Decades ago, an acquaintance gave birth to a son I will call Sam. Despite his handsome appearance, Sam suffered from multiple challenges: he was blind, deaf, mute, and incapable of walking or of self-care, and he lacked any brain activity or emotional connections. Sam spent his life—which lasted into adolescence—in a wheelchair, oblivious to the hours, dedication, and money his supportive parents spent on him. While I know that his three siblings felt sadness for Sam, they also demonstrated signs of resentment, because the attention he needed deprived them of much-desired one-on-one interactions with their parents.
Sam’s exit from this world was a time more of relief than of grief; he was at peace, and his family also experienced inner peace and could move forward with a newfound sense of freedom.
I do not know whether Sam’s parents knew about his condition before he was born. I do not know whether they considered abortion (Roe v. Wade was the law of the country when Sam was conceived) or whether they were determined to do their best raising a child who would never know them.
What I do know for certain is that if I had been told when I was pregnant that the child I was carrying would exist in a vegetative state, I would have chosen abortion—to protect the child from a meaningless life and, honestly, to protect myself from the pain of raising such a child.
Thankfully, I gave birth to two healthy children. I have never had an abortion or felt the need to contemplate getting one. In fact, I am not aware that anyone I know has ever had to make that difficult decision. And while I am not 100% pro-abortion, I am 200% pro-choice. Having been born in 1947, I have spent most of my life in a country that gave me the ability to choose. I raised my daughter knowing that the government granted her access to a safe, legal abortion.
Now, however, my beloved great-niece, age sixteen, will live her life without that guarantee. I have not discussed the issue with her or her parents, but I do believe that she deserves the ability to choose what happens to her body; that choice does not belong in the hands of states—or courts—that care more about politics than about people.
All of us women have lost the power to choose—and that is a step backward in terms of female equality and freedom.
Ronna L. Edelstein