“Abortion Involves Killing–and That’s OK!” says Sophie Lewis
By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This first ran on June 27, 2022 and was one that garnered many responses.
At turning point moments like this, with Roe just having been overturned, how the other side feels—and what it really believes—is revealed in all its ugliness. I will never, ever forget the women who paraded, dripping in fake blood, with baby dolls protruding from their wombs to mimic abortion.
If I hadn’t seen the former, I’m not sure I would have believed the latter—that anyone could be this demented, this cruel, this in love with killing. Early in her essay, Lewis writes
Furthermore, if the labor of pregnancy is productive of life, then interrupting that labor is—logically speaking—productive of death. Rather than shy away from this, I believe we should embrace it as part of an effort to give gestating the respect it deserves. In the intervening years since publishing my book, I have received dozens of reports of women who experienced the ideas in it as deeply salutary during pregnancy. Strangers have sent me photos of Full Surrogacy Now lying face-down in maternity wards. By the same token, I had drawn on heterodox pregnancy memoirs to bolster my claims.
Lewis quotes Maggie Nelson who, in 2015, had written “Never in my life have I felt more prochoice than when I was pregnant.”
I agree with Nelson. There is something infantilizing about denying the fact that embryos die when we scrape them out of the bodies of which they are a part. It sentimentalizes pregnant or potentially pregnant humans as fundamentally nonviolent creatures to imply that we can’t handle the truth about what we are up to when we opt out. And it patronizes abortion-getters to insist that we are only making a health care choice, rather than (also) extinguishing a future child. In my view, recognizing that gestating manufactures a proto-person requires acknowledging that abortion kills a proto-person. A baby is completely dependent on human care in order to stay alive, but its needs could be filled by any person—whereas a fetus, a proto-person, is ineluctably dependent on specific person.
[The essay is filled with this “proto-person” like language. See below.]
Having next disposed of the “euphemistic, apologetic, placatory ‘pro-choice” strategy, which has not worked thus far, Lewis asks, “Why not risk coming out for what we actually want, namely, abortion—a clearly documented public good? …. Rather than cleave in desperation to the rearguard missions of defending the rights (to privacy, rather than abortion) enshrined in Roe v. Wade, we could consider this moment a chance to reset the terms on which abortion is fought. ”
If possible, her op-ed goes downhill from there.
What would it mean to acknowledge that a death is involved in an abortion? Above all, it would allow for a fairer fight against the proponents of forced gestating. When “pro-life” forces agitate against feticide on the basis that it is killing, pro-abortion feminists should be able to acknowledge, without shame, that yes, of course it is. When we withdraw from gestating, we stop the life of the product of our gestational labor. And it’s a good thing we do, too, for otherwise the world would sag under the weight of forced life. It is a hard pill to swallow for a misogynist society, sentimentally attached to its ideology of patriarchal motherhood, but the truth is that gestators should get to decide which bodies to give form to. This choosing is our prerogative. A desire not to be pregnant is sufficient reason in and of itself to terminate a gestatee.
“Withdraw from gestating”; “stop the life of the product of our gestational labor”; “forced life”; “gestatee”; “patriarchal motherhood,” and so on. For someone who prides herself on a willingness to admit abortion is killing, she evades what she is really doing to another real human being by hiding in Women Studies Speak.
Vespa concludes his critique by writing “I fail to see a reasonable argument for protecting the most vulnerable in society, our children via a variety of laws regarding rape, abuse, child pornography, and trafficking but stopping short of extending such legal protections while those children are in utero.”
That’s because there isn’t any.