Second Sex #6: Choosing Choice


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by Meghan Scott

Okay, I've made my decision. I'm going to go out, get pregnant, and then have an abortion. I'm completely fed up with anti-choice activists trying to dictate morality and denigrating sexuality in the process.

There was just a major situation on the University of Texas campus; some national anti-choice group decided to put huge images of alleged aborted fetuses in a high-traffic area of the campus. Okay, it's been done before, just not on this scale; anti-choice groups often have posters and flyers on display. However, the group put the pictures outside of the customary "rally area" on campus, and the people who did it aren't even affiliated with UT. I saw one anti-choice demonstrator on television who said, "We don't know how many pregnant young women have walked by here and decided to keep their babies. If we just save one . . . "

Okay, so a baby is born from an inadvertently pregnant college girl. Then what? Anti-choicers often leave it at that; they're more concerned with the fetus than the child that results. The "saved" baby may end up bouncing from foster home to foster home, waiting for an adoptive family that will never materialize. (And lest someone allege that there are scads of families just dying to adopt, let me point out that these families usually want healthy white babies born to adults who had excellent prenatal care. Kids with the slightest flaw are far less likely to be adopted. In fact, the Austin paper runs adoption blurbs for kids the way they do for stray dogs and cats at the animal shelter.) Or maybe the "saved" baby will live its life with a mother who never wanted it in the first place, an absent father or a stepfather who resents the kid for not being his. Or maybe it will all work out peachy-keen. Seems like an awfully big risk.

I can't help but think that if their cause were stronger, they wouldn't have to resort to such drastic means in an attempt to win souls for their side. Shouldn't logic and information be the deciding factors, rather than giant gory posters designed to appeal to emotion and nothing else? I remember being at a pro-choice rally on campus when some man (not a student) showed up with a big poster. All I recall about the poster was that it was a bloody photo of a mangled blob, and that the creature in the photo had been dubbed "Malachi." The man decided that the best way to represent his cause was to scream frantically while the speakers addressed the crowd. Most ignored him. We stood with our signs blocking his; when he realized what we were doing, he shoved forward, elbowing me smack in the breast (hitting a fresh nipple piercing, so my bra filled with blood as I rallied). He also muttered, "Slut," at me under his breath. Gee, that sure makes me think well of their cause! A UT professor pointed out that the posters weren't meant to educate or inform, they don't appeal to logic . . . basically, against the very point of the University. The same professor commented that this is a very private issue (between the woman and her doctor), and they're dragging it into the public arena in the most vile and offensive manner possible.

In fact, I was very proud to see a student I mentored when I was an orientation adviser; she was shown on the news, standing by the exhibit and simply saying, "Why is this on campus?" But while it irritates me that the display was allowed up (thank you so much, UT administration), I think such tactics only make anti-choicers look demented and radical. It reflects badly on them. Some years ago there was a case where demonstrators beat a woman outside a clinic; the brutal assault caused her to lose the baby. Irony, irony. But that's another case where their tactics make them look completely insane, which only serves to help my cause.

Occasionally I catch a cheap little cable-access show out of Denton called "Life Dynamics." It's good for me to watch it; it reminds me what I'm up against. Then again, listening to them go on about drastic action to protect the blobs of tissue that are in utero makes me wish I could address them. You fools! You pathetic, naive fools! You bellow about closing down "death camps," you mewl about punishing "abortionists," you cry for legislation to outlaw reproductive choice. Perhaps you really do believe that would make abortion go away, that all pregnancies would be carried to term. Learn your history, my little innocents. There were a million abortions per year performed illegally before Roe v. Wade. Criminalizing abortion doesn't make it go away. It just makes it more dangerous.

Or is that what they want? Do they want abortions performed in back alleys with coat hangers, so the evil women who kill their babies will suffer and die? Not very Christian of them, methinks. Seems awfully spiteful. They think if women are going to be sexually active, they have to suffer consequences for their pleasure.

Women have fought for centuries to have control of our lives, and first and foremost in that is control over our bodies. If my body isn't my own, then what does that make me? It's my existentialist leanings talking here, but for me to be a person I have to have conscious choice and control over myself, and accept consequences for any choices I make. But when I am deprived of my choice, be it the choice to remain child-free, the choice to be sexually active, or the choice to make decisions about my own life, I am deprived of my humanity.

No woman should be penalized for her sexuality, which is what anti-choice forces advocate. They usually concede that in cases of rape or incest (where the woman gets no sexual pleasure), abortion is okay; but if the pregnancy occurs as a result of some wanton night of glorious earth-shaking sex, the woman must be a brood cow for nine months and a mother for eternity. I never understood how they could make that distinction. "Abortion is wrong, it's murder, it's hateful, it's terrible . . . except sometimes. It's killing a baby, but that's okay sometimes."

There's still that awful, outdated notion that a woman should have sex only for procreation purposes; it's bad enough when a woman has sex just for fun, but it's even worse if she terminates a consequential pregnancy. Men's sexuality has always been freer than women's, and this is just another case when women find themselves chained. Columnist Ellen Goodman described a legislator she knew who would end every sexuality-related speech with, "If you're gonna play, you're gonna pay." Regrettably, it's women who "pay" the most when unplanned pregnancy occurs. This burden compromises women's sexual freedom. Forgive me for pouting and grumbling about the unfairness of it all.

Anti-choice activists portray women who get abortions as hedonistic whores who only care about their own pleasure. (Notice that the activists themselves are always demure.) They allege that these women have numerous abortions, and in fact use it as their main method of birth control. Interesting characterization. They play off the old notion that good-girls-don't. It reminds me of the image of a small-town slut, a girl known for liking sex and who does it with all the boys in town; apocryphal tales about her always end with her ruination through her tragic flaw, lustiness. Nice, normal women who have sex and choose abortion somehow morph into crazed strumpets who are eternally chasing pleasure and wallowing in debauchery, no matter the cost.

I'm afraid that under the new Dubya regime, choice will be restricted if not totally eliminated, and it will have significant consequences on freedom of sexual expression. My thought is that rights will be gradually whittled away, starting with parental (or, god forbid) spousal notification, then parental or spousal consent, then restricting access, until finally the right to choose is completely hollow and devoid of meaning. And who knows how that will effect sexuality? My guess is that worrying about potential pregnancy with no other option will worry people and make them less comfortable having sex, even with protection. Perhaps we'll get lucky; perhaps Dubya will be so busy instituting mandatory capital punishment for shoplifters and jaywalkers, he won't get around to infringing on women's rights.

Okay, I won't get myself pregnant just so I can have an abortion; I hope nobody took that seriously. (Any angry letters I get, I'll be sure to share.) I'm quite happy that I have access to inexpensive and effective contraception to ensure that I won't find myself in that situation. I love being sexually active, and I'm not going to give up sex just because there's a slim chance that pregnancy might occur. But I know that if I ever were pregnant, I would have an abortion without feeling like a murderess or a sinner. I don't know how it would affect me, but it wouldn't make me a bad person. Just a responsible one. I'm not ashamed of being sexually active, and I will never apologize for my pleasure.


Meghan Scott is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked as an editrix, ghostwriter, professional stripper, and women's rights activist. Her causes include reproductive rights, comprehensive sexual education, and increasing tolerance for alternative lifestyles. She can be reached at meghan@bmeworld.com.

Second Sex is an ongoing series of essays about the intermingling of sexuality, politics, gender, psychology, feminism, and philosophy.


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