In the last twenty four hours I have felt a decided shift in my emotions. I feel like I have returned to normal life, as though I have been away. I find myself reflecting on my abortion in those rare moments of quiet and solitude, but abortion is no longer the overriding thought on my mind.
In those moments today, I have ruminated about how I made my decision. I knew that in order to feel sure that I was making the right decision I needed to consider the very difficult ethical conundrums raised by abortion. I suppose that says it all. I do not see abortion in absolute terms but rather in terms of unanswerable dilemmas.
My body has created life twice. It is impossible for me to deny that with time, good luck, and no accidents of biology, the fetus grows into a baby, who is born, and then develops into a person. In the days before my abortion, I force myself to wonder if this fetus would become a person who looks like my other children, who bear a striking resemblance to one another. I contemplate whether it is a male or female. I think about my two children’s distinct personalities and about what kind of person this fetus might have become.
Those thoughts are difficult to have, but for me they were important. My answers reflect my fundamental views of personhood. I do not think of the fetus as the “unborn” but rather in terms of “potential life.” Miscarriage occurs in one out of four pregnancies. Sadly I know of too many cases, even well after the supposed mark of fetal viability (24 weeks) that ended in badly. I myself endured pre-term labor at 24 weeks with my first pregnancy which ended happily, while many other women on the maternal-fetal ward had far sadder outcomes. I mourn with friends who have terminated pregnancies for medical reasons, or endured a stillbirth due to medical complications during delivery. The process of creating life is sadly fraught with many moments that can go terribly wrong.
I believe that each unique combination of an egg and a sperm creates a different potential life and that personality is the result of a complex interaction of biology and environment that occurs over a lifetime. I do not believe that a specific fetus was destined to be a specific person and that if that fetus is aborted or miscarried that the world is missing the next “Beethoven, finder of the cure for cancer, or fill in the blank” any more than I think that the miscarried or aborted fetus might have become “Hitler, Charles Manson, or another potential blight upon the world.”
It turns out that the answers to my hard questions really were not the important part of my process. It was the asking that proved most valuable. Avoiding the hard thoughts, the conflicts with moral, ethical, religious, or philosophical beliefs seems to me the surest way to make the wrong individual choice about abortion. To me however that is the best answer anyone is going to get, their individual answer because really there is no answer.