“A rant” from the very lovely Véronique Bergeron is not to be missed, I tell you. You know her because she used to be your favourite PWPL blogger before she up and joined the circus. Anyway, that’s what she called this piece as she sent it to me; I think it’s less rant, more impassioned advocacy for motherhood and pregnancy. Enjoy.
Ottawa-based readers of this blog – and possibly others – must be familiar with the story of Julie Bilotta, a young mother left to deliver her premature breech baby unattended in an Ottawa jail cell. Read about it from the CBC here and the National Post here.
Last week, a group of mothers gathered outside the office of Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correction Madeleine Meilleur. They demanded justice for Julie Bilotta and decried the inhumanity of her treatment at the hands of the healthcare providers employed by the prison where she was held. She said she was in labour. They probably thought she was pulling a fast one. A woman held on drug and fraud charges can fake anything right? Their first indication that she wasn’t making it up was when a foot came out. Oooops. And this is how an innocent baby boy was born, unattended, on the floor, in the hand of what must have been an utterly panicked mother. They were immediately separated and kept away from each other. Some say that’s what she deserved, but what about her son?
I know about this mothers’ protest because I rub shoulders online with a few organizers, some promoters and many attendees. They are my Facebook Friends from the natural birth/crunchy motherhood community. Like me they give birth at home, like to wear their babies in carriers instead of using swings and strollers, sleep with their babies, breastfeed for a couple of years, don’t let their babies cry it out. Unlike me they are left-wing, politically correct, and militantly pro-choice.
They are the diehards who picket the March For Life, spam their MP’s office with post cards showing a uterus, they march on Parliament Hill whenever a Private Members’ Bill threatens “women’s right to choose” whether it does or not. They shoot first, read the fine print later, when they don’t believe reading the fine print on abortion is below them. They can’t believe that we are still talking about this because wasn’t the Supreme Court clear in Morgentaler??
They are birth attendants, doulas, childbirth educators, lactation counsellors and sometimes midwives. They consistently demand freedom of choice in childbirth, including the right to birth at home and to turn down invasive procedures in hospital. They strongly believe that pregnancy, labour, childbirth and breastfeeding empower women and that a strong mother-and-child relationship is the corner stone of strong caring societies. But while I truly enjoy our shared vision on the miracle of childbirth, they make me squirm.
If I could engage on abortion on Facebook – I don’t for personal reasons – I would ask them how the human fetus and gestation can be both awe-inspiring and disposable. And they would look at me like I’m cute and say it’s easy, it’s about choice. The fetus that is chosen is valuable; the fetus that is not chosen is disposable. The fetus holds no ethical or legal value; its value rests solely on the choice of its mother. Whereas I believe the fetus to be tangible, unaltered by law or choice, their ethical framework hinges on choice and human emotion. That’s why there is no abortion too repugnant; no motive too unconscionable, and no consequence too irrelevant: there is only choice to be or choice not to be. Whereas I believe that human rights such as the right to life and security are function of our inherent value as human beings regardless of age, ability or opinion, their understanding of human rights pivots on two fictions, the moral fiction of free choice and the legal fiction of the “born-alive” rule. This is why they jump so easily to oppose any change to the legal definition of human being: their entire moral understanding of abortion rests on something imminently fickle and changeable, political will and the mood of the moment. And so they live somewhat happily in their fictional moral world and call people like me “fetus worshippers” and “superstitious” like I’m the one who is using magical thinking to justify my pro-life position.
And yet, moral murkiness aside, they are the ones demanding justice and dignity for a labouring woman and her newborn baby. And where were the pro-lifers? I didn’t get any invitation to decry this First World abomination from my conservative friends.
Bear with me: it matters. If we are going to change hearts and minds about abortion, we need to celebrate the value of motherhood and pregnancy. We need to stand-up for the dignity of the labouring woman, for the baby’s right to his mother’s milk or at the very least, her comforting presence. She may be a fraudster and a drug peddler but to her son, she is everything. And there is immense potential for healing and growth in the needy presence of a newborn in its mother’s life. If we are to turn the tides on adoption as a substitute for abortion, in a world where women are increasingly infertile at an increasingly young age, we need to make pregnancy and childbirth matter. We need to make them an asset to womanhood as opposed to a tar. Let’s not blame pro-choicers for ignoring that we were all fetuses once when we too often forget that fetuses have a life after the uterus. Let’s not be complicit in the devaluation of motherhood. Enough babies have died already.