It seems that there is certain perception out there, that those who advocate for choice must be child-free, or even anti-children. That there is something counterintuitive about being a parent who is pro-choice. That, even more so, mothers – having carried our babies inside us and brought them into the world – should expect every woman to do the same with her own body.
This isn’t the case though. There are plenty of parents, of mothers, who feel the opposite. That having been pregnant, having given birth, having had first-hand experience of parenthood demonstrate to us how profoundly important choice is. Here are some of the reasons why we, as parents, are for choice.
Because we understand what it’s like to be pregnant and give birth. Every woman is different and pregnancy is different. I can’t speak for others, but my own was horrific and traumatising and to expect someone else to go through it against their will would be a violation of human rights. On the other hand, I had a routine childbirth, many women don’t. Many women experience birth injury and trauma which can affect them for years after their babies are born — sometimes as a result of the fact that women aren’t trusted to be the authority on their bodies during childbirth any more so than they are trusted during (or even before) pregnancy. Even for women who experience positive, uncomplicated pregnancies and births, it is still a deeply personal experience, because of the physical demands and changes experienced during and after pregnancy. Nobody has a right to make that decision for someone else.
Because we want the most for our children, we want them to have the world open to them, to achieve their potential and not be limited. There are things that will limit our children. Socio-economic barriers, the political and economic climate, uncontrollable circumstances such as illness, injury, natural disasters. There isn’t much we can do about these accept cope as best we can, do our best not to let them be a limit, to strive in the face of adversity. But an unexpected pregnancy, however it comes about, should not be something that limits our children when it comes to deciding who to become as adults. A unplanned pregnancy at a young age will not only impact education and career choices and possibilities, it also ties you to your child’s other parent, who might not be someone you want to be tied to as you grow older. And it’s unfair on a baby to be raised by unwilling parents who haven’t figured out their own lives yet, or to have their early years shaped by hardship that nobody was ready for, all because ‘mistakes should have consequences’ rather than because they were longed for by willing parents.
Because we want to provide for our children, be here for our children and give our children a good quality of life. It isn’t only young people, still in education or embarking on careers, who experience unplanned pregnancy. It can happen to those of us who are older, who have had a child, or children already, too. Maybe a family who are only just making ends meet, who are going through a difficult time – be mental illness, domestic abuse, infidelity, separation, a child with special needs, financial or housing difficulties, or just a very full plate – for whom another child is just not something they can cope with while still functioning, without having a negative impact on their existing family. Certain pregnancies, too, can be debilitating or high risk for the mother who wants to be able to care for her existing children.
Because we know just how tough parenthood is. Sometimes, no matter how tired you are, how sick you are, how grief stricken you are, how much work there is to be done, there is a little person who has to be taken care of first. It’s hard, and sometimes it is frustrating, but as a parent, you don’t really have a choice. Which is exactly why everyone should at least be allowed have the choice whether or not to go down that path in the first place.
The bottom line is that parenthood is a responsibility. It means raising a human being. It means putting that human being before yourself. Asking someone who is unwilling or unprepared to do so is not what is best for anyone.