With Mother’s Day just around the corner the focus of this issue is on choice. I’ve asked columnists to offer their thoughts regarding the right of a mother to choose to abort her pregnancy. It is a controversial topic to be sure, and one that will likely never be settled.
I have trouble with both sides of the abortion debate because I don’t believe anyone can truly know where life begins. Both sides try to
explain what is impossible to know with certainty, and both define it absolutely. There is only one thing I know with absolute certainty
and that is that change will occur. I know without a doubt that this moment, as I type, will never occur again because change, no matter
how infinitesimal, will happen. Sometimes I think that this is what life is all about – a series of changes that we humans try to understand, define and control. But change is what happens in your life, or to your life. It is a process, not a definition. With motherhood I thought I might gain a bit of understanding, at the very least of when life begins, but after two children I’m less certain than ever. When I think of my pregnancies I can’t place exactly when I felt like the tiny thing growing inside me actually became a life – in my mind. It wasn’t when I saw the image of the tiny pea-sized embryo on my ultra-sound – something about it didn’t seem real. Perhaps, it was when I felt that first kick.
I wonder if the hormones coursing through my veins during those first few months of my pregnancies stopped me from connecting
to the baby inside me. I remember feeling that I had to find a name for it in order to make it feel more alive to me. But maybe, it is a protection mechanism Mother Nature planted in me. I’m well aware that the chance of miscarriage is extremely high in the first few months and my brain may have been stopping me from connecting.
The thing about being a mother is that at some point during your pregnancy you become crucially aware that you are not alone. It is the point when the alien form inside finally connects with your mind and becomes a tiny person that will one day be walking, talking and breathing. That point of awareness may be enhanced by the belly touches and encouraging words of friends and family, or it may come from the hormones raging through you; but whichever it is there is definitely a point, months prior to the birth of your child, when one knows without a doubt that you are merely the custodian of an independent life inside your body. It is at that point, that moment of recognition that a mother can never go back. I don’t believe science or religion can define when that point is. I think it rests in the individual, but I believe that if a mother decides to abort her pregnancy after she has experienced that moment of recognition, she also bankrupts her morality, because that is the point for her at which abortion becomes murder.
I don’t find much value in the “life” theories the old boys in Rome came up with, or for that matter a lot of the theories surrounding evolution. But I’m not a theologian or a scientist. What I do know is that words can be twisted and that people are forever using them to serve one purpose or another. When anti-abortionists judge and scorn people they ignore one of the most basic ethical principles – in religion and civil society – that of compassion. But then when pro-abortionists insist that abortion should be available to all, they ignore the fact that there is a point in a woman’s pregnancy when abortion becomes murder and at that point no mother is without guilt.
My two little ones are finally asleep. I wonder when they will begin to recognize the value of life. I suppose one day they’ll ask me how it all began, not just their life, but what came before them and before me and before everything. That is one question that I won’t be able to answer and one that I hope my kids will never be smug enough to think they know.