In yesterday’s Globe and Mail, Leah McLaren wrote an article entitled Miscarriage: polite society’s last taboo. In the article, she asks the following:
We all know that miscarriages can be devastating. So why do we resist discussing them? Why do so many of us behave as if this common horror simply doesn’t exist?
And she provides two answers:
The answer, of course, is cultural shame….Miscarriages, like abortions and menstruation, are distinctly vagina-related, and that freaks us out.
Part of the problem, I think, is that people (particularly nice, educated, middle-class, pro-choice people) are not sure what to make of the death of a fetus. Legally speaking, a fetus isn’t really a person but a part of a woman’s body. But that doesn’t mean a miscarriage doesn’t feel like a death. When a wanted pregnancy ends, a world of desired possibility is destroyed. A doorway to an imagined future of laughter, music and silly dancing is slammed shut.
To address the second point, she relies strictly on the legal definition of human being, rather than the scientific and medical understanding (as found in medical textbooks) that new life starts at conception. When an abortion or a miscarriage happen, in both cases, it is a matter of death. Not just the death of a world of “desired possibility.” An actual death. Life ends. And when a life ends, mourning and family and societal support are correct and human responses.
Due to personal circumstances, I’ve had “worlds of desired possibilities” be “destroyed” or put on hold indefinitely. I needed to mourn that. It was tough. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I got counselors and good people to walk through that reality with me.
But that loss must be, and I can’t imagine it otherwise, very distinct from losing a son or daughter. I can’t compare or reconcile the two circumstances as being similar. To describe a miscarriage as the death of “desired possibilities” is dehumanizing and doesn’t assign the proper gravity and loss to what has just been experienced by the mother and her loved ones. A life was lost.
But if you’re going to rely on Canada’s pathetic legal definition of “human being,” as McLaren does, I guess that’s the only way to reason out the tragedy. Something that was part of the woman’s body was here but no longer is.
Miscarriage is tragic. Abortion is more tragic. And very tragic indeed is this flawed perspective on human life.by