Miscarriage and the “never-borns”

By Dave Andrusko

Ultrasound34I’m not entirely sure the headline and sub-headline fully convey what JJ Keith actually wrote—“My miscarriages made me question being pro-choice: I was devastated when I lost my pregnancies, and I wondered: Does grieving this way mean abortion is wrong?”—but in its confusion and complexity it does capture the conflict in her heart.

Ms. Keith had three miscarriages before she carried two pregnancies to term—a preschool son and daughter whom she obviously loves and adores.

It won’t be along strictly party lines–pro-lifers versus pro-abortionist—that explains why one person reads her Salon essay differently from another. She is firmly pro-choice but she appears to be making a good faith attempt to make sense of her ideology in the face of how much she mourns those lost children. She puts it this way:

“It doesn’t make any sense to me, at least not intellectually, but I feel like I have five children — two born and three who were not born, which is a point-of-view that is hard to reconcile with being pro-choice.”

But there are more than a few casually dismissive comments made about the babies she miscarried. One person will read that as clear evidence Keith does not really value prenatal life. I don’t. I think it’s as much a defense mechanism as it is to demonstrate solidarity with pro-abortionists or to under-appreciate unborn children.

And how do you read this paragraph?

“Once I finally did give birth to a real live baby, I was surprised to learn that pushing out a fully formed human is only marginally more painful than ejecting a clump of cells the size of a pencil eraser. How is it that babies are born in hospitals surrounded by nurses offering ice chips while never-to-be-borns are leaked out in OB-GYN waiting rooms, on bathroom floors and in the gussets of soon-to-be-trashed underwear, only very rarely with any kind of support other than a prescription for Tylenol with codeine. That hardly seems fair. There should be ice chips for everybody.”

I read it to say that even though the child early in pregnancy is tiny, the loss of him or her is a big, BIG deal.

To be sure, later she makes the kind of off-putting remark that could tempt you to conclude she is insincere. Again, that’s not how I read Ms. Keith.

She hurt, a lot, when she miscarried. To this day she doesn’t understand how people do not grasp the magnitude of a baby lost to a miscarriage. The loss to her—and to every woman?–is “substantial.”

She affirms her “pro-choice” credentials more than once—but not in the usual pro-abortion cant. A non-religious woman she goes back and forth on where these babies are and whether they are “waiting” for her. In the end she concludes they are not waiting because “they never were.”

Really? I think not. The final words of her essay are not my “never-weres” but “my never-borns.”