By Dave Andrusko
What’s the adage? Don’t judge a book by its cover? Likewise, as I constantly am reminded, don’t judge an article by its title.
What would your first impression be, just reading this: “The Only Person Who Judges Me for My Abortion — Who Matters – Is Me”?
Well I read it quickly and assumed Anna Spargo-Ryan was basically just another run-of-the-mill pro-abortion apologist who was just daring others (read pro-lifers) to judge her.
No. She was saying that no people who matter to her were critical of her decision:
They don’t say to me, “Anna, I still can’t believe you did that to your unborn child.” They don’t say, “Wow, you made some really bad decisions.”
But there is one person who is:
The only person who does that is me. The only person who stands in front of a mirror and screams into it is me.
This essay which first appeared at medium.com and reprinted in a slightly different form at Huffington Post, is 1,177 words long. To do justice to her story would take a piece twice as long.
So let me instead just make a couple of points and suggest you read the article when you can.
Spargo-Ryan insists she doesn’t think about her abortion in either of the two competing narratives: “our insurmountable regret, or our complete lack of doubt.”
Instead, “I have spent the past six years tormenting myself for being in this in-between place of, ‘I’m sad about my abortion. I don’t think I was powerful and in control. But I don’t regret it either.’”
But, of course, clearly she does regret her abortion, right down to the core of her being. And she is filled with doubt, as is obvious in even the most cursory reading. The opening sentence which provides the narrative arc is, “I have a recurring dream wherein I am staring into a mirror and shouting at myself.”
Since, according to Spargo-Ryan, she is the only one looking at herself harshly in the mirror, she has to figure out some way to rationalize a decision she knows she shouldn’t have made.
The excuses Spargo-Ryan makes (and then sort of takes back) for her abortion include (directly) that she is the world’s most fertile woman and (indirectly) that she hooks up with loser boyfriends. But she knows those aren’t satisfactory reasons.
Adding to the complexity of her post is that she became pregnant at 19, barely knowing her boyfriend and just starting a new job. Nobody supported her– not her no-account boyfriend (silence for three days), her mother (“Are you going to fix it?”), nor the doctor (“Do you want a referral to a clinic?”).
“That would have been the time to have an abortion, right?” she writes. “I could have gone down the road and had a little sleep and it would have been over. I didn’t — and I’m glad, of course, because I love my daughter (now 11) very much, obviously.”
Now much later in her life when she does have an abortion, what can she say? Spargo-Ryan’s fallback position is, essentially, she’s been a mother forever.
I have had children my whole adult life. I’m 32 years old now and I have never been able to just try to figure out what I’m doing without considering another person. I’ve been a mother since before I knew how to be a human.
Frankly, I don’t believe, down deep, Spargo-Ryan believes that for a moment. Why? Read her ending. Is she sidestepping? Of course. But read between the lines and judge for yourself:
At the beginning of my book there’s a dedication. It’s not to my partner, or my kids, or my parents, or myself. It’s the only way I know how to forgive myself — to create something permanent (or with at least one print run) that gives some meaning to the experience I had, without dismissing it or dismissing my perpetually correct decision. It says:
“For the person I knew infinitely, and momentarily.”