This morning, June 24th, I woke up to an Apple News app notification on my phone that read “Breaking: Roe v. Wade overturned 5-4.” All day, I’ve been reminded of this landmark overturn of a landmark court case via Instagram stories and overhearing opinionated conversations in public while running errands. I find myself in a very difficult position. I am apart of this issue automatically, no matter what my take may be, just because I’m female.
More than likely, anyone with a uterus is involved. That is, unless you’re lucky enough not to need birth control to regulate your period, or haven’t ever had to have that taboo procedure everyone’s buzzing about: an abortion. Lucky me, I’m a fortunate one, unscathed from the female healthcare system. However, I know too many people who aren’t that lucky.
Pro-Life Until the First Breath
To preface this argument, past academic research the experiences of women from decades prior has been enough to sway my mindset: I’m pro-choice, through-and-through. I will always defend another person’s right to their reproductive choices and healthcare. It is because of this that many are shocked to hear that I’m not personally or avidly enthusiastic when it comes to the idea of abortion, despite my stance.
Planned Parenthood best defined the Pro-Choice stance saying, “Generally, people who identify as pro-choice believe that everyone has the basic human right to decide when and whether to have children. When you say you’re pro-choice you’re telling people that you believe it’s OK for them to have the ability to choose abortion as an option for an unplanned pregnancy — even if you wouldn’t choose abortion for yourself.” My stance is accurate to their statement.
I do not love the idea of someone going through such an invasive procedure or having to end a healthy pregnancy. I believe most people with empathy feel the same way. However, I am pro-letting a woman avoid cutting her college career short by having an accidental baby that belongs to a frat boy. I am pro-saving a person’s life who is suffering from an ectopic pregnancy. I am pro-woman who isn’t financially ready to welcome a baby into the world. I am pro-woman who was assaulted and didn’t find out until it was too late. Just because I do not love the idea of someone having to have an abortion doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get one.
One may find that most pro-choice people share this same stance, because in reality, people rarely vouch for abortions as the first method of contraception or solution to unwanted pregnancy. However, in life, things happen to people, and at the end of the day, an abortion will likely be the best solution for both parties: the pregnant person and the hypothetical child. It’s not the preferred first choice, but it is the safe and logical choice, and avoids the detrimental effects of unwanted pregnancies.
With all my exposure to different reactions and feelings towards the overturn today, I came to a jarring realization: Many people I know, especially in the conservative Deep South, are not actually pro-life, despite their claims — they are just pro-birth.
What I mean by this is that these people are only “pro-life” for an unborn, non-breathing child that only exists hypothetically until it has its first sob in its mother’s arms in the delivery room. They are pro-carrying to full term, even if some mothers do not survive to that point. At that point, they no longer are championing its health or wellbeing, which makes up its life. They are not worried what condition this child might be in 10 years, 1 year—even a day—from the point of it being born. They only care that it is born and brought into existence, often by means of guilt or even force. It is in God’s hands from there, essentially—not theirs.
I say it is in God’s hands because the majority of the people I have seen claim “America has been restored,” or “I am proud to be apart of the ‘Post-Roe Generation’,” have ended these sentiments with an “Amen” or Bible verse. They believe God will simply take care of the child once its born, when in reality, many unwanted pregnancies are neglected in their childhood by their biological parent(s) and/or the American foster care system.
These people begging for the birth of these children are not prepared to keep supporting them past that point. They are not enacting universal healthcare for the mothers when they’re bleeding out postpartum, or for the children when they’re struggling to receive proper medical aid in the future. There is not free universal education for these humans once they are brought into the world. It is not God who needs to protect these unwanted children and mothers—it’s the government and the people forcing these women to carry to unwanted term.
Where do they go once the child gasps for air? They go silent. What do the children do, once they are born? Some, are cared for by loving, flexible families who can afford to shift their lives around, despite the adversity. Others, are given up at young ages or taken away later on due to neglect, starvation, abuse, or exposure to substance abuse. Their lives are not championed for like they were when they had no lives at all. The rallying cries for life fade into the background of church sermons and protests outside Planned Parenthood buildings.
BREAKING: The Supreme Court just overturned Roe v. Wade, ending our constitutional right to abortion. We know you may be feeling a lot of things right now — hurt, anger, confusion. Whatever you feel is OK. We’re here with you — and we’ll never stop fighting for you.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) June 24, 2022
Maternal Mortality: A “Pro-Life” Side Effect
Only some states will exempt ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and still-borns from being criminalized. The new laws enacted so far have been extremely murky and seem to rely on the individual state or doctor’s preferences, meaning some may be treated as per usual, while others may be at the mercy of the doctor’s own faith when their lives are at stake.
It shocks me how few people know of the endemic that is maternal mortality stemming from pregnancy or unsafe abortion complications. According to W.H.O., in 2017, nearly 300,000 women died due to pregnancy complications. It is mainly fatal in many countries with little-to-no access to safe, medically-regulated abortions or contraception.
The United States is the worst Western nation in rates of maternal mortality, more specifically, in women of color. According to the CDC, Black women in the U.S. are faced with maternal mortality the worst of any demographic in the States, suffering nearly three times as much compared to other demographics of child-bearers. The reason for these women suffering higher than usual rates of mortality is because many Black women are not given access to proper treatment with abortions or postpartum care.
Now, in some states, we will soon have even worse access to female healthcare than we did before Roe, and access nearly the same as countries where maternal mortality is a leading cause of death for women. It may not be a pressing issue to every single woman in the U.S. right now, but it was before Roe, and it will be after the law’s death. States with more restrictions on abortions already have higher maternal mortality rates.
What It Means To Be Pro-Life
If you believe it is “pro-life” to allow a person to die, while you’re clinging onto the hope that a clump of cells forming in her fallopian tube might be the next U.S. president, I suggest you say the word “pro-life” aloud a couple of times. How can you think life is mentally or physically sustainable when a baby is born into a household where the existing children go hungry and the parents resent its existence? How can you think life is when someone’s daughter will be buried when her untreated miscarriage leads to an infection, but you think the “what-if” in her uterus mattered more. Pro-life means vouching for the living, not sacrificing breathing, nuanced existences for the possibility of a baby.
In an airplane crash, when the oxygen masks are deployed, do you put the mask on yourself or the child first? You help yourself and make sure you can breathe before you help the child, because if you pass out from a lack of oxygen before securing its mask, who did your effort even help? You can’t give birth to or nurture a child if you die before it ever lives.
We must worry about the life of the existing person who’s been breathing for decades before we try providing life to a child that hasn’t taken its first breath. Being pro-life means you intend to support a child and mother’s lives and wellbeing past the point of birth, and if that isn’t the case, you are not pro-life; you’re pro-birth. Who does that save?
Featured image courtesy Fred Schilling/U.S. Supreme Court