I changed my views on abortion the year my best friend became pregnant. Although cliché, the experience was profound, and shaped how I see the world. Until that point I had moved ideologically from radically pro-choice in my college years to a more libertarian approach, where I justified my ambivalence through the limitations of my sex.
I argued in favor of choice as a principled position of freedom. I believed that my role was to support the views of the women around me. But all of that changed.
My position on abortion was one of the last liberal ideals to go when I found myself aligning with the Right. I had been fully convinced that women require the freedom to choose all aspects of their pregnancy. I felt it was unreasonable for conservatives to so heavily oppose what I viewed as a personal medical decision. The transition was not swift.
Reality Changed My Determination to Remain Pro-Choice
When my friend became pregnant, she was extremely excited. I remember feeling a sense of excitement myself, not only for the event but for the opportunity to validate my worldview. I was determined to prove wrong the idea that witnessing a pregnancy would create doubt in my ideology.
The beginning of her pregnancy felt strange, as the fetus’s development happened so rapidly. I was surprised when she showed me photos of the fetus at what I believed was the “clump of cells” stage. I remember audibly gasping at the detail of the tiny body in the image and trying to understand how it was possible so early.
I tried using the correct terms at the correct times, but found myself unable to keep up with the fetus’s rapid development. I quickly found myself feeling silly referring to it as a “fetus.” My friend called it her “baby” from day one, and so did everyone else, including her doctors.
As I watched her pregnancy develop and witnessed in awe the steady stream of images of her baby, I discovered that my previous sense of certainty was fading. At no time could I reasonably argue that it was “okay” to end its life. Before their second trimester, I had witnessed breathtaking images, listened to her describe the baby’s heartbeat, and began reading about the baby’s development.
I felt discomfort as a new paradigm began overriding my previous and strongly held moral belief in the supremacy of choice. I supported abortion because I believed it was vital that a woman have the freedom to determine her own future and what happened to her body. But I was now faced with the realities of what an abortion would entail. Within the first few weeks of her finding out, letting us know, and getting ultrasound photos, there was no clear-cut line in which I felt comfortable saying “an abortion is acceptable now.”
My inner conflict featured a confrontation between an idea and a reality I was experiencing. The further the pregnancy progressed, the more deeply connected I felt to the child I was witnessing develop before my eyes. Naturally, when I felt her kick for the first time, my self-doubt was nearly gone completely. How could it be reasonably asserted that this being was anything other than a growing human life?
This Tiny Baby Changed All of Our Lives—For the Better
The child was born prematurely. As I supported my friends through uncertainty, sleepless nights, and an endless stream of hospital visits, the significance of this little life became clear. She had changed all of our lives, and we found such joy and hope in seeing her slowly grow and thrive. I had never felt such care, protective instinct, and compassion. Recognizing this tiny life had been developing inside my friend’s womb mere days before being born forced me to challenge everything I believed made me an educated and socially appropriate person.
Often the abortion debate relies on the argument of what happens before pregnancy and immediately after, in care for the child. But for me the realization was deeper that just recognizing a new and surprising love for this child. An entire world of possibility opened inside me when I reflected on the development, from conception to birth, and failed to see any period of time when the child I loved ceased to be that child. The distinctions were arbitrary, and the value placed on this child’s life was equally as arbitrary.
It was more than just appreciating the miracle of this one life. It forced me to consider the significance of every developing child and consequence of valuing some of them less. It became clear the life I held in my arms had always been there. It was never a “potential life.” The question became, “When is it acceptable to end this life?” and I could no longer answer with confidence. I held a vague notion that perhaps abortion before the baby was, well, a baby, was the only acceptable option. But my experience taught me that line could not easily be determined.
Then It Happened Again, With a More Uncertain Friend
Later I found myself in a similar situation, but this time fully pro-life. Over time and with much interaction with strong pro-life voices, I lost all sense of doubt on the topic. I felt fully confident that I understood the significance of protecting life and defending the rights of those developing in the womb. But my confidence was once again challenged.
A friend came to me in a panic. She had recently began seeing a new guy, and had missed her period. In a moment of passion, she chose to engage in riskier sex than she normally would have felt comfortable with. It caused her to fear she had become pregnant. The relationship was not going well, she was a young woman just starting in her career, and until that moment she always assumed she was pro-life. She had simply never considered the possibility she would ever need to imagine an abortion.
I could see genuine fear in her eyes as she contemplated the consequences, and I could see her typical rational thinking was weighed down with anxiety. She made an appointment with her doctor, but would have to wait for a time before the test could be conclusive. I began to realize that by the time she confirmed the details, she would be faced with an immediate decision about abortion. Despite a desire to have as early an abortion as possible, the surrounding medical limitations made that exceedingly difficult.
What Could I Say to My Scared Friend?
As I sat with her, I contemplated my role. I wanted to support her, comfort her, and reassure her. But would telling her the joys of motherhood and the responsibility of caring for a new and unique life affect her positively? Could she even understand such a massive and overwhelming concept at this point in her life?
Could I take her to an abortion facility, hold her hand, and say nothing in order to support her? Was it my place to challenge her, to tell her it was wrong and that it was murder? She could barely manage the thought herself. I remember her remarking that she had always been against abortion until that very moment.
She was not pregnant, and she felt a great sense of guilt for considering the option. But neither of us could ignore that in that moment of panic and fear, the answer was not as simple as either of us imagined it should be. This is the challenge we face as pro-life advocates. Pro-choice advocates primarily focus on this fear. They feel compassion for the women trapped in that moment and want to protect them from further emotional trauma. They believe abortion is a valid option to relieve this stress. If she were prepared for pregnancy, she would not be so afraid.
The pro-life argument is about what happens once that fear has passed. If a woman is able to survive that terrible time and recognize the possibility of a new life, we believe she will never regret that decision. We want to get her to a place of hope and peace in which the life of the child is valued and protected.
My transformation came in recognizing the value of human life. It has come to be a fundamental truth that overrides all emotional or political arguments. Although I now better understand and appreciate the reasons the pro-choice movement is as passionate as they are, I find their arguments insufficient in addressing the primary question in all of this: At what point is it acceptable to end the life of a human being?
The value of human life is absolute, and the question of abortion is not one of choice, freedom, or female equality. The issue is solely of whether we, as a society, sanction the arbitrary killing of developing human beings for the sake of convenience. If our core principle rests on a foundation of human equality, all else will fall away.
Being pro-choice is about emotionally and physically protecting a woman from the consequences of her choices. Being pro-life is convincing her that the life growing inside her is far more significant and beautiful than any temporary emotional or physical condition.