Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How the Abortion Debate Lies to Women about What Pregnancy Means

Yesterday Mississippi rejected the idea that a fertilized egg is a person. Today there are so many blogs and news articles talking about how the amendment was a terrible idea, outlawing many kinds of birth control, invitro fertilization, life-saving medical treatment for miscarrying women or women pregnant with tubal pregnancies in addition to the hot button abortion issue.

But I'd like to look at how the whole idea that egg+sperm=baby is a hurtful lie. I know this, because since I was a teenager I've been interested in the abortion debate. I read lots on how one should treat egg+sperm, but not if egg+sperm is different from egg+sperm+uterine lining, and definitely not that egg+sperm does not equal baby A LOT of the time. That's why it's the miracle of life, folks. And it took a really sucky experience to teach me that the abortion debate had given me unrealistic expectations about what egg+sperm would mean in my life.

In 2007, I was trying to get pregnant. I was peeing on tests all the time. I was able to detect a pregnancy that had been incredibly brief, occuring, for some reason, somehow I still don't understand, between two menstrual cycles. I saw the line on the stick, thought, yay! Egg+sperm+uterine lining=baby! I bought boxes of baby clothes and I crocheted two baby blankets in the two weeks it took me to go from positive pregnancy test to next period. And at the hospital, they told me blood test showed that I had no HcG in my system. I hadn't been pregnant for about two weeks.

I was shocked, I was devastated. But egg+sperm+uterine lining =baby?!

No.

"Even taking birth control out of the equation, however, does not ensure that implantation will occur successfully, resulting in a natural abortion of sorts. In a 1988 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, sexually active women took daily urine tests to measure for traces of hormones that indicate fertilization. The study found that about 25 percent of fertilized eggs failed to survive past six weeks — so early that most of the women had no idea they had conceived. About 95 percent of the participants who lost pregnancies before they knew they had conceived were reproductively healthy and went on to have successful pregnancies within the next two years."

This is part of it, folks. And these are the eggs+sperm that make it to the uterine lining and set up housekeeping there. It is medically impossible to know how many fertilized eggs do not become pregnancies, not even these stealth pregnancies that end before women even know they are pregnant, much less those pregnancies (25%) that end well after a woman knows she's pregnant.

Finding this out the hard way, feeling duped in some ways by my body and my expectations for it, was not fun. I wrote Broken Plums on the Sidewalk about how difficult it was to pack up the baby clothes and the blankets and not have much to show for my experience but an old, cold maxim: "Don't count your chickens before they've hatched."

There's a lot to say about the Personhood Ammendment, but the thing I have to say, is that in my personal experience, equating a fertilized egg with a person is a heartbreaking fallacy. What makes the "miracle of life" a miracle is that so much biologically has to be overcome--and does, to the tune of a bazillion babies every day. But not every single fertilized egg. Not every single pregnancy.

A lot less than you'd think, actually.

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