“I will fight until my last breath for women to be able to choose whether or not to be mothers: contraception and the right to abortion are a fundamental right, the banner of women’s freedom,” are the words of none other than Annie Ernaux, the writer who received the 2020 Nobel Prize for literature. This is not just anyone’s opinion, but that of a woman who received an internationally prestigious award, revealing the general direction in which our culture is headed.
Even among more common people, it is not unusual to hear striking pro-abortion, pro-abortion pill, and anti-conscientious declarations like that one of the awarded writer. Hospitals are plastered with photos, posters, and banners. Such grievances have multiplied since the repeal in the United States of the historic Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade ruling of the alleged right to abortion. I say “alleged” because the ruling that introduced the decriminalization of abortion in 1973 had not recognized a right to abortion but had ruled that “the state is not entitled to decide on the privacy of women.” The legal reasoning made lawful the social practice of abortion – which was widespread at the time and only grew after. Customs make our laws, and laws guide our customs. The current Supreme Court ruled that no constitutional basis can be found for the “right to abortion” and, therefore, such a right, to be so, must be established by law, thus by the legislative branch of government – not by the courts.
In the face of so much pro-choice fervor one may feel intimidated or struggle to be heard – in the case one has something to say that differs from the dominant public opinion. So, in this article, I would like to offer some tips for speaking about being pro-life from the moment of conception, in a heated and sometimes even hostile climate.
- Start with concrete, verifiable facts rather than personal ideas or concepts. For example, a few days ago, I was searching for data on Google. I searched the phrase “I regretted having” and the fifth result Google itself suggested was “an abortion.”
I clicked on the full sentence. The first site I was sent to was a women’s forum. One woman wrote: “It’s been three days since I took my second dose of pills… and what can I say… I feel empty, I don’t feel good about myself, I shouldn’t have done it… if I could go back, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Other women said they understood her… They, too, had experienced a state of mourning and regret. At the same time, they consoled her, “If he was immature, if he cheated on you, if he wasn’t the right man for you… you made the right choice.”
Without imposing our views, such a discovery gives the chance to pose a simple question: are we sure that women always feel free to have an abortion, or do they sometimes act out of panic? Are we sure that the problem is unexpected children and not the “wrong relationships” that so many women end up in? If the problem lies in the relationship, why, instead of fighting to the last breath for the right to abortion, do we not fight to the last breath for women to know that they deserve a mature, respectful man? That way, they won’t find themselves doing something that may bring them pain and regret.
- Speak about the pain of mothers who suddenly lost their babies. If you suffered from a miscarriage, you didn’t choose to have an abortion. It is not politically incorrect to talk about it. A few days ago, I started a debate on Instagram with a guy attacking a pro-life page (I know, one shouldn’t take part in such debates, but sometimes I succumb to this weakness). I tried to present my “idea” calmly, but he immediately attacked me. When I said, “I know what I’m talking about, I experienced an abortion,” (I did, in fact, lose a child in my womb) his tone magically calmed and he listened to me. My pain, my experience gave me “authority.” My interlocutor and I, at that point, spoke to each other civilly. He, at one point, even told me about his mother’s prenatal loss, and he told me to call that little being who was lost too soon his “little sister.”
- Propose research and data on perinatal and prenatal grief. Science and psychology show that women who break the bond with a child in their womb experience great pain. Speaking about stillbirths, Dr. Valentina Scarselli (with specific training in sexology and a Ph.D. in reproductive medicine), says, without mincing words, that such breaking of the mother-child bond is “a traumatic situation.” “Every pregnancy, regardless of its duration and outcome, is an integral part of the woman’s life story and that of the couple who are to become parents; and every baby, at whatever week of life, has its own unquestionable importance.”
She then explains the most common emotions related to losing a child: guilt and shame. Moreover, “Mothers experience not only grief but also a deep existential wound.”
- Mention some books, for example in the Italian language there is: Mothers interrupted. Coping with and Transforming Pre- and Perinatal Grief by Laura Bulleri and Antonella De Marco, Franco Angeli Publishing House, 2013. Look yourself for other works on the topic that can foster dialogue.
- Talk about men or women (doctors and health care workers) who have witnessed and/or practiced abortion with their own eyes and hands.
- Finally, a reflection on feminism and women’s freedom based on true stories. Here’s an example: A while back, I heard a woman, Stefania, speak about the time she faced the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy. She experienced the most painful situation of her life: her boyfriend started pushing her to take the morning-after pill. He threatened her, saying, “If you are pregnant, I’ll tell you every day that I don’t want this child. I will convince you to have an abortion. And if you don’t, I’ll leave you.” Stefania, since that day, said, “Few people know how lonely and imprisoned a woman feels at certain times. I admit, I thought about having an abortion, but I felt anything but free with my boyfriend yelling at me.”
In the end, Stefania wasn’t pregnant, but that whole ordeal woke her up. She was giving her life to a man who, in an instant, would have thrown everything away: her, a possible child, and their future together.
Her testimony, “Children are raised by two people, so find a man who is truly responsible. A woman’s first right, when faced with the possibility of pregnancy, is to not be alone… The real banner of freedom is to be loved, to know that you have someone next to you who will stay with you no matter what happens.”