But let’s deal with the attempt to get around women’s basic human rights by appealing to the egotistical assumption that your own birth was inevitable, and that the only thing that could have threatened this inevitable trot to you existing was the legality of abortion. “How would you like it if your mother had an abortion?” ask the anti-choicers, without realizing that’s like asking, “How would you like it if the night you were conceived, your dad decided to go to bed early while your mom stayed up to watch Johnny Carson?” The answer is, you wouldn’t be here to regret their selfish actions in the abortion or late show department.
It’s a trick of the brain that makes us think this question has any meaning. We don’t remember a time when we didn’t exist, and for the slower-witted amongst us, this means that not existing isn’t quite real. But even anti-choicers who buy into this line have to know there was a period before their lives began. They may not feel it’s true, but they know it intellectually. In fact, the question buys into the premise that we accept that our own “not-existing” was possible, because the question assumes that before you were born, your mother had the choice not to have you. The question therefore folds in on itself in a vacuum of self-contradiction.
To ask it is to ignore the fact that any of us exist by pure chance, and that many things could have changed it so we weren’t here. What if your parents never met at all? I probably wouldn’t be here for something as simple as my grandparents moving to a different neighborhood in El Paso than the one they lived in. That’s how my mother met my father, after all, but if she’d lived on the west side instead of the east side, they probably wouldn’t have met at all. It is, after all, a big city. Does that make settling in one neighborhood and not the other immoral, and if so, how do you know which is the moral neighborhood? What if my grandmother’s first husband hadn’t died in the war? I wouldn’t be here; that doesn’t mean that we should think wars are some great thing because they set in motion series of events that lead to certain births. Truth is they also shut down another range of possibilities; think of all the children that man could have had and didn’t.
Some of us are here today because of abortion and birth control. Many women tell the story of the abortion that they had to have because the time wasn’t right for a baby, but it led them on a path that made having a baby possible in the future. The writer Susie Bright is a good example. She wrote:
In the case of my first abortion, the aftermath was the beginning of my realization that I was capable and desirous of having a child. I could feel the possibility, the confidence, for the first time. I didn't see that coming. I ended a relationship that I hadn't had the guts to say "No" to before. It was like I grew a spine— and my maternal instincts— out of the abortion decision. She now writes a column at Jezebel with her grown daughter Aretha, a daughter that might not exist if it weren’t for legal and safe abortion.
Contraception and abortion (to an extent) allow birth spacing, which reduces the chances of having an unhealthy baby or having an infant die. It also improves maternal health, which means that getting pregnant frequently increases the chance of miscarriage. Abortion and contraception play a role in creating not just life, but strong, healthy life, and the medical community knows it even if anti-choicers don’t.
But at its base, the “What if you were aborted?” question employs a model of reproduction that has no basis in biological reality. Anti-choicers treat the whole process of reproduction as if getting pregnant is a rare and precious event, like finding a giant lump of gold in your backyard, and as if nature was stingy about attempts to create life. If this was true, they might have more of a reason to get offended at attempts to control when you give birth. But outside of those people who suffer from infertility (in which case, they have every reason to grab onto every chance at childbirth that comes along), the biological fact of the matter is that our reproductive systems are all about waste, all about killing billions in order to have the few that have the best shot.
Using abortion and contraception to make sure that you can give the few children you do have the best possible life fits neatly in with the way biology does it. Men make enough sperm in a week to populate the planet; women are born with almost half a million eggs. Many eggs that are fertilized never even implant, and even when pregnancy happens, 15 to 20 percent miscarry. Nature throws a lot at reproduction, with the purpose of only having a few healthy babies as the final outcome. This creates a lot of “what ifs” that never come to fruition, and obsessing over what if too long will drive you mad. On any given day, there are billions of theoretical babies never born for the thousands that are born. In the grand scheme of things, abortion doesn’t even shut down that many doors as it opens new ones.