More on the Abortion Debates: What if Your Mother Had Aborted You?

Yesterday I posted "So what if I hadn't been born?" In reply, noted reproductive rights thinker Frances Kissling sent along her own very moving essay along these lines, published a few years ago in RH Reality Check: "What if your mother had aborted you? A daughter's perspective." As she says,

I feel a need to turn that question around and to ask instead: What if your mother's life would have been significantly happier and healthier if she had not had you? If you as a fetus had the capacity to make decisions, would you have given your life for your mother's life, health and happiness?

My mother, Florence, the last of seven children in a harsh Polish immigrant family, left home at 17 and came to New York City. She got pregnant, chased the soldier who impregnated her and ended up with me. As you might imagine, she was an interesting and difficult person. Frankly, she never should have had children. She had her good qualities, but mothering wasn't one of them. And she had a miserable life. Four kids, two husbands, both of whom abandoned her and us. When the second one left, she had to go to work to support us: a low paying job as a telephone operator working the 11pm to 7am shift and a two hour each way commute was her lot in life....

There is more moving and compassionate detail about their livesincluding the adult Kissling hiring her mother to work in an abortion clinic. But here's the kicker:

As a fetus I would have gladly given up my chance to enter the world and become Frances Kissling to have given my mother a better chance at happiness. Far too much is made of a mother's obligations to her children and far too little of what a child's love for her mother means. If fetuses could love, I think they would be as passionate in defense of their mothers as born children become.

For more on why this discussion matters and how we're losing the repro-rights war now, please be sure to read Pema Levy's important piece "Moment of Conception," here at The Prospect. And no, they don't tell me to endorse other Prospect writers; I mean it.

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