[TRIGGER WARNING: images of embryos, f-bombs.]
In the space of less than five minutes, things turned very ugly. Maybe you won’t even read this, and that’s fine: you owe me absolutely nothing. Nor I you.
I am still angry and deeply hurt, but less so as the days pass. It’s good to know where I really stand with you: that my happiness and my life (to say nothing of the lives and happiness of billions of other people) mean less to you than this does:
FIG 1. Human embryo at 9 weeks clinical gestation. (Optical Topography)
Actual size = approx. 2.3 cm.
Three quarters of all U.S. abortions are performed by 9 weeks.
(9 weeks is also the cutoff for a medication abortion via mifepristone.)
Our mutual friend said that I took your words beyond their face value to mean something you never intended. Well, that is because your words have meanings. Those meanings have dire and direct consequences for real people. And those consequences include pain, suffering, misery, destitution and death for untold millions of actual people, right now, today.
Those consequences, as you know, also include my own death, should I get pregnant and not have access to a safe abortion. If you don’t know what your words mean, perhaps you shouldn’t say them. On the other hand, if you do know, and you say those words anyway, then I repeat: FUCK YOU.
When you express opposition to abortion on demand, your words mean that you view all of this as perfectly fine: My death. Their deaths. Their poverty. Their children’s poverty. You would condemn real people to death, to a life of misery and suffering. And for what? For this:
FIG 2. embryo.
(NOTE: NOT ACTUAL SIZE!)
OH WAIT, I’m sorry. I got mixed up. That’s ^ a mouse embryo up there, not a human embryo. Sure looks a lot like that human embryo, though. And yet, nothing like a mouse. Weird.
FIG 3. Mouse vs. mouse embryo.
Can you tell which is which?
FIG. 4. Embryo.
UM, NOT ACTUAL SIZE.
That you believe this —> is precious is demonstrably wrong. It isn’t. Half of all fertilized eggs spontaneously abort. And yet for some reason we’re not holding millions of funerals for them. Why is that? No, seriously: why is abortion only a grave moral tragedy when a woman chooses to end her pregnancy—something that happens half the time anyway? Nature doesn’t give a shit about human embryos. They’re not even worth a dime a dozen. But you? To you, a single embryo is worth more than my life, my freedom, my happiness, and my humanity, including my right to decide what goes on inside my own fucking body. Do you even understand how fucking devastating it is for me to know that you care more about this—> than about me? That a tiny, unconscious, unwanted creature is more worthy of your love and respect than I am is heartbreaking.
So since you don’t give a fuck about me, what about the people who do love me and stand to lose me forever if people who “think” like you do get their way? (And they are indeed getting their way, both here and abroad.) That you can look my friends and family right in their faces and hold the views you do absolutely terrifies me. It makes me question my own judgment about getting close to anyone ever again, even if a person seems as truly compassionate and thoughtful as you once did. I do not trust people easily, and for good reason. As you know, many people in my life have devalued, abused and objectified me. Used me for their own desires and purposes, without ever giving even the slightest shit about my own. I will not stand for it anymore. Not from you, not from anyone.
Whoops, that image up there^ is a bat embryo. My bad.
FIG. 5. True fact: one of these is a bat embryo, and the other is a sleeping baby bat.
I pointed out the fact that my cat is more sentient than a blastocyst, and you asked me—repeatedly—”How do you know?” Three answers: (1) the sciences of embryology and neurobiology which inform us when it’s even possible for a creature to be conscious and aware, (2) it doesn’t even fucking matter, because it’s grotesquely immoral to force me (or you or any other person) to be a slave to anyone else who needs to suck my blood in order to survive, whether that person is sentient or not, and (3) the exact same way you know. That’s right: you know the difference between sentient and non-sentient beings. And I’ll prove it to you, with an old thought experiment. It goes like this: you find yourself in a burning building and all exits are blocked except one, which happens to be in a fertility clinic you must pass through to escape. The flames and smoke are almost unbearable. As you make your way toward the exit, you see on one side of the room a small box marked “100 Live Embryos” (technically they’d be blastocysts at this point, but since we’re pretending we’ll pretend they’re actually embryos eight weeks older). On the other side of the room, you see a live human infant completely oblivious to the imminent danger. You will only have time to take one of these with you on your way out, before the room is completely engulfed in flames. It’s the baby or the box. Which will you take?
Here, look—I made a graphic to help you make up your mind:
FIG 6. dozens of human embryos vs. one human infant.
If you chose to save those embryos, then let me just say on behalf of myself, the baby you would let burn to death, and the rest of humanity: FUCK YOU.
If you chose to save the actual baby, congratulations! You’re a decent, intelligent, compassionate human being who knows the difference between non-sentient embryos and a sentient baby—and you really should fucking stop saying words to the effect that you don’t.
Are there not enough unwanted children? Are the world’s orphanages empty? Are there not enough grindingly poor pregnant women in the world’s overpopulated slums and housing projects, starving themselves because they cannot even feed their existing children? Can the planet even sustain the billions more people that would result from your preferred policies? Women with unwanted pregnancies are so desperate not to give birth that they will knowingly seek unsafe abortions, or attempt dangerous terminations themselves with whatever is on hand. A knitting needle. A coat hanger. A twig or stick. They have done so for all of known history, when they were not otherwise busy dying in childbirth from their umpteenth pregnancy.
We know that outlawing abortions does not stop them, but it does fill hospital wards with women dying of sepsis infections and hemorrhaging. Well, at least those “lucky” ones that can make it to a decent hospital in time. We know that denying women abortion on demand kills, maims and impoverishes them and their families. It reduces their humanity to that of subhuman incubators, enslaved against their wills, to this:
FIG. 7. Adorable tiny
baby embryo. Awww.
Actual size = less than 2 cm.
But you’re okay with all of that. This ^ thing is more important to you than women deciding whether, when and how often they wish to go through a nine month pregnancy followed by the violent expulsion that is giving birth, to become a mother with all of the responsibility that entails.
Did you know that a woman who carries a baby to term is 14 times more likely to die than she is from a legal abortion? And that’s to say nothing of birth complications including fractured pelvis, infection, hemorrhage, genitovaginal fistula, vaginal tearing, or the 15% of women who experience nerve damage leading to incontinence of stool or urine and sexual dysfunction. Childbearing is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do; it’s the sixth most common cause of death among women age 20 to 34 in the United States.
Now, given all of that, who should decide whether, when and how often someone goes through all of this? Why, other people. Of course.
My rage, sadness and contempt at this level of cruelty and disrespect knows no limits.
It’s physically revolting to me. Literally: I am barely holding down my breakfast as I write this.
OH SORRY! That’s ^ a cat embryo. I got confused for a minute because it’s so gosh darn cute. Maybe someday it will look like this:
FIG. 8. Mah kitteh.
She would probably miss me if I died for a fucking embryo. Okay, maybe not.
The moral ground here is not murky. This is not something on which reasonable, thoughtful and compassionate people can just agree to disagree.
This is an excised tubal pregnancy:
FIG. 9. This little fucker would have soon killed its human host if allowed to remain.
Kill it! Kill it with fire!
Maybe for some reason you had just not thought through the consequences of your position on abortion until now. That really is the best possible interpretation I can think of for the things you said: that you were simply thoughtless. Then again, perhaps it’s not thoughtlessness but ignorance; that is, you honestly had no idea what your position actually leads to for me or other people. As you have long been a loyal reader of this blog and are a well-informed person generally, I would find that exceedingly difficult to believe, but I guess it’s possible.
A third possibility is misogyny: the deep, abiding hatred and distrust of women. Maybe I can do something to remediate the first two, but not this one. If you’re inclined to view women as less capable, less intelligent, less human than men, and less deserving of the basic human rights and bodily autonomy that you enjoy—and let’s be clear, forcing someone against her will to stay attached to a growing, blood-sucking fetus for nine months followed by the violent and dangerous expulsion that is giving birth, and to bring into the world a child she does not want is a particularly vile form of slavery—well, I don’t think I can help you with that.
Unfortunately statements like this one of yours make me lean toward the misogyny hypothesis:
“Since the man is on the hook for 18 years of child support, he should get a say.”
As if a mother is not also responsible for supporting her child. As if a mother’s support does not also go far beyond financial support, to a life-altering, all-encompassing, 24/7/365 commitment for at least 18 years that a father can walk away from if he chooses not to seek custody or visitation. Once there exists another person in the world, however, they are both responsible for the welfare of that person. As they damn well should be. Wanna pay less child support? Split custody.
I asked you what “a say” would look like. You know: in real, practical terms. Would the sperm donor get to make a speech about his opinions on abortion and childbirth to which the pregnant person would be forced to listen? No. Read something he wrote about it? An official filled-out form, maybe? No. Well what, then? I’m just saying, he should have a say. What does “a say” mean, exactly? Why wouldn’t you answer this question?
I strongly suspect it’s because “a say” means it should be his decision whether she will either abort, or be forced to have his child. And you just couldn’t come right out and say that to me.
Fucking patriarchy, how does it work?
That’s some fine company you’re in: the religious right and the Catholic church, patriarchal people and institutions whose contempt for the very notion that women are human beings entitled to the same human rights as anyone else knows no bounds. Wherever the Catholic church or the religious right has the political power to outlaw abortion, thousands of women are maimed from unsafe abortions, and they and their children are frequently condemned to lives of hunger and desperate poverty when they are forced to have children. This is what that looks like. This too. I am dumbfounded at people defending these policies when they have seen exactly where the ideology of prohibiting abortion leads. FACT: it leads to no fewer abortions, only to more dead and maimed women and orphaned children. This is what that looks like. [<—WARNING: extremely graphic image. NSFW]. This and this, too. Even the U.S. government does not view my sex as equally deserving of the basic rights all the Real Humans™ enjoy. This is the text of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
The amendment failed.
And thus women can be treated as incubators, valuable only for incubating a fetus: a woman jailed for murder because she attempted suicide while pregnant; a woman denied chemotherapy for leukemia because she was pregnant; a woman dead from a septicemia because she was denied an abortion; a woman dead from a forced C-section she did not want. And on and on. Mandated 3 business day waiting periods. Parental consent laws. This is what it means to treat a pregnant woman as less human than the mere potential human she has growing inside her. There is no justification for it; it is only the logical outcome of your view and those who share it. I get it: a fucking fetus is worth more than an actual living woman to them, too. Well FUCK THEM, TOO.
I’ve had a few pregnancy scares, you know. Despite taking precautions. It is true that I am personally privileged enough to have the means to escape to a saner country (e.g. Canada) to have an abortion should that become necessary. But (1) I did not always have this economic privilege and may not always, and (2) this is not just about me, but about millions of other pregnant Americans who cannot get to the next county, much less to the only clinic remaining in their entire state, without putting their jobs, themselves, or their families at risk of social ostracism and poverty.
Forced pregnancy is slavery. No one would call it any differently if you were involuntarily tethered to another person and forced to sustain that life for nine months (followed by a violent expulsion from your body cavity that might very well result in the skin and muscle between your testes and your anus being torn open). No one would ever call you free.
I am no one’s slave. My humanity is not negotiable. It is not something upon which well-intentioned people can reasonably disagree. It is not something anyone who claims to love me can dismiss or deny, and then still expect me to keep them in my life. Disrespect me at the peril of our friendship. Because as long as you honestly believe people like me should be enslaved against our wills to keep some other person alive—baby or no—you are not now and never were my friend.
A long time ago you lost a loved and wanted infant, and for that I am truly sorry. Would that all children brought into the world were so loved and wanted. But the fact is they are not. And you would use your personal tragedy as an emotional weapon, as if it somehow supports the notion that all pregnant women should be forced to give birth to children they do not want?
How dare you.
Only one of these is a person:
FIG. 10. Iris’s ladies room selfie, Halloween 2013 & 7-week old human embryo.
The one you care more about says everything I need to know about you.