'Are You Going to Keep It?': Getting Abortion on the Table
"Are you planning on keeping it?" This question was posed recently to a married woman by her doctor. Posting by blog, she commented: "No congrats. No 'how do you feel about this?' Nope. Just asked if I was keeping 'it[.]' ... You'd think the goofy grin on my face would have given away that this was a happy thing."
The unwanted assumptions must be fully unpacked to appreciate how such language shapes our culture's attitudes. Why is it deemed acceptable to insinuate abortion into pregnancy?
The offhand nature of this question -- "Are you keeping it?" -- turns abortion into a pregnancy option rather than an "emergency" practice. Meanwhile, some supporters of abortion argue that a lack of legal abortion rendered harm to women who sought black-market alternatives, therefore abortion should be "kept safe." But the reality is that abortion is never safe -- women experience complications, the abortion can fail, women can develop problems such as PTSD and others, and of course, a child is killed. The fact that healthy married women are now asked if they are keeping their children shows that the abortion industry has far outgrown performing abortions only when a woman's life is in jeopardy.
Motherhood is a woman-centric human right, yet motherhood does not happen in a void. The biological reality of reproduction is the point where choice begins for many women -- the women who are being asked, "Are you keeping it?" These are the women who have expressly chosen the path of life through choosing union with a man. These are often the women who have made both choices directly and will get an "I just found out I'm having a baby" high. The difference is already stark -- "are you keeping it" versus "I'm having a baby." This social dimension to our lives is navigated through language, so the undermining of the very notion of maternity should not go unchallenged.
Celebrating news of a baby is an expression of communal anticipation at the prospect of expanding the quantity of human innocence and joy in the world. After all, the modern poet Carl Sandburg wrote: "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on." Humanity gets another chance to build a better world with each child born because each child has a unique gift to give to the world.
"Are you keeping it?" carries the supposition that the child just might be discarded by abortion, carried out with the garbage. An abortion mill tells the woman that her baby (and the woman herself, by extension) is disposable. Similarly, asking a woman whether she's keeping her baby twists the declaration of human life -- "You're having a baby!" -- into "Are you keeping it?," a social mechanism that attempts to contain the entire implications of reproductive rights ideology but fails to capture any scrap of human dignity for the mother or child. Where is the
That right is sounded only in the whisper of conscience. A woman in distress whose life experiences have encouraged her to think of herself in bleakest terms may view abortion as a necessary evil -- but should society really endorse that conclusion? Post-abortive women suffer emotionally, spiritually, and often physically. One woman recently wrote: "Abortion destroyed what made me a woman. Abortion wreaks havoc on women's lives - it is NOT a safety net, but a health hazard." The memories are haunting and last a lifetime.
Aborting a child has to be minimized in order for society to continue to carry it out. As Martha Bayles notes, equal rights are not enough when it comes to abortion. Just as the concept of paterfamilias in Roman times allowed the father the right of infanticide, feminist rhetoric justifies a materfamilias ethic, extending a woman's power (right) over the rights of the child . Even with such abortion "gains," it has been argued, we have seen a net loss for women.
Any nagging tug of social stigma or conscience -- humanity's inbuilt mechanism to gauge human interactions according to measures of good or evil -- must be derided as retrograde or taped over by a new soundtrack. A recent name-calling diatribe against "slut-shamers" demonstrates that attacks on conscience are the main way the abortion movement tunes out the moral twinge and anguish women express on aborting their children. Slut-shamers? Really? In the end, abortion simply can't be sanitized as just another pregnancy option.
Nonetheless, proponents of abortion now repudiate any sense that abortion is wrong. Americans, however, continue to express concern about abortion on demand. Real dialogue, rather than political rants, needs to occur, given the complexity of such issues surrounding abortion.
Language drills through any vestige of conscience: abortion is merely a "procedure" to "remove the contents of the uterus" or "ending a pregnancy." Such euphemisms are never used by those who have experienced abortion firsthand, and post-abortive women are regularly misled by clinic counselors. In one case, a woman was advised: "Don't think of it as killing," but rather as "taking blood out of your uterus to get your periods going again." One slight problem: science and the woman's own experience do not accord with such a view.
Science increasingly gets in the way of a reductionist view that depicts life as disposable. A pro-abortion writer recently complained: "Technological changes during the past three decades - fetal photography, ultrasound, advances in care for preterm infants, fetal surgery -- have facilitated personification of the fetus and challenged previous constructions of boundaries between fetus and infant." Science has long documented the human life from conception. Recent scientific breakthroughs provide new uses of medical imaging technology offering startlingly clear images, similar to a high-quality photograph. For instance, Alexander Tsiara developed scientific visualization software to depict the miracle of prenatal development. Everyone can see for him- or herself, so it is extremely difficult to regard the image as anything but that of a baby -- not a "product of conception," and certainly not disembodied tissue.
The feminist definition of woman, which seeks to divorce the reality of motherhood from a woman's psyche, fails to recognize the language of the female body itself. Women are uniquely equipped with a baby-specific space inside the body; this means not that motherhood is some sort of a requirement or that a woman can't feel "whole" without it, but rather that this body language -- expressed in the biological realities that science outlines -- says that a woman in union with a man will be filled with new life. It's a simple equation.
Fifty years ago, no one would have dreamed of asking a pregnant woman, "Are you keeping it?" Decades of rhetoric intended to "empower" women has led young women of childbearing age down a path strewn with unconscious stratagems and casual "keeping it" questions. Such language reveals a mindset intent on throwing off nagging second thoughts and tradition, seeking at all cost to protect its revolution. But the adherents to such a mindset cannot possibly comprehend their own jaded sensibilities and evacuated consciences.