In a book about abortion doulas, who comfort women as they abort their babies, pro-choice authors Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell tell the story of a doula named Kira. Kira was pro-abortion and assisted in many abortions as a doula and was completely committed to the pro-abortion cause. But when she herself got pregnant and sought an abortion, she discovered that the traditional argument — that a fetus is just tissue or a collection of cells — did not ring true.
When having a pre-abortion ultrasound, Kira asked to see the screen. The technician cautioned her and asked if she was sure she wanted to see it, but Kira said she was “curious.”
The tech turns the screen toward her.… She discovers she is ten-and-a-half weeks along, the pregnancy a little larger than a lima bean. The tech points it out on the monitor. “Right there.”
Kira’s eyes well with tears she didn’t even know she was holding back. She can’t stop looking. Formations of tiny legs and tiny arms lighten the screen. That’s my baby. The weight of her decision hits her.
When Kira saw her child, all the pro-abortion labels for the baby, the words “products of conception” and “fetal tissue” became meaningless. She saw and understood that this was her “baby.”
Kira was surprised by her own reaction:
Kira had not anticipated her reaction to the ultrasound, her intense connection to the pregnancy. As she leaves the clinic, she realizes that her activism and years as an abortion doula could never have prepared her for her own emotional response.
Kira was still set on getting an abortion, but the reaction of her friends, who dehumanized her baby, upset her:
As Kira reaches out to friends and colleagues in the field, she also finds herself unprepared for the response she gets from a movement she cares so much about. Words and phrases that are part of Kira’s vocabulary as a doula: “You’ll get through this. Products of conception,” and “parasite” make her feel distanced from the work she has dedicated her life to. She knows everyone is only trying to be supportive, but they seem to be missing the point – calling her pregnancy everything but “baby” feels wrong and awful to her.
Kira suddenly saw that calling a preborn baby a “parasite” and “product of conception” did not reflect the reality if what was in her womb. She was disillusioned and says:
I had identified with this political movement that felt like home to me. Fighting for people’s choices. And the language we were using – it made me feel like I was being separated from my experience… there was an assumption that because I was so political and had done all this work that I wouldn’t feel anything about it.
READ: Abortion doulas: Women suffer during abortions, but no one wants us to admit it
Kira tried to explain her feelings to her friends, and they did try to adjust their responses. Still, she felt angry that her friends had initially responded the way they did:
When she speaks to her friends about it, they shift their responses. They admit they are unaware of what she needs and how she is feeling. But she still remembers those initial words and their connection to the larger pro-choice framework that many doulas and activists are trained on.
Sadly, even though she knew she was killing her baby, Kira went through with the abortion anyway. Afterwards, She reflected:
I still don’t think we get it right. There are plenty of times now that people say, “It’s just a medical procedure.” No, it’s not having your tonsils out. It’s not having your wisdom teeth pulled. You’re having life pulled from your body. And that’s not to say that I regret my decision. That’s not at all what I’m saying. It’s just that I don’t think we are doing a service to people by taking the emotion out of abortion as a means of making it legal and right and just and slapping a term of “medical procedure” on it. It erases the story.
The book does not follow Kira after this point. We have no way of knowing how Kira will cope with the abortion weeks, months, or years from now. After her abortion, she didn’t abandon her pro-abortion position, or stop her work as an abortion doula. She said she does not regret the abortion. But she has been forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable (for pro-choicers) truths about abortion – that it is nothing like “getting your wisdom teeth pulled” and is, in fact, the killing of a real child.
Source: Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People (New York: Feminist Press, 2016) 76, 77-78
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