Valley Voices

Sandra L. Archer: My family planning carries no remorse or guilt

Why is it there are so few pro-choice letters to the editor compared to those that espouse the pro-life position? It’s because we’re concerned that pro-lifers will no longer be pro our particular lives. However, after reading a recent Valley Voices piece on the topic by Andrea Figueroa Briseño on Jan. 2, I’ve decided to be brave.

I had an abortion 50 years ago. I, like Briseño, was 19 years old.

Although I did eventually marry the other responsible party, at the time I was in no position to be married or have a child. At times I’ve wondered how my life would have been had I chosen differently, but I have no remorse or guilt.

Perhaps my words may provide some solace to Briseño, who wrote, “Why I regret swallowing the abortion pill.”

I’m including my beliefs, opinions and scientific information here. To think critically, it’s important to have accurate information before forming conclusions, and it seems that many people are not aware of facts relevant to the issue. My opinions here refer to first- and second-trimester abortions only.

I believe in God, in the sanctity of life, and that the creation of new life is a miraculous thing. I believe it’s wrong to kill other human beings. My career has included experience in child-abuse prevention, intervention and treatment. So with these beliefs and experience, how is it that I’m not a “pro-lifer”?

Let me explain. The argument goes like this: “It’s immoral to kill a baby,” vs. “Women have the right to choose.” Do pro-choice supporters promote the killing of babies? Of course not. As someone who is passionate about preventing child abuse, I certainly understand the moral imperative to stop “killing babies.”

Human embryos and fetuses (the term “fetus” is used at about nine weeks gestation) are not babies. Yes, they have the potential to be human babies, but they are not, in fact, babies.

Are these potential human beings, these globules of cells, worthy of being treated as sacrosanct? The pro-life position is that the newly formed embryo is divinely created, sacred and therefore not to be violated.

If each fertilized egg is sacred, how is it that as many as 50 percent of these “sacred” cells are allowed to self-destruct? That’s right: Scientific research indicates that 30 to 50 percent of all conceptions spontaneously abort (end in miscarriage).

Basic defects in the cells – often chromosomal abnormalities – are largely responsible for spontaneous abortions in the first trimester (later-term miscarriage factors are more complex), and can even occur before one is aware of the pregnancy. Nature (or God) has a way of ensuring increased odds of survival.

Is not a welcoming family and caretakers who can provide the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, love, attention, nurturing, even a car seat) for the baby just as essential as genetically sound biological health in the embryo/fetus? Such welcoming and care are not what usually greets the unwanted (or wanted-for-all-the-wrong-reasons) child. I witnessed that in my work with abused children.

Another fact: In spite of a detectable heartbeat in the fetus early in pregnancy, the heart won’t be fully formed until about the end of 12 weeks gestation. There’s often an emotional reaction to the sound of a heartbeat, but its presence does not signal the existence of viable or conscious life. It’s not known for sure when brain life begins, but brain structures and functions that can support consciousness do not start to form until around six months gestation.

One would think that unplanned and unprepared-for pregnancies would be a thing of the past – after all, unlike 50 years ago, modern-day medicine provides a plethora of contraceptive measures available to just about everyone. (Let’s not forget the choice to abstain.) But sadly, no.

The pro-life, pro-choice argument has been far too simplistic and rancorous for too long. Verbal and physical violence accomplish nothing. It’s time to find common ground, to educate ourselves and to work together to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which do take their toll in many ways.

Sandra L. Archer of Coarsegold is a retired marriage and family therapist.