Monday, February 14, 2022

Community for Me or my Baby, Not Both

The February Carnival of Aros topic is on Community.

I've debated with myself quite a bit about whether or not to enter it, mainly because I feel like I don't really have a safe community, and pointing that out and explaining why feels unsafe. But I've decided that I need to say my piece anyway.

I've always been pro-life. It's never really made sense to me why this is an unusual stance among leftists, because to me, my pro-life stance follows from the same basic principles that make me anti-classist, pro-LGBTQ+, feminist, and all those other standard leftist ideals.

Essentially, I believe that human beings have inherent value, and should not be harmed unnecessarily. I believe that when the convenience of someone with greater power is weighed against the basic needs of someone with lesser power, to choose to prioritize the convenience of the one with more power is abominable.

I've heard leftists pro-choice people talk about how hypocritical the pro-life right-wingers are. I've also heard pro-life right-wingers talk about how hypocritical pro-choice leftists are. I honestly think both groups are equally hypocritical, and equally happy to call out hypocrisy in others while ignoring their own. Both groups are deeply inconsistent about whether they think personal autonomy or not harming others is more important.

For a long time, I ignored this issue. I didn't mention that I was pro-life, and hung out with pro-choice people who didn't mention they were pro-choice, meanwhile pretending to myself that they had to be pro-life because they talked about the same core principles that I support.

But then I started trying to conceive, right around the same time I noticed a bunch of pro-choice leftists deciding that they were sick of being silent about abortion. And now I'm pregnant, and acutely aware that there is most definitely a distinct and individual person inside me. (The most confusing pro-choice people to me are people who have ever participated in a prenatal ultrasound and remained pro-choice. It seems inconceivable to me that you can look at a wiggling, kicking little human reacting to stuff happening around them in real-time and still think they're not human enough to have a right to life. But then again, I've never been good at understanding dehumanization.)

And at the same time, I'm a queer aroace single nonbinary parent-to-be, who has refused to find out my baby's sex while also buying lots of gendered baby clothes I plan to dress them in regardless, and who used assisted reproduction to get pregnant without ever having had sex, and has contemplated looking into transition resources if I can ever get my complicated gender feelings sorted out enough to know what I actually want.

So who can I talk to about the enormous changes happening in my life? Not the people who would deny my humanity and tell me that I'm selfish for not finding some man to "be the father" and want me to pretend that what lies between my baby's legs is the most important determinant of their personality. But also not the people who talk about how it should be totally acceptable to kill people very much like the person I'm nurturing and devoted to caring for, who want me to sit there feeling excited little kicks and pretend their source isn't a living human who deserves protection and support regardless of how I personally feel about them. I don't want to have to choose between people who see me as a person but not my child, and people who see my child as a person but not me.

So, I don't really have a community. All I see is hypocrites all around, and a few solitary sensible voices caught in the middle and afraid to speak up.


Blogger BayesianSpoon said...

Some people believe in a "Right to Die", and they talk about killing people who are suffering. This doesn't mean they don't care about those people. Far from it: they feel that the "Right to Die" is essential to protect those people from what would otherwise be spending the remainder of their life in unnecessary suffering

I'm not trying to get in to the politics and unintended consequences of this philosophy - I'm just establishing that "it's okay to kill this person" isn't incompatible with "I value this person and their personhoood."

My mom described herself as "Pro-life for herself, pro-choice for others", and that has always felt like a very reasonable stance to me: regardless of what you feel for the human growing inside of you, not everyone feels that way. Some weren't prepared to get pregnant. Some were raped. If as a society we want to say "this is a life, and it is sacred", then we have to force all those people to carry their kids to term - and to me, that seems needlessly cruel. Many of them will end up doing dangerous and illegal things because it's so important to them, and in those situations our laws are only endangering the parent: the kid dies either way.

It's not an easy topic, and I apologize if you didn't want to hear outside perspectives on it, but I felt like my own point of view might help you be a bit more comfortable with pro-choice people. I've known many of them to get pregnant and celebrate it, and it was clear they valued the life they were nurturing. They just want others, who often feel differently, to be able to choose based on their own circumstances.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

You haven't really made any particularly novel argument, in my experience.

I would argue that your mom isn't remotely pro-life, any more than someone who says "personally I wouldn't rape a child but I don't judge others for doing so" is anti-CSA. And to me, killing someone because keeping them alive causes a temporary inconvenience to someone else is far crueler than telling that person "deal with it, it's temporary".

As for "right to die", as much as I hate those arguments for separate reasons (mainly how incredibly ableist they tend to be), they are actually based on the desire to reduce suffering in the person being killed. Abortion rarely is. Most aborted embryos/fetuses were physically healthy and had no particular reason for us to expect them to have suffered if they survived, except for the fact that their gestational parent doesn't want them, and that's easily resolved by finding them different parents. Even if they were more likely to suffer for whatever reason, I find it very telling that few pro-choice people support killing already-born people suffering for the same reasons - eg people who argue that poverty is a reason for abortion rarely support killing poor children after birth. This, to me, tells me that the suffering argument is not actually sufficient to explain their willingness to kill an unborn child.

Furthermore, the vast majority of pro-choice people I've argued with who claim that they see unborn children as people have also, at some other point in the argument, said that abortion isn't killing a person. So I've become very skeptical of such claims.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

Just like to add that I'm far too stressed out with my pregnancy to play ideological whack-a-mole with a bunch of ever-changing inconsistent arguments about why you think it's OK to kill babies, so I'm not going to be discussing this any further.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm sorry you feel alienated. I know I have used the aromantic community to escape my real life friends who seem to all be partnering up and having children.
I'm not sure what culture/country you live in, but generally as your pregnancy progresses you will do more activities centred around pregnancy and babies. I hope as you join new parent clubs and Baby Day Out events I hope you will discover a new community you will love <3

3:23 AM  
Blogger sildarmillion said...

(Part 1 of 3)
As with anything (especially terms we use in the ace and aro communities like "romance", "platonic", "dating" and so on), it is easier for the reader if you defined your terms a little bit more. Because "pro-life" can mean a range of things. Do you believe (1) abortion should be illegal? (2) If so, do you believe those who perform abortion or those who undergo abortion should be criminalized? (3) Or maybe even charged with murder? (4) Do you mean you are against abortion as a blanket statement, or do you make exceptions in cases of rape and incest?

I understand that these questions (especially the first few) are very politically fraught, so please do not feel like you have to answer these questions. The reason I'm putting them out there is to explain that when people say "I'm pro-life" or "I'm pro-choice", it necessarily leads to people making assumptions about that person that may or may not be accurate.

I think the main point of contention that you might have with most people who are "pro-choice" has to do with the issue of "when is a fetus a human?" Perhaps you believe that a fetus is a human at the moment of conception. I'm guessing you don't believe that a fetus is a human when it becomes viable outside the womb (which is what I subscribe to). People might have other markers for humanity (like a heartbeat for example). Some people might even not consider it human until it is given birth to. I don't know how this debate can be settled. But that's where the problem of "how can people advocate killing a human comes in". If you don't view it as a human yet, that's not even a relevant question. (IDK, at the point in which a human fetus is indistinguishable from a cow fetus or any other fetus, I have a hard time thinking of it as human, even if it is a potential human.)

To that end, I would be curious to know, how did your feelings towards your baby change over the course of your pregnancy. Like, you describe the feeling of having your baby move inside you? But what were your feelings during the early stages of your pregnancy?

My personal feelings about abortion are … complicated.

6:07 AM  
Blogger sildarmillion said...

(Part 2 of 3)

I have one personal experience that informs my propensity to be "pro-choice". And that is, having watched my cousin, who was born with severe congenital defects, suffer with her existence for the 10 years she was alive. She had no motor function except in her head. The doctors said she won't survive past 2 years. But her parents (who were loaded) were determined to try everything in the book to extend her life to a full life. I watched her as her mind developed but her body couldn't. I watched her frustration with all the thoughts she had in her head but she couldn't express them. I watched as she sobbed soundlessly (she couldn't make sound) as she watched other children her age play. Spending time with my sweet little cousin was one of the hardest things to witness. And she suffered so much in her life, that I can't help but feel, if this life could have been terminated before it began, we could have avoided this life of pure suffering.

(What was worse in this situation was that she had two older siblings who were absolutely ignored and neglected because the parents were hyperfocused on this one child. And they, well, developed into teens with several problems, including getting into drugs.)

The other thought I had was that, when you describe how it feels to feel your baby moving inside you, it is genuinely such a beautiful sentiment. And as someone who wants to experience that someday, I can really appreciate what a beautiful sentiment that is, and that feeling of love is something I'd want to give to my child.

But I've heard people, who wanted abortions but couldn't get them, describe the same feeling with disgust. They describe it as a THING wriggling around inside you like it was a virus. And that thought is horrifying. Being a baby whose mom as such a horrific reaction to it seems horrifying. I haven't done research into gestation to know if this is true, but I feel like if the pregnant mother is hating on the unborn fetus this much, it has to internalize some of that hatred and grow up to be messed up.

My mom has this belief that if the mother is unprepared for the pregnancy and is constantly anxious, the fetus internalizes that and develops a sense of self-hatred. And that's her hypothesis behind why I suffer from self-hatred and negative feelings about myself. And why she herself was like that. And why so many people in my culture are like that. Because women were basically forced to get married young and start making babies from a very young age. I've known so many women, mostly my parent's cousins, who had kids because they were expected to, because it is a rite of passage, and not because they actually wanted kids. I've watched how they went about their lives while neglecting those kids. I've watched my extended family try to rally to support those kids and complain that those parents don't care (even though those people never wanted kids in the first place). Anyways, I'm rambling, but I just personally feel like it is better to not have been born than to be an unwanted child.

6:07 AM  
Blogger sildarmillion said...

(Part 3 of 3)

And finally, I feel about abortion in somewhat a similar way that I feel about eating meat. People eat meat nonchalantly as if they are not committing murder of valuable life in order to do it. They refuse to think killing animals is wrong. They justify it in millions of ways. They think it's totally ok to raise poultry and cattle for slaughter. I think it's wrong, what we do. But I guess, at some level, it is necessary. In the same way, even though I am pro-choice, I do think abortion is wrong, but there are scenarios in which I think it is necessary or the better option (for which I gave some examples above). And my hope is that society finds a way to eliminate abortion, not by treating the symptom (i.e. criminalizing abortion) but by treating the root cause (unwanted pregnancy).

Your piece evoked these feelings in me and I just wanted to share. Just to be clear, I wasn't trying to argue a point or try to change minds. Just thought maybe I could share some of my perspective. And maybe there is hypocrisy in my perspective that I can't see. But there is genuine emotion behind these perspectives.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Ettina said...

I feel like the argument "their life is (or will be) unhappy so they're better off dead" is an extremely dangerous argument, especially for disabled people. I have seen that argument used to justify atrocities so much. My viewpoint is that firstly, you can never truly know if someone else's life is as miserable as you assume it is, especially if you're not in a position to ask them directly, and secondly, even if someone is genuinely miserable, it's very rare that there's nothing that can be done to make them happier. In the case of disabled people in particular, studies have shown that people tend to both overestimate how much disabilities actually affect happiness (by a *lot* - eg thinking someone is suicidal when they're not even depressed level of inaccurate is pretty common), and underestimate how much changeable factors like assistance equipment or an accepting social context can affect how a disabled person feels about their disability. There's a strong stereotype of disabled people as permanently and inevitably unhappy purely because of their disability, and it really doesn't remotely match up with the reality of disabled people, but very often gets used to excuse harm against disabled people.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

Also, regarding your mother's theory, children adopted in infancy don't generally have lower self-esteem than non-adopted children, and yet I can pretty much guarantee that prospective birth mothers of adoptees are much more likely to be anxious during pregnancy.

Plus, I don't think the fact that your mom was unhappy and you've internalized negative feelings about yourself, even if true, would make you any less deserving of life.

3:37 PM  
Blogger sildarmillion said...

I should make a clarification about the stuff I wrote about my cousin. This wasn't a random child with a disability I was making speculations about. This was someone I was close to. And someone with whom I had learned to communicate in whatever way she was able to. And whose moods and expressions I had learned to read, even if it wasn't completely accurate. So when I say she was miserable and suffering, I'm not saying that with condescension. I am saying that as someone who felt the pain of a loved one.

That being said, that was probably not an appropriate anecdote to include in this comment. I just sort of went freestyle with my thoughts with anything and everything that have to do with difficult questions relating to life. And my thoughts about my cousin were really more along the lines of we didn't have a way to know whether she would've chosen to go through the grueling regimen of chemotherapy, which was supposed to be the thing that prolonged her life but which ultimately killed her. And I've wondered if she chose not to fight the cancer and had just given up. I don't know if we should assume that everyone will always definitely choose to live, but yes, this question is irrelevant in a post that's really about abortion. It may have been relevant had the post been about euthanasia.

But my intention was not to share these thoughts as a justification for abortion or anything like that. I was just sharing thoughts about how I think there isn't always a super easy answer when it comes to questions regarding life. What I hadn't mentioned in my earlier comments (because I'd made enough posts already, lol) was that I appreciate that it took a lot of guts to share your thoughts in a space where there is a good chance they might not be well received. However, your thoughts came from a genuine place and you raised a lot of important questions that people don't pause to think about because it makes them uncomfortable. But these are things they definitely should be thinking about.

7:25 AM  

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