An Unjust Cheap Justice
To dodge the responsibility of bearing life because it may not turn out as we intended holds grave consequences for all involved.
A slew of recent articles attempt to highlight the pitfalls and dangers of pregnancy in a post-Roe America. The New York Times in particular has taken multiple opportunities to elucidate what they see as the tragedies of pregnancies gone wrong, showcasing the difficult decisions now faced by “pregnant people” in the United States.
A close reading of these examples shows an ugly underbelly to this supposed sympathy. Instead of demonstrating that the end of Roe presents considerable risk to pregnant women, recent reporting on high-risk pregnancies only showcases our country’s hate of disabled people and disrespect of women’s unique ability to nurture life in the womb.
In one such piece, a mother mourns that the end of Roe means she will “carry this baby just to bury it,” as she faces the future with a baby diagnosed in utero with acrania, a fatal birth defect. She is unable to procure an abortion in her home state. If you research acrania, the prognosis is indeed dire. Images of babies with acrania are difficult to look at, but all I feel seeing pictures of those small ones is a rush of compassion, and the knowledge that they are not mistakes, but greatly loved.
Could it be that our country’s perspective on babies with fatal birth defects is only a dim picture of reality? Perhaps now we see through a glass darkly, especially when we behold the difficult images of babies with birth defects.
I, too, have carried a baby thinking I will bury it. This is not a unique experience. An uncomplicated pregnancy and easy birth are not guaranteed, as our ancestors well knew. We do not have children because they are healthy accessories that fit our lifestyle, but because the union of a man and woman has an awe-inspiring telos. Through sexual union, man and wife create something most precious, regardless of the health of the child.
A womb has the power to carry life—to birth, but perhaps to death. The possibility that a baby may die in utero or shortly thereafter does not invalidate the process of pregnancy or require a termination, rather it requires a surrender to nature taking its course. Life has a high cost. To dodge the responsibility of bearing life because it may not turn out as we intended holds grave consequences for all involved.
In another recent piece, the Times highlights a horrific account of a young girl sexually abused by a male babysitter decades ago. The girl became pregnant at age 11, and recounts her experience in a chilling narrative; undiscovered by adults, this teenage abuser raped this young girl until she became pregnant. The author says something very true, recounting the horrors of her abuse. She explains that her abuse made her “a prisoner subject to a body’s whims — and not my body’s whims, but the whims of a teenage boy who, as best I can tell, experienced no consequences for inflicting what his body wanted upon my own.”
This is a true explanation of gross injustice—a stronger person’s desires exercised over a weaker one, to their detriment and harm, with no consequence to themselves. The horrible irony of this narrative is two-fold. One, the girl’s mother takes her straight to the abortion clinic once her pregnancy is discovered. This also is a stronger person asserting their will over someone smaller and weaker, to their detriment. Two, the final, highest cost of the crime of this sexual assault is passed down to the smallest and most expendable person, the unborn baby. What this woman says about her own body under the tyranny of the teenage abuser could also now be said about her, as her own body became a tomb, her baby “a prisoner subject to a body’s whims.”
The version of justice promulgated through common media narratives about abortion is a cheap reproduction of true justice. Cheap justice passes the high cost of crimes to the most forgettable and expendable party, swept under the rug. True justice vindicates the innocent and serves retribution to the truly guilty party.
Whether conceived through a crime like rape, or the result of an unexplainable course of nature ending in fatal birth defects, a baby can indeed be a source of great pain. I write this sitting beside my own son, miraculously still alive despite a fatal prognosis in utero confirmed at birth. David is in some sense a medical miracle, but he is also proof that we know little of life and its mysteries.
As a mother, my unique burden is to be a source of justice to my children. I cannot control the actions of others taken against me or my children, but I can stop the buck in a sense with my own body. While men historically have been called to make great sacrifices on the battlefield, women have been crafted with a unique ability to use their own body most intimately in service of another.
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A story of the Holocaust sticks with me, although I can’t recount the source. A woman imprisoned in a concentration camp bears a child, and hides the baby for several months before discovery. Once discovered, the baby is mercilessly killed. The woman gathers the lifeless body of her child in her arms and joins her baby in death in the crematorium.
This is not a grand, sweeping battlefield narrative complete with the glory of what Bonaparte called a “good death” as he looked upon the wounded Prince Andrei in War and Peace, who lay carrying the standard after a terrible battle and a courageous charge. This instead is the unique responsibility of a woman, called to quietly give her life without fanfare in service of another, the weakest and smallest of them all.
There is no glory in carrying a baby just to bury it, but there is justice. That is a holy and honorable act, entitled to me as a womanly birthright, one the abortionists and their supporters will have to remove from me with my very life, before they have access to the life I bear.