Having an abortion would be killing my baby. Abortions should be legal and easily accessible.
For me, both statements are true.
Even through my promiscuous teen years — promiscuity doesn’t require sexual intercourse, of course — and despite my untreated substance use disorders that led to unhealthy choices, I somehow managed not to have intercourse until much later than my peers. I waited until I felt ready to raise a child. From my earliest fertile years, I connected the idea of pregnancy with the idea of growing a life inside of me. The feeling was strong. I believed being pregnant would mean there was a life other than my own inside my body.
When I was trying to get pregnant in my 30s, it became even more clear to me that even just hoping to be pregnant each month made me feel as though I had a baby’s life in me. I wanted to protect that life. The feeling that I had a baby in me wasn’t related to actual cells dividing in my uterus; it was spiritual and emotional.
I understand why anti-choice — they may prefer “anti-abortion” or “pro-life” — people try to use science to show that “life begins” at specific points of pregnancy. However, whether the cells inside a pregnant woman’s body are a life or not must be a moot point in the abortion debate.
One of the hardest pills to swallow for those of us who believe abortion should be legal and easily accessible is accepting that some people will believe we are condoning murder.
We must be honest. We are saying the woman who is outside the womb matters more than the life — or not-life — inside the woman’s body. We must admit when we fight for legal and easily accessible abortions that we are saying to people who believe abortion is murder that a woman’s right to medical freedom is more important than the life — or potential life — inside a woman’s body.
After setting aside the subject of the life and turning instead to protecting women’s medical freedom, we are left with the issues of safety and health.
The fact is, when abortion is legal and performed by a skilled professional, it is safe. That has been shown with strong scientific evidence. When it is illegal, it tends to be unsafe. Legal abortions performed by skilled practitioners are less dangerous than knee replacement or hernia surgeries. Legal abortions performed by well-trained medical caregivers also are safer than childbirth. It also is untrue that the majority of abortions cause women psychological damage; a woman’s mental health before an abortion is the best indicator of her mental health following an abortion.
Even though the research shows that legal abortions performed by well-trained medical professionals are relatively safe procedures, I still don’t think I could bring myself to have one. Whether it is entirely my imagination or not, if I think I’m pregnant, I feel there is a life in me to protect. Because I have this emotional connection to the idea of a life inside of me, I empathize with people who think abortion is murder. I also will do everything I can, at this point, to avoid pregnancy so I won’t have to find out how I feel about abortion for myself.
That said, pregnancy happens even when people are very careful. Pregnancy happens because of rape. Pregnancy happens on purpose, but women change their minds about wanting to be pregnant. Pregnancies and the need for abortions happen in as many ways as there are women who get pregnant. Every woman, no matter how she gets pregnant, should have the freedom to make her own medical decisions.
I am a woman who has always believed I would never have an abortion; I still feel that having an abortion would be killing a life inside of me. I also am a woman who believes every woman should have legal and easy access to the simple medical procedure we call abortion. We must protect women’s medical freedom.
Heather Denkmire is a writer and artist who lives in Portland with her two young daughters. After a few challenging years, she is growing her small business, where her team helps nonprofit organizations win grants. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her columns appear monthly.