A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Not as Fragile as Amy Richards Thinks

Michelle Malkin has been following the story of Amy Richards, a feminist and pro-choice activist who recently aborted two of her three triplet fetuses with a procedure called selective reduction. Ms. Richards has given lots of reasons for her decision, including health concerns, worries about her ability to financially provide for three children, and the almost total loss of freedom she'd experience during and after the pregnancy. Her latest addition to this litany of excuses concerns her "reason" (I've never used that term so loosely in my life) for not choosing adoption over abortion. I find it the least convincing by far:

"...I personally believe that the long term physological impact on my child would be more negative if he knew that he had "siblings" out there whom he didn't know."

Now, before I get into this let me say that on the subject of abortion I am of two minds: Politically I lean towards the pro-choice position, but personally my stance tends to be more pro-life. I do not think abortion should be illegal, nor do I believe it is unilaterally immoral. However, I do think that it is unethical to use abortion as a form of birth control, and I would not want a child of mine aborted unless there was a serious deformity or carrying it to term would endanger its mother's life.

I suppose I see abortion as a medical procedure that should be used only as a last resort, when not using it would result in significant risk and suffering. But I also believe that I have no right to force others to live by my personal ethics, so if some women want to use it in ways that I find questionable that's their business. Until the fetus is old enough to live on its own - which occurs early in the third trimester - it is essentially part of its mother's body and should be treated as such (what to do with people who want abortions after that point is another debate entirely).

Now, with all that said, let's get back to adoption and the "psychological impact" of having siblings who you don't know.

I'm adopted. Two of my cousins are adopted, too, as are several of my best friends and more acquaintances than I care to count. All of us live with the knowledge that there are people out there who are related to us - a mother and father at least, if not brothers, sisters, and cousins - every day. But I can tell Amy Richards with absolute certainty that the vast majority of us don't think about it all that much. Our parents are the people who raised us, and our siblings are the people who grew up with us. Rare as hen's teeth are the adoptees who lay awake into the wee hours fretting over the possibility of unknown brothers and sisters. The term psychological impact simply does not describe the experience; mild curiosity or even near apathy are closer to the mark. For me this is not a guess or an abstract opinion - I know.

It is apparent what Amy Richards is doing here: She's making what she hopes are reasonable-sounding excuses for aborting two of her three triplets. Most of the ones she made previously are trumped by the simple notion of putting the second and third up for adoption, so she had to come up with this latest nonsense in order to shoot down that option as well. I suspect the real reason she had the selective reduction procedure is a mixture of selfishness and politics; selfish rejection of the (admittedly considerable) burden of carrying triplets while simultaneously making a pro-choice political statement. It makes her an icon of extreme feminism, a heroine for those who love to thumb their noses at anyone who says abortion isn't always the answer to unwanted pregnancy.

Arguing that you've chosen abortion over adoption because having unknown siblings causes some mysterious "psychological impact" is downright laughable. I mean just ludicrous. So ludicrous that it makes Ms. Richards' ulterior motives all the more transparent. And while I'm not willing to pass laws preventing her or anyone else from having selective reduction, I am perfectly comfortable condemning her on a personal level: You are a fringe extremist, Ms. Richards, and a purveyor of weak and foolish excuses. In the name of your own temporary comfort you've passed up a chance to bring two new lives into the world and give untold joy to a childless couple. Worst of all, you were all too happy to use that potential gift - and your own body as well - to instead make a self-aggrandizing political statement.

Richards was within her rights to have the selective reduction procedure, and I'll stand up to protect such rights because I firmly believe they have their value (and also that laws which seek to regulate sex and reproduction are deeply immoral). But personally I think she is a selfish, creepy, deceptive fanatic and I'm quite happy that I'm not burdened with knowing her any better than news articles allow.