A fair number of readers are pushing back against the one who wrote, “If you could ban bodies from terminating pregnancies, banning doctors from terminating them might make a tiny bit more sense, at least intellectually. But you can’t, and it doesn’t.” One argues:
We can’t ban bodies from miscarriages any more than we can ban anyone from dying. Miscarriages are natural, as is death. But I don’t think the fact of my inevitable death should excuse anyone from killing me today. The issue isn’t whether miscarriages are natural, but whether it is moral to force a death where none would have otherwise occurred.
Another charges the reader with failing to make “a significant distinction”:
The great majority of miscarriages occur because the embryonic makeup was not consistent with life. In other words, nature selected the embryo for termination. With abortions, it’s not as clear.
While there are certainly many fetuses that are aborted which would have miscarried anyway, there are many (perhaps most?) that would have survived to full term and enjoyed lives as healthy and full as have you and I. In other words, nature did not select them for termination. Rather, a human being – usually the mother– decided not to give the fetus the chance to become fully human. That difference should give us all great pause.
By the way, I am pro-choice (albeit by default). But to say, “Nature terminates pregnancies; why shouldn’t we?” isn’t a very compelling case for the pro-choice movement. Nature does a lot of things that we as human beings feel morally obligated to transcend.
I nodded along in recognition as I read your reader’s email. Like her, my husband and I have suffered through a miscarriage (in our case at 10 weeks) and also, horrifyingly, a stillbirth at 24 weeks. However, when I reached the last paragraph, I was taken aback:
After I came back to work after being in the hospital, I told my boss I was doing okay, and that it’s such a common thing – a fact known almost exclusively to only two groups of people: doctors, and people who have had miscarriages. And she said, “No. It’s a big deal.” And I’m like, who the hell are you to tell me whether it’s a big deal or not? I feel the exact way about people who want to ban abortions.
I respect your reader’s viewpoint, and I’m not interested in telling other people how they should feel about a miscarriage or an abortion. For me, the fact that miscarriages are common (absolutely true) does not make them any less of a big deal; mine was a huge deal for us. I can both see a 20-day embryo as a fragile clump of cells, and still mourn the potential, the hopes, the dreams, the life that it represents.
Another shares similar sentiments:
I have thought a lot about this subject over the past several years. Both my sister and I have had early miscarriages. She has had three (that I know of) and I have had two. My sister and her husband are conservative evangelicals, while my wife and I are pretty firmly pro-choice.
Make no mistake, having an early miscarriage is a terrible thing, particularly your first, when you have no idea how common they are. My sister, her husband, my wife, and myself all went through periods of horrible grief and a sense of loss after each miscarriage.
That being said, I think my sister has taken these losses much worse than my wife and I. If you asked her I think she would consider the miscarriages to be children that died. I can’t help but think she feels this way in large part because she hears over and over again that life begins at conception.
After our first miscarriage, my wife and I struggled to put into words what we felt like we had lost. It certainly was not a child. But just a grouping of cells seemed not quite right either. Eventually we came to think of it as promise, or hope of a child that had been taken from us. Painful, absolutely, but not on par with losing a child.
My wife is now six months pregnant with our first child. At this point if we were to lose her, I would feel that I have lost a child. I am not sure when that switch happens, but it absolutely on a continuum. A mass of cells does not seem to be a person, but a two-pound fetus that I have seen on a sonogram, and whom I have felt kick, most certainly is. I guess that goes to show you that this is a really complicated subject and not one that lends itself to a black-and-white interpretation of when life begins.
A word of thanks: Your Misery of Miscarriage series, as well as the It’s So Personal series on late-term abortions, really helped me put my own thoughts in order. I don’t know where else you would find that variety of viewpoints on subjects that are generally so taboo.