"I Don't Have a Choice"
A story in the New York Times abandons a woman's right to choose in favor of being pro-abortion.
by Lee Bockhorn
LAST SUNDAY, the New York Times Magazine published a remarkably chilling essay entitled "Family Planning." Penned by an anonymous father--let's call him Mr. X--it described his family's efforts to convince his pregnant 15-year-old daughter, against her own better instincts, to have an abortion.
Doubtless, the Times published it as a shining example of how families should persuade pregnant teens that abortion is preferable to bringing an "unwanted" child into the world. But in many respects, the essay actually serves as a damning rebuttal of arguments commonly made by true believers in abortion-on-demand.
According to Mr. X, his younger daughter has been a challenge for many years. Unlike his well-behaved eldest daughter, the young one "smokes cigarettes and marijuana and doesn't care who knows," among other things. Mr. X hypothesizes that this behavior is a response to some sort of identity crisis--in contrast to the goody-two-shoes older daughter, the 15-year-old "feels she has to carve out her own identity by doing what she pleases."
After learning she was pregnant, the girl said she wanted to keep the child, and promised she would be a good mother. In response to this, Mr. X and his wife "freaked, and not just because of our dashed aspirations for this girl. We were too old to want to raise another baby--and we felt sure the raising would fall to us."
The belligerent selfishness of this statement is nothing less than breathtaking. Upon hearing that their daughter, faced with the difficult circumstance of a teenage pregnancy, nevertheless courageously desired to raise her child, Mr. and Mrs. X couldn't bear to think about how to help her cope with the inevitable challenges ahead. Instead, they worried about what a royal pain in the ass the child would be for them. As Mr. X whines later in the essay, "We felt we had been sentenced to 18 years of hard labor."
Faced with this, then, as Mr. X goes on to describe, the family staged an "intervention," inviting 15 female relatives and friends to the house to exhort the girl to have an abortion. Having still failed to change her mind, Mr. and Mrs. X then took her to a counseling session at Planned Parenthood. When they returned home, the parents asked the daughter what she was going to do. "I don't have a choice," she replied. She went on to have the abortion.
With those five simple words, "I don't have a choice," "Family Planning" effectively exposes the sham of "women's autonomy" as an argument for unfettered abortion on demand. Mr. X sniffs at the parental consent laws of his "Bible-belt state," presumably because they infringe upon such autonomy--the ability of any woman, even a minor, to make her own decision about bringing a child into the world. But in fact, his real concern is not to protect such autonomy; otherwise, why expend so much effort convincing the girl that keeping the baby will place such an undue burden on all those around her? When the woman's autonomous choice proves inconvenient for others, suddenly their reservations demand recognition. Earlier, Mr. X stated with resignation that he no longer grounded his daughter to stop her pot-smoking, because she had realized that "there was no way we could forcibly make her do anything she didn't want to do." But this doubt about his parental ability (and obligation) to alter his daughter's bad choices flew out the window when it became necessary to force her to abandon her silly desire to have her baby.
After the abortion, Mr. X tells us, "I realized later that I would have more to worry about if she had easily and immediately decided on an abortion. Ultimately, she did, but she struggled with her decision, and I hope she made the right one."
It's difficult to know where to begin parsing these two sentences. First, they merely regurgitate the argument feminist author Naomi Wolf made some years ago: namely, that abortion is acceptable, provided that women who have abortions experience some vaguely defined type of contrition, regret, remorse, what have you--in other words, that they at least acknowledge they are taking a life.
But what's more astonishing is the father's statement, regarding his daughter's "decision," that he "hope[s] she made the right one" (if something resulting from such familial browbeating can truly be called a "decision"). Whence came such sudden moral uncertainty, Mr. X? By all the criteria he has presented in the article, of course she made the right decision. After all, she's not sentencing her poor parents to "18 years of hard labor."
The father concludes by telling us that he still has hope for this daughter; that one day, the good little girl he once knew, who as a 4-year-old held her best friend's hand until the very end as she died of cancer, will one day return. "I know that person is in there, and someday, when the fever [of adolescence] breaks, I pray that I'll see her again." If he wasn't so morally blind, Mr. X would have realized that he had already seen her again. The girl who wanted to raise her baby and promised to be a good mother was a person who-- apparently for the first time in many years--had recognized that some things are more important than just living for the sake of one's own pleasure or convenience; that sometimes our duties to others transcend the need to "carve out an identity" by "doing what one pleases." Too bad, both for her and the child she will now never know, that her parents haven't yet learned that lesson themselves.
Lee Bockhorn is associate editor at The Weekly Standard.