By Dave Andrusko
Deborah Copaken’s story in the Atlantic this week—“Three Children, Two abortions”–is difficult to read for obvious and not so obvious reasons.
The entire 2,334 word-long post is to support the subhead’s defiant conclusion: “What a woman chooses to do with her body should not be up for debate in 2018.” What a woman
Which means (whoever is reading her piece) that it’s not a question whether her decision to abort two of her five babies was good, wise, or thoughtful. It was her decision to make, and (as her last two sentences declare) “choosing an embryo over the life of a woman,” is, “to put it succinctly, anti-woman.”
When she’s aborting baby #1 (when she was 17), she tell us that “adoption—for you, personally—is out of the question. The pain of handing over your child to another person would, you know, become a lifetime of ‘Little Green’ sorrow.”
“Little Green” is a song written many years ago by Joni Mitchell’s for a 1971 album titled, “Blue.” It’s a song about the baby she allowed another family to adopt. I’m pretty sure Copaken doesn’t know the “rest of the story,” otherwise she’d likely have chosen another illusion.
In 1997 Mitchell was reunited with her daughter whom she had named Kelly and whom she had tried to find for several years. Life, not death, had won out.
Later, pregnant for the fourth time, Copaken is seriously contemplating another abortion. Her marriage, apparently often rocky at the best of times, is “teetering, imbalanced.”
She sees the baby on an ultrasound and is annoyed that “the ultrasound technicians and medical students ooh and aah over the image on the screen.” Copaken tells us that she’d been take oral Lamisil “ to combat a toenail fungus for the past week” and it “is contraindicated for pregnancy.”
That seals it for you. You would never knowingly bring a baby into the world who had possible deformations and disabilities from the start, never mind everything else going on at home. Your hideous, embarrassing toenail fungus has, in a sense, saved you from having to make a more difficult choice this time, but even if it hadn’t, you realize, you would still not choose to gestate this embryo.
Her fifth pregnancy, and the third child brought to term, “is now 12 years old, the family disco ball.”
He was born on the brink of his older siblings’ adolescence, tempering their drama-fueled needs with his real ones. He’s full of joy and music and light and love. He likes to dye his hair blue and play the ukulele. When his dad moved across the country for two and a half years on the day after your 20th wedding anniversary, and the marriage broke up—it was always going to break up; this should have been clear, in retrospect, two decades earlier, for reasons having nothing to do with the kids—your unplanned but very- much- wanted child’s smile was a balm and a beacon of light during a dark time.
Two pregnancies were planned and both were delivered. Three were unplanned and two were aborted.
Copaken chooses not to reflect on the importance of the unplanned “family disco ball” to her and (speculating here) to his siblings. She concludes
My youngest was not planned. But he was chosen—I want him to know—with love, optimism, and hope, just as the terminations of the two other unplanned pregnancies were also chosen.
Copaken tells us, she was “glad” that she had “chosen to gestate him to term.”
“Chosen to gestate him to term.” Not much can be added to that.