An Abortion Remembered

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 7 2009 @ 11:32am

A reader writes:

I’ve been having a hard time bringing myself to write about this because I haven’t talked about it before and my own thinking doesn’t seem to have a place anymore in the current  discourse.

I learned I was pregnant just a month after my husband had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given just a few months to live. We were both in a state of shock. I was overwhelmed with the thought of losing my wonderful husband and bereft at the idea that my two little daughters – a toddler and a four year old – were going to lose their father. I didn’t have the emotional or financial means to take care of a new baby while trying to also take care of the other two, sell the house, move to a cheaper place, find a job, and take care of my husband.

So I was grateful to find a feminist women’s health center that was safe, caring, and matter-of-fact about the whole thing. My husband and I were deeply sad because we would have loved to have had brought another child into our family. But the future looked terrifying, uncertain, and bleak – no place to bring up a baby.

Although he survived the first cancer, twelve months later it metastasized as five brain tumors. The tumors and the radiation that followed had profound effects on his personality and his ability to work. He survived another ten years but his cognitive abilities continued to deteriorate over time. My focus had to go to taking care of him, my daughters, trying to build a career, and support the family.

I never regretted my decision to terminate the pregnancy. But I also never believed that I had harmed an unborn child with the abortion. I’m not a Christian and I don’t believe that life begins at conception. Life, to my way of thinking, has no beginning and no ending. The idea that it begins at conception always seemed rather arbitrary to me. And I also suspect that this life is not our only shot. There is quite a bit of evidence that we live countless lives. Check out the research of Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia on the verification of past lives remembered by children. I think it’s far more likely that when a pregnancy is terminated, that soul is simply born to a different mother. I don’t deny that terminating a pregnancy can be a mournful event for a mother and a family. But I’m not so sure that it’s a devastating event for the unborn child. And I don’t see why pro-life folks are so sure about this

There I said it. After all these years. And once again thanks, Andrew, for creating a safe place to explore the hard stuff.