The American pro-choice movement has been a rollercoaster ride of messaging and statistics. With the abortion movement vibrant and confident post Roe v. Wade, abortions surged in the later 1970s and 1980s. With the 1990s pregnancy clinics sprouted, and the ability for a woman to see her baby on an ultrasound machine increased. Since then, abortions have slowly declined.
Not to be outdone by the pro-life movement, “Shout Your Abortion” is a ghoulish but loud attempt to encourage women to embrace their abortion decision with excessive grit. In Europe some women have embraced their abortion decisions with less pretense but just as much macabre flair, even going so far as to admit their reasons include that children affect work-life “balance,” babies change a woman’s body, and childrearing is a sacrificial work.
These points aren’t wrong, but that doesn’t mean abortion is right.
The Loud and Proud Lady with Three Elective Abortions
In an interview with German newspaper Tagesspiegel translated by ArtNet, performance artist Marina Abramović said she has had three abortions over the years for professional reasons. In the interview published last Monday, Abramović said “I had three abortions because I was certain that it would be a disaster for my work. One only has limited energy in the body, and I would have had to divide it.”
Abramović, 69, is a well-known performance artist, although her views on art’s intersection with life and death may be somewhat eccentric, even for the art world. At a performance in the 1970s, for example, she asked the audience to use a plethora of objects on her, “from a feather boa to flowers to a loaded pistol,” telling The Guardian she was “ready to die” during the performance. She also already has her funeral details planned, calling it the “artist’s last piece.” The plans include three coffins, but she doesn’t relate that to the abortions.
In the Tagesspiegel interview, she voiced a forthright opinion about the so-called “work-life” balance for which every modern woman seems to strive: “In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children – a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.”
Although she’d like to share her life with someone, saying “my dream is to have those Sunday mornings, where you’re eating breakfast and reading newspapers with somebody,” she also admitted she was “totally free” by having no husband or family.
Yes, Kids Mean Work
As a mother of four, I concur with much of what Abramović said. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say having four children in six years was a disaster for my work, it may only be because I’ve chosen a flexible profession—writing. Had I been in the medical field or a job that required regular office hours and more face time with my employer or colleagues, children may well have proven disastrous for that elusive work-life balance.
Children absolutely have divided my body’s “limited energy.” My youngest is still only two. Between the toddler, bed-wetting, bad dreams, scary storms, and hungry tummies, I bet I haven’t slept two consecutive nights through in nearly a decade. In a span of one morning, I have breastfed a fourth child while potty training a third, taught the second one to read, and run the oldest through his multiplication tables.
I have taken notes at political rallies in one hand and held a baby in another. I have been awake for hours in the middle of the night with one child due to the stomach flu, only to come down with it myself the entire next day. (Vomiting alongside your children—a group huddle on the bathroom tile, as it were—is a special kind of division of energy.)
Parenting is exhausting; children require sacrifice. Abramović nails this. Unfortunately, her method of coping is tragic for her, for her unborn babies, and for the message it sends other women hoping to work, to experience relationships, and to be mothers.
Death Is Not the Answer to Complicated Situations
Often many worthwhile endeavors—intimate relationships, college, a dream job, starting a business, traveling—require sacrifice. Do we forgo them because of this, or delay one in case it may interfere with another? Sometimes people do and in moderation. Delaying marriage until one has an established job, for example, can be wise.
But aborting babies because they require emotional, physical, and mental sacrifice is wrong. It not only tragically ends the life of an innocent being, it misses the whole point of adulthood, which is to learn maturity and embrace selflessness.
When she was 19 weeks pregnant with her third girl, a doctor told fellow writer Krystle Schoonveld and her husband that, since their baby was “probably not compatible with life” they should “choose another option”—implying they abort the baby. On her blog, Schoonveld wrote “the baby had a plethora of heart defects as well as other physical abnormalities” that would require surgeries and prescription medication, if she survived to birth at all. For the remainder of her pregnancy, Schoonveld struggled but the couple was determined to go through with it, hopeful the reality wasn’t as grim as that diagnosis.
Sure enough, when Schoonveld gave birth, her little girl was healthier than expected. Doctors performed heart surgery when she was six months old, and just this weekend she turned four years old. What would Schoonveld tell a mom struggling to decide if a baby will interfere with her life, either with health issues or in general? “She’s depriving herself of real love in her life and she’s selling herself short,” she says. “Women are so much stronger than they give themselves credit for. It may be more of a challenge to juggle a child with career aspirations, but it can be done and she can still experience the joy and love motherhood brings.”
Having babies can also add another dimension to a woman’s life and work that she might not have experienced otherwise. Kerri Walsh Jennings is an Olympic volleyball player. She told The Post Game she finds inspiration for her sport in her family, saying she “was born to have babies and play volleyball.”
“Before I had more kids, I was like, ‘This feels trivial.’ I’d been playing for so long, and I was like ‘I need balance. All my eggs are in this one basket and it’s very self-centered and self-focused.’ [Kids] gave me that perspective and balance I thought I was missing. It took my game and my desire and my passion for life to the next level. I am hugely indebted to my children.”