Letters to women getting abortions

Dear Dad,

I’ve seen this letter floating around social media lately, maybe you have too. It’s by blogger Matt Walsh, and is a letter penned to a woman who wrote about her upcoming abortion. Walsh makes a plea on his own blog to share the post from The Blaze (DoNotLink), which begs the woman not to go through with the procedure.

When I first read the letter, it made me angry, then it made me laugh, then it made me sad. As I took some distance from it, I thought about how it embodies a lot of the pro-life ideas I was taught growing up, and how I respond to those same ideas now. It seemed fitting to dissect the letter here.

First, it doesn’t start out on very good footing. Walsh begins by calling the writer’s motives into question, and even questioning the veracity of the letter:

I can’t be sure that you even exist or that your letter was sincere. This could be some kind of sick joke. You could be a pro-choice propagandist, fabricating another story to help get rid of the ‘taboo’ surrounding infanticide. I don’t know. But I’m going to assume, right now, that this is all legitimate. I’m going to speak to you like you are real, like you are really planning to do this, because whether you are or not, everything I’ll say to you also applies to any woman in the same position.

Already, Walsh’s letter was a little off-putting to me. To write a letter that you claim is to help a woman in need, and accuse her of lying at the beginning? I can’t say I went into this letter with very much respect for the Walsh.

This beginning also serves to delegitimize the woman’s own writing about her abortion, which he then quotes. Even before you have a chance to read her post, Walsh has planted the seeds of doubt.

He also says that Reddit mods are deleting any responses to the original post that don’t congratulate the woman. I have no evidence of this, and Walsh doesn’t provide any either. It should be also pointed out that Reddit organizes responses to posts by popularity, so if his critique of this woman’s decision wasn’t popular, you’d have to slog through a lot of responses to find it at the bottom.

On to the original post: The woman writes it to her potential child. She says she can feel that she is pregnant now, but isn’t ready to be a mother. She wants to provide the best life possible for her child, she says, but she’s not ready for that now. She has thought this decision over carefully, weighed the consequences, and knows that it’s not the right time for her to have a baby now. The letter is fairly poetic and moving, and I appreciated it.

Walsh says that he can tell that she’s unhappy, though:

I felt the sadness and hesitation in your words. The fact that you published it in the first place proves that you are not completely sure about what you are planning to do. I think you want to be talked up or talked down. You want to hear what people have to say about it, which is the only reason anyone ever posts personal things on the internet.

This part seemed kind of ironic to me. Here is Walsh, talking about how the only reason people publish things on the Internet is to get advice, and he’s publishing a personal letter. Maybe he wants to be talked down.

It never occurs to him that people also write to record events, or to persuade others? (It does, since he’s already accused the writer of making “propaganda.”) People write and publish things for many reasons. I’ve written about very personal issues, including my body image and maintenance. I wasn’t looking for people to convince me to shave again, or tell me to lose weight. I was sharing my story so that hopefully other women would know they don’t have to fit into a tiny box of what is perceived acceptable.

Walsh is bringing a lot of his own assumptions to this letter, telling us much more about his own feelings than the woman’s.

He goes on to talk about the woman’s child, and how precious it is. This is the center of pro-life discourse: The babies. The children.

Who am I to say this to you? Nobody, really. I’m nobody. I’m nothing. But your child is someone. You child is something.

This part is especially telling, to me, as it illustrates a very common theme in pro-life arguments: The adult, the fully formed person is not as important as the potential child. Walsh has less regard for himself than the fetus, just as many pro-lifers have less regard for the mother than for the possibility of the child. The woman’s physical and emotional well-being are nothing compared to the bundle of cells she carries.

Walsh goes on to say that the writer is wrong that she can have that child again, as she had stated. And I would say that he’s correct here. If she gets pregnant again, that child won’t be the same as this fetus. That doesn’t mean she’s obligated to carry this pregnancy out. It’s not the point.

And then he tries to tell the woman that she should listen to her heart in making this decision (as if no woman could ever not want to be a mom), warns that she will live with a lifetime of regret and accuses pro-choice people of using her potential child as a pawn.

I know some other Reddit users commented and told you that you won’t regret this decision. They are lying to you. Don’t listen to them. Listen to your heart. The same heart that prompted you to write that letter and feel those thing for your child. Listen to it, not the broken and deceitful masses who want to claim your baby’s death as a victory for their side of an argument. Your little one is just a pawn to them. They don’t love him like you do. They don’t love him at all. But down to the very pit of your soul you feel something for your baby that you’ve never felt for anyone.

There’s a couple things to unpack here, but this is one of the most important sections of the letter.

First, Walsh says the mother will regret this decision. It reads almost like a threat, to me. It’s half true: Some women who obtain abortions regret them. Others do not.

Just like tattoos, which are also permanent, some people regret the decision. Others think it’s the best decision they’ve ever made. But if I thought tattoos were awful, I still wouldn’t have the right to tell other people what they can and can’t do with their bodies.

Furthermore, how many women regret their decision to have an abortion because of the shame we place around it? How many feel cut off, isolated because of people screaming at them that it’s genocide? (Check out this great post on a gynecologist who actually lived through genocide for some perspective on why that argument is so offensive.)

Walsh then says that “the broken and deceitful masses” want to use this woman’s child as “a pawn,” that they are using her abortion for their cause. This part legitimately made me laugh, before I was very sad.

Walsh is using this potential child, threatening the woman with a “void” in her life if she goes through with this procedure. No one is using this “little one” as a pawn more than Walsh.

Walsh even tries to put her fetus up for adoption:

I mentioned your story on Facebook last week and asked if any of my Facebook friends could offer resources to help you. Well, they gave more than that. Numerous people came forward offering to adopt your child.

Translation: Plenty of people want this baby. Why don’t you? Alternate translation: You’re a bad person for not going through with this pregnancy and giving us the baby.

Walsh completely skips over the fact that we’re still talking about a pregnant woman, and women are not required to carry your children for you. We’re not incubators, no matter what conservative lawmakers believe. Having choice is about having bodily autonomy, and Walsh tries to wave that all away by saying, “We’ll take that kid off your hands!”

I used to think the same thing. When I was a kid, I thought, “I’ll adopt tons of babies when I’m an adult so no woman ever has to have an abortion again!” I didn’t realize that I don’t have the right to force women to bear children and give them to me. Walsh still doesn’t.

Then Walsh throws the typical, “Abortion clinics are evil,” argument in:

An abortion clinic will take your child’s life and kick you out the door. But pregnancy centers and Christian charities will walk with you, step by step, and never leave your side.

I’ve been to a Planned Parenthood, one of the main abortion providers that pro-lifers want to shut down. I don’t know if Walsh has ever been inside one, or gotten a check-up.

They’re much more than the typical doctors’ offices I’ve visited. My nurse asked me about my relationship, asked if I felt safe. She checked that it was okay to call the number I’d given her. This is a level of care you don’t get from most doctors, and I got it at a facility that also provides abortions. Had I heard her words a year earlier, it might have given me the push I needed to get out of a toxic relationship. As it is, I’m grateful to know that I have Planned Parenthood there should I need it.

Crisis pregnancy centers, on the other hand, have a habit of lying to women about breast cancer, abortion and infertility. None of that seems very supportive of women.

Finally, Walsh pleads with the woman that she has a choice:

You don’t have to go through with this tomorrow. It’s such a tragic irony that the people who support abortion call it ‘pro-choice,’ yet so often, the women who get abortions do so because they feel they have no choice.

And this is just some frustrating twisting of language, as Walsh has spent most of the letter threatening the woman with how much she’ll regret this decision. She’s weighed her options, she’s made a decision, and she was able to make that decision because the options were all available to her. It’s called pro-choice because she can make a choice, instead of being obligated to go through with this pregnancy.

It’s still weird to me how people who advocate eliminating choices for women want to say that it’s about choice. I don’t think I’ll ever get it.

In the end, Dad, it’s all about that choice. It’s about making sure that people like Matt Walsh can’t make decisions for this woman. It’s about bodily autonomy. I don’t have the right to tell her what decision to make, and neither does Matt Walsh. She knows herself the best, and this decision is hers and hers alone.



P.S. Sorry for the length! You know I’m a wordsmith, Dad.


On Hobby Lobby’s bitter pill

Dear Dad,

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about this Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. When I heard that the justices had ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and their anti-birth control stance, I’ll admit I was disappointed. And while the far-reaching legal and social ramifications have been discussed in length elsewhere, I want to focus in on the issue of birth control itself, and Hobby Lobby’s willful misunderstanding of how birth control works.

I know you’re familiar with how useful birth control is already, Dad, thanks mostly to me. Remember how I was in excruciating pain every month, woke in the middle of the night with abdominal and thigh cramps, had to miss school and church? I remember one night you got up for a snack, and I, laying awake, crying quietly in bed, heard you walk down the hall. I walked into the kitchen, clutching my stomach and moaning. Looking back, I think I probably gave you a huge shock. But when I explained that I had miserable menstrual cramps, you sat up with me for an hour, comforting me as I cried and tried to twist my body in any position that would lessen the pain.

That all changed when Mom took me to her OB/GYN and got me on the pill, Dad. Do you remember? Maybe not. After all, crying is a lot more conspicuous than not crying.

Birth control has changed my life. Now, I don’t have to miss school or work. I just take one pill every evening and my life is undisturbed by my fussy uterus.

A photo of multiple birth control pills in pinks, whites and oranges.

Birth control, such as the pill, has dramatically improved my quality of life.

What’s so frustrating about the Hobby Lobby decision is that the Supreme Court (at least, the majority, conveniently all men) put their stamp of approval on Hobby Lobby refusing to fully comprehend what birth control is and how it works. The people who own Hobby Lobby believe morning after pills and intrauterine devices cause abortions, which is obviously false to anyone who bothers to understand how birth control works (shout-out to my ninth-grade health teacher for bringing in a sex ed expert to explain this!). For the record, Plan B and other morning after pills kick start a menstrual cycle, causing the uterus to shed its lining so that the person who took Plan B is not fertile. Basically, if there’s an egg in there, it gets flushed out before the sperm can get to it. An IUD, much like the pill, releases hormones into the carrier, regulating their hormones and simulating pregnancy so that they are not fertile. It’s not that much different from my nightly pill.

In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control also helps regulate hormones, like my own. They help prevent painful periods, clear up skin, reduce emotional symptoms of PMS and protect women from endometriosis, an incredibly painful and extremely dangerous medical condition where the uterine lining grows on the outside of the uterus.

When Hobby Lobby narrows birth control down to its relationship to baby production, what they are really doing is reducing women to their ability to produce babies, Dad. Birth control provides myriad benefits to women, including preventing motherhood, which is a lifelong condition.

I’m lucky, because California requires most insurers to offer birth control coverage, with copays. I understand, however, how much of a burden it could be to a woman working a minimum wage job to afford birth control, as one month I switched pharmacies and saw my expenses jump from $8 to $38 for my little packet of pills. Luckily, I had a little extra money that month, but had it been a month where I barely scraped by with $5 in my bank account, I know I wouldn’t have been able to afford that expense.

I’m a little apprehensive as to how this ruling is going to play out, Dad. I think it will be a while before we see the far-reaching effects of Hobby Lobby’s win. And I have a feeling this will have a very negative effect on the lives of many women, Hobby Lobby employees and those who work for similar companies.

Until later,