I’ve been watching the #ShoutYourAbortion thing and I think it’s cool. What I like about it is also that these women aren’t claiming, for the most part, that abortion is good or bad. They’re not saying it’s the right choice for other women. They’re saying they don’t regret theirs. I think generally people shouldn’t be ashamed of things they don’t regret, and talking about them openly helps scrub away the stigma and shame.
On the other hand, you have I Shout My Son’s Life. Which is a fine piece as much as it’s one woman saying she got pregnant at 19, considered abortion, and chose to raise her son. She had a kid and doesn’t regret it and isn’t ashamed. Much of the “pro-life” crowd reveals how anti-sex and anti-woman they are by simultaneously stigmatizing abortion AND teenage motherhood. Women like Lori coming forward and saying “I had a kid at 19 and I don’t regret it” is as important as women coming forward and saying they had abortions and don’t regret them, and for the same reason.
Howevs, is there anything more annoying than someone who’s sanctimonious about their arbitrary, subjective preferences? Full disclosure, I’ve met the author, Lori, and I like her. I certainly admire her. She’s a nice person, a hard worker, a talented writer, and compelling speaker.
But she insists that her choice to raise her kid is objectively better than the choice to abort.
My heart breaks for those who made the decision to focus on themselves. This isn’t a commentary on women who make the decision to abort a child with a disability, or one on a woman who feels she has few resources and no hope. But this is a commentary on those who do it because they simply “aren’t ready” to have a baby now. Those who tweet to #shoutyourabortion and loudly proclaim the benefits to their lives—I weep for you and the lessons you’ll never learn through sacrifice. I wasn’t a special case, one whose preconceived convictions led me to a decision. I have my convictions because of the decision that I made and all I’ve been able to do.
Oh yes, the lessons you’ll never learn through sacrifice. Except, there are more lessons to learn than time to learn them, forcing us to make tradeoffs. And those choices are based on subjective values.
Lori learned lessons from “changing diapers, singing the alphabet, teaching a little one to read, and finishing up my ‘real work’ on many late evenings because I had to leave the office by 5:30.” Are these lessons objectively better than the lessons learned volunteering in a developing nations in the Peace Corps? Are they better than learning how to cure diseases in grad school, which Lori felt she had to forgo? Are they better than making lifelong connections with peers who push you to succeed at creating value in a market economy at the happy hours she had to miss?
Who the fuck knows?
I don’t. And that’s what underpins my anarchism, my social liberalism, my feminism, and my knee-jerk reaction against stigma and shame. I don’t know what’s best for you. I don’t even know what’s best for me. I’ve made tradeoffs in my life, and I don’t know whether they were ideal, because I don’t know how other choices would have panned out.
Humility precedes wisdom. It’s lesson one, perhaps. You can be okay with your choices while admitting they are based on subjective values that not everyone shares. Do I regret never getting pregnant? No. Do I think childlessness is right for everyone? I have a suspicion, haha. But I can also acknowledge that the experience of having kids is interesting in a way that’s not necessarily correlated with happiness, but that some people value that brand of interesting. Moving away from your family to a big city is not correlated with happiness either. But it’s been hella interesting. In a way that I like.
Do I want people to be happy? Yes. Do I want there to be fewer abortions? Of course. But do I think being self-righteous about your choices and certain that they are right for other people is the way to get us there? Not in the least.
That your choice is different from mine makes it no less courageous, no less right.
Let’s continue to shout about our life choices, all our choices, without shame or regret. Let’s then congratulate each other on having the courage to make a choice, because making a choice and owning that choice is brave in and of itself.