It’s So Personal: An Unforgiving Family

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 3 2009 @ 11:31am

A reader writes:

Thanks for your stories from the families that went through agonizing choices. I come from a family of Christianists. They may have started out Christians, but I think the abortion debate started them on a path away from the followings of Jesus to the followings of some fairly wacko evangelicals. I respect them for holding on to beliefs that they cherish, but I found over time my respect for them, as thinking and supposedly loving human beings, has diminished.Davinci I married late, at age 40, and my husband and I had no plans for children. As we were waiting for his vasectomy to “kick in”, using condoms, I somehow became pregnant. Ultrasound revealed that the pregnancy was ectopic. I was not well, feeling sick and in pain every day. There are extreme risks to the health of the mother in allowing an ectopic pregnancy to come to term.

I would have kept the whole issue to myself and not shared it with my family if it hadn’t have just so happened to coincide with a long-planned family reunion. I had to give a reason to not attend the reunion so I decided to share my predicament with my family. I chose to terminate at six weeks. My family heartily disagreed, saying that it was my duty to risk my life for a pregnancy I never wanted and had taken rational steps to avoid. This happened in 2007 and my tenuous relations with my family have not recovered. It still is a profoundly deep hurt that aches within me that my family felt that it would be proper for me to die rather than take the medical procedure that would save my life. My family seems to value the six week of cell growth over the person they have known for 40 years. Birthday wishes seem hollow; them checking in with me to see how I am doing seems hypocritical of them since they all would have chosen that I die, along with the fetus, during a painful ectopic pregnancy.

My story is nothing compared to the stories of women who were carrying faceless babies, babies with no brain development, or even dead babies and the mothers were unable to find medical help except by traveling to Kansas to obtain a late-term abortion. Your line “I still cannot in good conscience support these abortions” sends me right back to holding the phone and listening to my mother, sisters, father and a brother in law tell me that I was damning myself by choosing to save my own life rather than risking my life and the unborn fetus’ life by utilizing modern medicine. If the anti-choice position is supposed to be “pro-life”, I cannot understand how my actions, saving my life, don’t fall under that same rubric.

I have valued your open-mindedness and that you challenge your long-held beliefs as new evidence arises and that you have the courage to occasionally change your views as facts change. But I cannot wrap my mind around you reading these accounts and still believing that the right course of action for these mothers, and for me, was to risk their lives or bring into being children that will not have one day of fully lived life; that the right course of action would be to impoverish their entire families by committing themselves and their budgets to impossible medical bills with no hope of finding a healthy baby at the end of their efforts.

I have to say I am beginning to believe that these abortions, given their excruciating moral and personal choices, may be the most defensible in context of all abortions. And yet they seem to be taking life in a more viscerally distressing way. I need time to think and rethink these things. I would not have without reading these extraordinary accounts.