Miscarriage is one of the hardest things a woman can go through — and yet, it’s surprisingly common. According to the American Pregnancy Association, as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage. And somehow, there’s still a silence around it. Women don’t like to talk about it. They wait to announce their pregnancies until after 12 weeks, because then, the chances of miscarriage drastically drop… and they don’t have to face the notion of telling people they’re pregnant, and then having to say they lost the baby. It’s undoubtedly a difficult situation for anyone that has to go through it, not to mention often heartbreaking as well.
But what if the person who has a miscarriage is pro-abortion?
A miscarriage for a pro-abortion activist can create a huge crisis of conscience… because now, what they’ve spent their entire lives insisting was a meaningless clump of cells is a baby. Now, they’re grieving over something they convinced themselves was nothing. And if that nothing, that meaningless clump of cells, is actually a baby to love and grieve over, then how can they be pro-abortion? Pro-abortion feminist Alexandra Kimball wrote about this dichotomy when she suffered a miscarriage, years after having had her own abortion.
The more I considered it, the more I became convinced that the silence around miscarriage was connected to feminism’s work around abortion. How could I grieve a thing that didn’t exist? If a fetus is not meaningfully alive, if it is just a collection of cells – the cornerstone claim of the pro-choice movement – what does it mean to miscarry one? Admitting my grief meant seeing myself as a bereft mother, and my fetus as a dead child – which meant adopting exactly the language that the anti-choice movement uses to claim abortion is murder.
Some feminist thinkers have posited a way out of this paradox, by admitting the personhood of the fetus as they champion a woman’s right to abort it. In other words, abortion is murder, but a justified one.
This didn’t feel quite right to me, either. I began to wonder if the personhood of the prawns we carry is a result of our relationship with our own pregnancies. Unlike the aborted fetus, the miscarried child has been spoken to, fantasized about, maybe even greeted on an ultrasound or named. My precious angel.
… I’d had an abortion myself, when I was 26, living on a graduate student’s stipend in an illegal sublet infested with brown bats. I didn’t think much about it afterward; I knew then, as I know now, that it was the right decision. There was no question in my mind that the fetus I aborted was a fetus, and the child I lost was a child. It struck me that, in its work toward abortion rights, feminism had denied women’s right to define pregnancy however we want.
Women make and unmake our children, not just in the biological sense, but in the ontological sense, too. The fetus is a fetus, and the child a child – only the woman knows. If we deny her the power to define her own pregnancy, we deny the power inherent in womanhood.
Kimball continued to struggle with her miscarriage, and with her infertility. But it wasn’t until she truly embraced the baby she had lost as a person, gave her daughter a name, and had a ceremony to both honor her short life and to let her go, that she was finally able to begin healing, and to move on.
But that was because this baby was a wanted baby. When she had an abortion, that wasn’t a baby, so no ceremony was needed. It’s only a person when the woman wants it to be.
Of course, this isn’t unusual among pro-abortion advocates. MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry has said that life begins whenever you feel like it does — that life is based on your feelings, and not science. Conversely, Salon blogger Mary Elizabeth Williams admitted that abortion ends life, but said it was justified because all life is not equal, and if a mother ever wants to kill her preborn baby then it’s simply a life worth sacrificing.
It must be hard for someone who lives and breathes abortion advocacy when they have to confront a wanted pregnancy. It must be even harder when that wanted pregnancy is lost. Because, as Kimball said herself, now the conflicting ideology between a meaningless clump of cells and a living human being cannot be denied anymore. And except for a very select few people, like Mary Elizabeth “a life worth sacrificing” Williams, having to confront the knowledge that you’ve advocated for the killing of human beings, and possibly even killed one yourself, would be too horrifying to accept. So they retreat. They comfort themselves with the notion that science isn’t real, that embryology doesn’t matter, that the baby is only a human when you say it is.
How else can they face what they’ve done?