By Dave Andrusko
The curious and deeply unhappy article was written under a pseudonym (Lynn Beisner), first appeared in a publication that congratulates itself that people who write for it are “dissatisfied with the limitations of deeply-embedded traditional gender roles “(“Role/Reboot”), and tries to turn stories of redemption on their head (“I wish my mother would have aborted me”). All in all, it’s quite a load even in 1,486 words.
I read the article in Tuesday’s Guardian newspaper and wondered not that a pro-abortion militant (judging by other articles she’d written) would “see red” when women write about choosing life in very difficult circumstances. Beisner (“the pseudonym for a mother, a writer, a feminist, and an academic living somewhere East of the Mississippi,” according to Role/Reboot but not mentioned by the Guardian) finds such stories “offensive.”
How so? “What makes these stories so infuriating to me is that they are emotional blackmail. As readers or listeners, we are almost forced by these anti-choice versions of A Wonderful Life to say, ‘Oh, I am so glad you were born.’” Ah….yes.
She admits that “I make even my most ardent pro-choice friends and colleagues very uncomfortable when I explain why my mother should have aborted me. Somehow they confuse the well-considered and rational: ‘The best choice for both my mother and me would have been abortion’ with the infamous expression of depression and angst: ‘I wish I had never been born.’ The two are really very different things, and we must draw that distinction clearly.” We’ll come back to that in a minute.
Although Beisner’s basic argument winds this way and that, it’s ultimately pretty direct. (1) She had a VERY difficult upbringing and that having an abortion would have been “better” for her mother (who also had an even rougher life) and a “better option” for Beisner; and (2) “The world would not be a darker or poorer place without me. Actually, in terms of contributions to the world, I am a net loss.”
Pardon? “Everything that I have done–including parenting, teaching, researching, and being a loving partner–could have been done as well, if not better by other people,” Beisner tells us. “Any positive contributions that I have made are completely offset by what it has cost society to help me overcome the disadvantages and injuries of my childhood to become a functional and contributing member of society.”
She must make the distinction for a couple of reasons. For one, because most people—okay, almost ALL people— (as she put it) “freak out” at her declaration. For another because, she insists, “If we want to keep our reproductive rights, we must be willing to tell our stories, to be willing and able to say, ‘I love my life, but I wish my mother had aborted me.’”
And to do that she must paint her mother (quite correctly) as a victim and herself as someone who would not have known anything (or only momentarily experienced pain) had she been aborted. Thus, “on net,” she wishes her mother would have aborted her.
I don’t know Beisner, but what clearly appears to be driving her remarks is that she feels ultimately responsible for her mother’s very difficult life. And if anybody could have done what she did just as well as she did, no wonder she angrily invokes-only-to-dismiss “It’s a Wonderful Life” whose basic premise is the very opposite.
There are many foundational principles that tie the pro-life perspective together, but one of the primary connecting tissues is that we are not interchangeable parts; that each one of us is unique; that each one of has a special contribution to make; and that you can’t “start over” by killing one child and (possibly) having another.
No pro-lifer would ever deny that the life of an individual (or mother and child) can be strewn with difficulties. I know more than a few myself first hand. But we refuse to say that killing is the answer to misery and we are glad (even if Beisner insists she isn’t) that she was helped her to “overcome the disadvantages and injuries of my childhood to become a functional and contributing member of society.”
Beisner’s penultimate sentence is, “I am sad for both of us that she could not find the courage and selflessness.” But what does it say that her final statement is, “But my attitude is that as long as I am already here, I might as well do all I can to make the world a better place, to ease the suffering of others, and to experience love and life to its fullest.”
It says, of course, that she doesn’t truly believe the 1,442 words that precede it. And that after all these years, she ought to stop blaming herself.
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