The “bizarre bifurcation” between wanted and unwanted “fetuses”

By Sarah Terzo

Editor’s note. The “Elders” in the quotation is Dr. Joyce Elders, who was President Bill Clinton’s Surgeon General for about a minute and a half.

In 1995, pro-choice feminist Naomi Wolf wrote:

This has led to a bizarre bifurcation in the way we who are prochoice tend to think about wanted as opposed to unwanted fetuses: the unwanted ones are still seen in schematic black-and-white drawings while the wanted ones have metamorphosed into vivid and moving color. Even while Elders spoke of our need to “get over” our love affair with the unwelcome fetus, an entire growth industry—Mozart for your belly; framed sonogram photos; home fetal-heartbeat stethoscopes—is devoted to sparking fetal love affairs in other circumstances, and aimed especially at the hearts of over-scheduled yuppies. If we avidly cultivate love for the ones we bring to term, and “get over” our love for the ones we don’t, do we not risk developing a hydroponic view of babies—and turn them into a product we can cull for our convenience?

Any happy couple with a wanted pregnancy and a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” can see the cute, detailed drawings of the fetus whom the book’s owner presumably is not going to abort, and can read the excited descriptions of what that fetus can do and feel, month by month. Anyone who has had a sonogram during pregnancy knows perfectly well that the 4-month-old fetus responds to outside stimulus—“Let’s get him to look this way,” the technician will say, poking gently at the belly of a delighted mother-to-be.

The “Well Baby Book,” the kind of whole-grain holistic guide to pregnancy and childbirth that would find its audience among the very demographic that is most solidly prochoice reminds us that: “Increasing knowledge is increasing the awe and respect we have for the unborn baby and is causing us to regard the unborn baby as a real person long before birth….”

So, what will it be: Wanted fetuses are charming, complex REM-dreaming little beings whose profile on the sonogram looks just like Daddy, but unwanted ones are mere “uterine material”? How can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for prolifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that the truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy.

From Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” New Republic, October 16, 1995.

Editor’s note. This appeared at ClinicQuotes and is reposted with permission.