She spoke in a soft voice, this stout black woman in the next chair.
Mother of 11, she had agreed to be interviewed for a fundraising video that I was asked to help produce, years ago, for a crisis pregnancy center. She told me she had undergone six abortions and also gave birth to five children alive–thus the total of 11. Government social workers in Philadelphia had directed her to a town in Central Pennsylvania, because, they said, it was easier to get assistance there. Social workers in that town had passed her on to my town.
I asked her if she was alone among her Philly friends in having multiple abortions.
“No,” she said, there were others.
I asked if she and her friends ever talked about the abortions. She said they did. I was trying hard to let her tell the story, and to avoid reacting, or imposing my own views on the conversation. (I’m paraphrasing here from a memory that may never leave me.)
“When you talked, what kind of things did you talk about?” I asked her.
Her face was placid, her voice, matter of fact.
“O, well, like if he was ugly,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I thought I knew, but I wanted her to say it. She said she meant what I thought she meant. They talked about whether the father of the baby was ugly. In case I was as dense as I seemed to be, she added that nobody wants to have an ugly guy’s baby.
“What else did you talk about?”
“Like, where am I gonna get the money?” At that time, she said, they needed about $200 for an abortion.
I was really fishing here, but I couldn’t get her to say what I thought was the obvious topic when it comes to abortion. I finally asked.
“Did you ever talk about whether it was right or wrong, or anything like that?”
She squinted at me like I had asked her to solve a quadratic equation, or had suddenly begun babbling in Urdu. The question made no sense to her.
“No,” she said, and I imagined she wanted to add, “How would that ever come up?”
That conversation came back to me recently when I read an op-ed in the Washington Post, headlined “Stop Calling Abortion a Difficult Decision.” The author, Janet Harris, is the former communications director for Emily’s List, a PAC that supports female pro-abortion Democratic candidates for office. No, I didn’t mean to write “pro-choice,” because it’s clear from this article that Janet Harris views abortion-on-demand as a positive, healthy alternative to a life ruined by an unwanted child. In fact, she’s trying to help her friends in the movement get away from the term “pro-choice” with its awkward moral dimension.