I have recently become a guest commentator on New England Public Radio. Below is this month's essay. For those of you who would prefer to listen to me read this, click here.
Most mornings, there’s an elderly man in front of my office holding a sign that says: Thou shall not murder. I always hope my patients manage to avoid him. Better I carry his rage than they. It’s hard enough for them already.
As a midwife, I have been educated to protect the unborn from harm. But protecting from harm can also include showing mercy. I acknowledge that abortion, in the words of pro-life advocates, “stops a beating heart.” I especially struggle with the rightness of terminating a pregnancy when viewing second trimester ultrasounds of fetuses with clearly discernable bones and movement. But my sadness towards the fetus pales in comparison to any sadness I feel for a woman I care for who has decided to end her pregnancy. From my vantage point, having an abortion is, almost always, the lesser of two evils and often the only option that will allow her to continue to care for herself and the children she already has.
Opponents of abortion often suggest adoption as a reasonable alternative. But, after having so often witnessed the fierce attachment that forms immediately after birth between mother and newborn, I don’t see adoption as a sweeping alternative. Sure, there are plenty of people who are waiting to adopt an infant. But, the majority of children up for adoption are toddlers and primary school age kids who’ve been in foster care for years. Newspapers place their darling photographs and adorable bios. In their local sections all over the country, hoping someone will bite. What these bios. don’t include are these children’s trauma histories, which national data banks on US adoptions identify as being nearly universal among children in foster care. After years in temporary placement these children, like rescue dogs, just want a loving and permanent home. Perhaps abortion could have prevented their sad circumstances from ever occurring in the first place.
As a midwife, I protect both mothers and babies. When it comes having sanctity for life, my sense of this lands on the side of the pregnant women who come seeking my services. Their lives and the lives of the children they have chosen to have need protecting more than the embryos and fetuses they carry.
In this time of daily revelations about the exploitation of girls and women’s bodies as commodities, currency, and play-things, providing abortion services is one way I can lift up my voice, on a regular basis, and say: Women’s lives, their bodies, their children, and their choices really do matter.