“Was This an Intended Pregnancy?”



This is a story from my past, but I still think about it at times. It came to my mind again this week, the 44th anniversary of the passage of Roe v. Wade, and today when there was second women’s march in Washington DC.

I was 25 years old at the time, We were living in Ithaca, NY while Gary finished his dissertation. I started feeling nauseated and having other symptoms so I went to a doctor to see if I was pregnant. (Those were the days before home pregnancy tests were available, and since it was my first pregnancy, I didn’t really know the symptoms myself.)

Gary went to class, I went to the doctor. The test was positive. Instantly, my head started spinning, but there was also a little smile on my face. I sat on the examining table and the doctor looked at me and asked, “Was this an intended pregnancy?”

In my naiveté, I was confused by his question–I mean, why would he ask that? and really, was that any of his business?  Still not understanding his meaning. I mumbled, “Yes.”  A little later, I figured it out: he was asking me if I wanted an abortion.  Roe v. Wade had been passed five years prior.  Realizing what he meant by his question sent me into my first fit of Mother-Bear-ism to protect my baby.

I don’t really remember much of anti-abortion goings on in those early days. Maybe I was too stuck in my own world of college and being a missionary and getting married, etc. to notice. Honestly, it took years of thinking about it for me to fully formulate my own stance on the matter.

For many, it is a complicated matter involving science, morality, religion, law, social community, and probably lots of other things.  And even though I am a strong Christian believer, which makes me religious by definition, my own stance is based more on biology than religion.  I take the biologic “magic” that happens at the moment of conception to to be a scientific fact: a new set of DNA is formed that makes a unique human being–the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. A qualitative change happens at the moment of conception.  Before that moment no human being could be born and after that moment the process has begun such that one could be born. From that point on it is a matter of quantity–more cells develop, the cells specialize, etc., and then a human baby is born. So I base my anti-abortion stance on the biology of what happens at conception:  a human now exists and she deserves protection under the law of the state.

Yes, I know there are other things to talk about: is personhood the same as a complete set of human DNA? Does a fertilized egg have a soul? What about a pregnancy caused by rape or incest, etc., etc. I’ve thought about those issues too, over the years, but I always circle round to the what feels to me to be a bedrock fact:  a fertilized egg is not the same thing as a sperm and an egg and therefore, it needs to be respected for what it is.

Some times my sadness over the legality of abortion makes me think that the deciding factor in judging whether a fertilized egg/ zygote/ fetus/ tissue / baby is a human person (and therefore worthy of protection under the law) is simply want–that is, if the parents want it, then it is a human baby to be protected; if they don’t, it isn’t.  That is just too subjective for me.  But that is what Roe v. Wade allows–an unwanted “it” can/will/might be killed, but a wanted one won’t be.  As a society we need to find a better way to deal with unwanted “its” than to kill them.

I know that a repeal of Roe v. Wade would not end abortions.  But personally I want to live in a country where a fertilized egg is recognized as a person, and it is not ok, on principle, to intentionally murder a person.


Anyway, I’m glad Andrew was born, and the same for Rachel and David.  You were wanted but that is not what made you a person.


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