Choosing not to abort
the fallacy of "poor women need abortions"
By Christina Dunigan
Featured Rightgrrl March 1999
June 16, 1999
When my daughter was 9 months old, my husband had recently joined the Army and we were stationed near Fort Ord, California. The housing and financial situation for military families was very grave; one little boy, Danny Holly, committed suicide in the hopes that having one less mouth to feed would help his family.
We didn't have much time to find a home, and ended up in an apartment in Salinas, a long drive from the base where my husband worked. It was also far from supermarkets and from the Army commissary. The apartment had no refrigerator, and we were trying to keep non-perishables from perishing in a tiny bar fridge.
Then I found out I was pregnant.
The only way I'd been able to make sure my daughter didn't go hungry was to skip meals myself. Even when Army Family Advocacy gave us a Thanksgiving food basket, much of the food went bad because the tiny refrigerator didn't have room for the baby's milk and all the leftovers. I was out of my mind with anguish -- If I ate, I'd be starving my daughter. If I fed my daughter, I couldn't eat, and I'd be starving the new baby.
I was fresh out of college. I'd been bombarded with the standard prochoice propaganda about the poor woman who needs an abortion because she already has more children than she could afford. Suddenly, I was one of them. I knew what my responsibility to my daughter was: to call the Planned Parenthood (conveniently within walking distance) and have my need to eat eliminated. But I couldn't bring myself to do it, and I hated myself for it. I felt like I was a terrible mother because I wasn't willing to do what I needed to do to take care of my daughter.
I'd been brainwashed well into the "abort or starve" mentality, and just went emotionally numb. At four months I still hadn't gained any weight -- I got a temp job wearing a tiny skirt and handing out free samples! I felt guilty for what I was "doing" to the new baby -- starving it! I knew my baby would be born deformed because I'd been too cowardly to abort.
My husband and I started selling our few possessions to buy food. We sold our wedding rings.
That was when somebody noticed our plight -- another young man in my husband's unit, Eddie. Eddie was a prochoicers worst nightmare: a Roman Catholic prolife man. Eddie was our salvation.
Because Eddie hadn't been brainwashed the way my husband and I had been (four years of college!), he was able to see clearly. He told us our problem was our apartment -- too far from everything and no refrigerator. He jolted me out of my stunned apathy and we found furnished apartment with a refrigerator, across the street from a grocery store, within walking distance of a farmers' market, and near other servicemen my husband could carpool with. By the time my son was born, we were not only no longer starving, we were able to have friends over for supper occasionally!
But still the brainwashing was in effect. I believed what I'd been told: that because this was an unwanted pregnancy for which abortion had been contemplated, I could never love this child. Many sleepless nights I spent crying, overcome with pity for this baby that I knew would be handicapped and doomed to a loveless life.
My son was born after 43 hours of back labor. He was a huge, nine-pound baby (so much for being starved), and in perfect health (so much for being handicapped due to Mom's poor diet). But even then, I believed the brainwashing. I held my son and looked on him with pity -- until he squinted up at me through his Demerol-blurred eyes. He didn't know anything was amiss; he was struggling to see his mother, to get on with his life. He had such a fierceness about him, and suddenly I was overcome with a rush of mother-love.
I held him close and laughed, "Oh, honey, if I'd known it was you, I'd never have been upset!"
That unwanted pregnancy is now approaching his 15th birthday. He is my eye apple, a joy to me and a wonderful companion to his sister. He is living proof that the following prochoice truths are lies:
1. Poor women need abortions. Wrong! We need help with problem solving!
2. An unwanted pregnancy means an unwanted child. Wrong! I tell my son that I didn't know that it was time for him, but that God knew better. My son is my "unsolicited bonus baby," never an "accident," and not even slightly unwanted.
3. Poor women should have abortions because their poor nutrition will lead to low birth weight, birth defects, and sickly children. Wrong! My little nine-pounder is a hale and robust child.
4. Pregnant woman are always capable of making sound, informed choices. Wrong! Pregnant women are often, as I put it, "hormonally demented." Our emotions are unstable, and it's often difficult to think clearly through emotional issues. Often we need a cooler head, somebody with a little distance from the problem, to help us see clearly.
5. If a woman thinks she can't parent a child under her circumstances, she's right, and it's best for her, her family, and the child if she aborts. Wrong! In fact, the first two developmental tasks of pregnancy are acceptance of the pregnant state and bonding with the fetus. it's natural to panic! In fact, a friend of mine who is very happy with her nine children told me she felt just as much panic for pregnancy #9 and she did for pregnancies #1 - #8. A woman who panics, in other words, is normal, and needs to be told so.
6. Abortion is good for families, because it allows parents to focus their resources on their born children. Wrong! Having been brainwashed into thinking poor women need abortions paralyzed my thinking and made me less able to adequately care for my daughter. Only when Eddie's clearer head prevailed was I able to get back on track.
Of all the proabortion arguments, I think "poor women need abortions" is among the most evil and destructive. It nearly destroyed my son, nearly deprived us of the joy of his love and companionship. Every day I thank God there was an "anti-choicer" there to help me get what I really needed.
"Poor women need abortions" is a cop-out uttered by people too lazy to offer real soloutions to the real problems. It offers a cookie-cutter, "one size fits all" soloution so that nobody has to trouble themselves with her. The women of Fortress International put it very well when they said, "Give us love, not abortions."
This article copyright © 1999 by Christina Dunigan and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.