborting could be an option that contemporary women consider? At least consider.
And before I start a debate I want to give a little of my personal history. I never had an abortion with a knitting needle or doctor or anything at all. The only abortion I ever had was performed by Mother Nature herself. It was, of course, a miscarriage, called a missed abortion. I didn’t want it. I didn’t cause it. I still think about and miss that child who would now be 43 years old. He or she was almost five months in the womb when lost. I would probably have more grandchildren by this child, my baby all grown up and successful and smart and sweet and loving and kind, like my four other children. Instead, he/she was scraped out of me at Hadassah Hospital. There lay the remains of my only sabra child. Maybe he/she would have saved lives, or taught children, or fixed cars I’ll never know But, like all mothers who’ve lost a child in pregnancy, I’ll always remember this person I never met. How could I not? This was part of my very own body, and my very own soul.
So I return to voluntary abortion. I often think about it as a concept. I, for one, do not support it entirely. I’m expressing my views and mine alone. This is not something that I’ll argue with you about. You are clearly free to make your own decisions. Let me dispense with the obvious. Anyone who’s a victim or rape or incest: yes to abortion. Anyone who’s pregnancy might endanger the mother’s health: yes to abortion. Any fetus who will be grievously deformed or unable to be sustained in life: yes to abortion.
But what if a baby is an embarrassment? I think about my cousin Lee. Just my age, now in olam ha ba after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. His biological mother was a 16 year old Jewish girl from Boston who had become pregnant by her Irish Catholic boyfriend. Lee was born in 1939. No doubt his grandparents would have insisted on an abortion for their daughter if it were safe and affordable. After all, she was still a kid in high school, not ready for motherhood. But, instead they did what people often did in those days. They sent her away to visit her aunt for a few months. And when her perfect baby boy was born they put him up for adoption. The mother was depressed, even traumatized. She never gave up the search for her baby and, eventually, many decades later they found each other. But, long before that reunion, she had married Lee’s father and had two more children.
Perhaps that’s a good argument for abortion but I think not. My aunt and uncle were unable to have biological children. They adopted the infant and named him Eliezer, God is my helper in Hebrew. It was their way of thanking God for this unbelievable gift, which they cherished their entire lives, giving unlimited love to this baby who became a young man and then a husband and then, gift to us all, a father to three fine young Jewish sons, grandfather to four, and undoubtedly founder of a chain carrying our family name into forever. Eliezer/Lee could have been aborted. My family would have never known this beloved person. Growing up with him, only three months apart in age, was like having another sibling. And we loved each other like siblings. I just cannot imagine my life without him. Shared history. Shared family. Shared stories. Abortion would have stopped it all in its tracks. And broken his eternal chain.
I once heard a very strange argument in favor of abortion. It was from a woman in a club I used to belong to. She was my age and called herself a change of life baby. Her parents did not want another child, but they felt they had no options so they birthed her, raised her, and loved her. She commiserated with her parents and I’ll never understand her logic. Did she want to deprive herself, her very own body and soul, of life? Not to mention the two children she mothered, and their progeny.
I know careers are also important. I’ve raised my three daughters to pursue meaningful careers and they all do. But, for some, having babies can be a stumbling block for sure. Yet, many women are able to pursue the most prestigious and successful careers without sacrificing their babies. At the end of life, does a woman want her child by her side or her boss?
Do I sound sexist? I hope not. I just can’t get these thoughts out of my mind. I’m not quoting rabbinic leaders or politicians. I’m just thinking out loud of something I can’t easily get my head around. The people I associate with are the pro-abortion stalwarts. But could the pendulum swing too far? Could abortion be so casual that we don’t consider the ramifications? All of them?
As I reread my own words I sound ingenuous. The pro abortion arguments have been made since I was a young woman. Yeah yeah! I know. A woman should have control over her own body. I’ve heard all the feminists throughout the decades and my arguments may sound housewifeish. Not sophisticated Not cosmopolitan. Not educated. Not feminist. From another century. Perhaps.
I’m not going to argue. I’m a leftist. I’m a liberal. I agree with you on just about everything else. And maybe even for me there’s not a fork in the road. Maybe it’s just a little jog.