Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Anti-Choice Fantasy

Remember those greeting cards for expectant mothers that were ostensibly from her fetus?

Ie. these things.

Someone took this idea a step further, and wrote a series of letters to a woman from her fetus. Her aborted fetus.

I'm not exactly sure where it came from, or who wrote it. You can see it on Facebook here. I found it on Tumblr, but the original post, and many of the reblogged posts, have since been deleted (in some cases, the entire Tumblr account was deleted). Probably because the post was accompanied by an image of a bloody fetus. (Which I did not reproduce here, for obvious reasons.)

Anyhoo, the whole thing is, in various measures, bizarre, creepy, patronizing, ignorant, insulting, and ridiculous. It's horrific. But in a manner that makes it hard to look away. So instead, I dissect it. As one might dissect a fetal pig.

The following includes an account of domestic violence. Just so you know. 

Hi, Mommy. I’m your baby. You don’t know me yet, I’m only a few weeks old. You’re going to find out about me soon, though, I promise.
This is what an embryo looks like at three weeks:

Doesn't really look like it's capable of holding a conversation, does it?
Let me tell you some things about me. 
Tell what? Nothing has happened to it. It has nothing to tell.
My name is John, 
I'm all for kids choosing their own names. But at this point, the embryo has never heard of names, is incapable of conceptualizing names. It's incapable of conceptualizing much of anything.
and I’ve got beautiful brown eyes and black hair. Well, I don’t have it yet, but I will when I’m born. 
Interestingly, the author of this piece hits on the idea that John is, at this point, just a potential person. Unfortunately, the idea does not take hold.
I’m going to be your only child, and you’ll call me your one and only. 
How the fuck does John the Embryo know this? Is he psychic?

I think this is highly indicative of a certain anti-choice mind-set. In that the woman literally has no choices in her life. She's unable to decide whether she's going to have other kids or not. It's set in stone, she has no agency.
I’m going to grow up without a daddy mostly, but we have each other. We’ll help each other, and love each other. 
Your unplanned pregnancy is the silver lining to an abusive relationship!
I want to be a doctor when I grow up.
... an abortion doctor! 

LOL. Anyways. Isn't that a nice, normative, white-bread ambition for Embryo John? Who, if carried to term and born alive, would not have a vast array of life paths to choose from and explore. No, Embryo John is a Future Doctor.

To me, this also is indicative of a kind of conservative (or societyl-wide) tendency to not value children as full human beings, but to value them as future adults... but that's a topic for another post.
You found out about me today, Mommy! You were so excited, you couldn’t wait to tell everyone. All you could do all day was smile, and life was perfect. You have a beautiful smile, Mommy. It will be the first face I will see in my life, and it will be the best thing I see in my life. I know it already.
So here's the thing. This is a story about a wanted pregnancy. Not every pregnancy is wanted. A story about an unwanted pregnancy might instead read,

"You found out about me today, Mommy! A wave of dread washed over over you, and all you could do was withdraw and avoid everyone you know. Your plans for the future vanished, and life was bleak and hopeless. You feel like I'm a parasite living inside you, and you want to punch yourself in the abdomen until I'm dead."

It is a tragedy when someone who wants a pregnancy has to terminate it. But a pregnancy is not a happy thing for everyone, as much as anti-choicers insist otherwise.

And considering the fact that this is a wanted pregnancy, wouldn't the decision to have an abortion have been a hard one to come to? Wouldn't the expectant mother have considered every other option before concluding that she had to terminate? She herself being in the best position to determine what's the best course of action for her? And woudn't it be cruel, then to assault this woman with images of bloody fetuses (which originally adorned this post), and torment her by concocting a personality for the child she wanted but couldn't have?

I would think so. But let's see what happens next...
Today was the day you told Daddy. You were so excited to tell him about me! …He wasn’t happy, Mommy. He kind of got angry. I don’t think that you noticed, but he did. He started to talk about something called wedlock, and money, and bills, and stuff I don’t think I understand yet. 
Yeah, I don't think Embryo John would be able to understand any of that yet. The way the character is constructed is bizarre. Does the author actually think that fetuses have this level of awareness? Or are they deliberately being misleading and manipulative?
You were still happy, though, so it was okay. Then he did something scary, Mommy. He hit you. I could feel you fall backward, and your hands flying up to protect me. 
Forcing someone to terminate a pregnancy against their will is just as much a crime against individual physical integrity as is forced child bearing.

But that's not what anti-choicers are really talking about. This is just another way of denying that women who get abortions have agency, that they thought it out for themselves, and know what they're doing. They either have to villanize women who seek abortions, or paint them as hapless victims. They go with the victim angle so that they can claim that they're on women's side. They claim that deep down, no woman wants to have an abortion, and anti-choicers are just standing up for women to protect them from the evil abortion industry.

Uh huh.
I was okay… but I was very sad for you. You were crying then, Mommy. That’s a sound I don’t like. It doesn’t make me feel good. It made me cry, too. 
Really? After this woman was assaulted by her partner you're going to tell her that her crying upset her embryo? Is there any way that the writer of this mess could try to make her feel worse?
He said sorry after, and he hugged you again. You forgave him, Mommy, but I’m not sure if I do. It wasn’t right. You say he loves you… why would he hurt you? I don’t like it, Mommy.
There is! By victim-blaming a woman in an abusive relationship. Why do you keep forgiving him? Why don't you just leave? ...because of a whole host of reasons that neither the writer nor Embryo John understand, because they have never experienced an abusive relationship. Reasons like dependency and "battered woman" syndrome.

Fuck you, Embryo John.
Finally, you can see me! Your stomach is a little bit bigger, and you’re so proud of me! You went out with your mommy to buy new clothes, and you were so so so happy. 
And again, the difference between a wanted and an unwanted pregnancy matters. If it's an unwanted pregnancy, it'll be terminated before you start to show. 88% of all abortions are in the first trimester, over half before week nine. 

That is, before the fetus looks as baby-like as the one in the photo I cut out from this post. People have parasitic fetuses (which are technically alive) that are more developed than this stage.  
You sing to me, too. You have the most beautiful voice in the whole wide world. When you sing is when I’m happiest. And you talk to me, and I feel safe. So safe. You just wait and see, Mommy. When I am born I will be perfect just for you. I will make you proud, and I will love you with all of my heart.
So, yeah, Johnny Fetus is not a representative case. 

If this was an unwanted pregnancy, then the words that the writer is putting in Johnny Fetus' mouth start to sound really creepy. Almost Nice-Guyish. The similarities are there - neither really think of women as full human beings, just as useful bits of anatomy. 

Not to mention the, "I will be perfect" bit. That seems problematic and ableist to me; but I'm not really equipped to speak to that. Feel free to in the comments. 
I can move my hands and feet now, Mommy. I do it because you put your hands on your belly to feel me, and I giggle. You giggle, too. I love you, Mommy.
What is this emotional blackmail shit? 
Daddy came to see you today, Mommy. I got really scared. He was acting funny and he wasn’t talking right. He said he didn’t want you. I don’t know why, but that’s what he said. And he hit you again. I got angry, Mommy. When I grow up I promise I won’t let you get hurt! I promise to protect you. 
It's the job of the unborn fetus to protect it's mother. Why? Because that fetus is a dude. Holy gender norms, Batman!
Daddy is bad. I don’t care if you think that he is a good person, I think he’s bad. But he hit you, and he said he didn’t want us. He doesn’t like me. Why doesn’t he like me, Mommy?
More with the victim blaming. This is less about deciding to get an abortion and more about being in an abusive relationship.
You didn’t talk to me tonight, Mommy. Is everything okay?
She's taking your advice, kiddo. She's leaving "Daddy" - but that means that you have to DIE! 
It’s been three days since you saw Daddy. You haven’t talked to me or touched me or anything since that. Don’t you still love me, Mommy? I still love you. I think you feel sad. The only time I feel you is when you sleep. You sleep funny, kind of curled up on your side. And you hug me with your arms, and I feel safe and warm again. Why don’t you do that when you’re awake, any more?
I’m 21 weeks old today, Mommy. 
Yeah, very few abortions happen at this point, mostly just for medical necessity. This story really doesn't jive with any representative data at all. 
Aren’t you proud of me? 
Because she should be proud of the fetus, and not herself, for making it through five months of pregnancy. Childbearing is so hard on the fetus, doncha know. 
We’re going somewhere today, and it’s somewhere new. 
Because a fetus would be aware of something like that? 
I’m excited. It looks like a hospital, too. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, Mommy. Did I tell you that? I hope you’re as excited as I am. I can’t wait.
LOL. Nice use of dramatic irony. It's like a dog being all excited about going for a car ride, only to end up at the vet. 
…Mommy, I’m getting scared. Your heart is still beating, but I don’t know what you are thinking. The doctor is talking to you. I think something’s going to happen soon. I’m really, really, really scared, Mommy. Please tell me you love me. Then I will feel safe again. I love you!
Okay, this is sick. This seems to have been written so that pro-lifers can imagine a woman who got an abortion reading it, and being emotionally tortured. So that the pro-lifers can feel all good and holy.
Mommy, what are they doing to me!? It hurts! Please make them stop! It feels bad! Please, Mommy, please please help me! Make them stop!
I can't help but imagine a comically over-the-top death scene here, akin to the Wicked Witch of the West. 
Don’t worry Mommy, I’m safe. I’m in heaven with the angels now. 
Actually, according to many denominations of Christianity (and I'm assuming the author of this is Christian), Johnny Fetus would be destined for hell because he's unbaptised. Just sayin'.
They told me what you did, and they said it’s called an abortion.
Dramatic Chipmunk Animated Myspace Graphic thumbnail
Why, Mommy? Why did you do it? Don’t you love me any more? 
Why I hate this thing so much: It's about a wanted pregnancy.The woman in the story wanted the pregnancy, but felt she had to terminate. It was not an easy decision for her, nor was it one she was happy with. In fact, it's implied that her boyfriend forced her to get an abortion. So why is the story so focused on guilting the would-be mother?

This doesn't apply to unwanted pregnancies at all. It's like, no I don't love you, I never did. I never wanted anything to do with you. 
Why did you get rid of me? 
Um... because she had to. I thought that was well established? Or maybe it was because she wanted to. It really doesn't matter why. You're not entitled to sustain yourself on another person's body, kid. No one is. 
I’m really, really, really sorry if I did something wrong, Mommy. I love you, Mommy! I love you with all of my heart.
And another frustrating thing - the characterization of Johnny Fetus as someone who know what other people are, or has any awareness of the world outside himself. It makes this whole thing pretty absurd. 
Why don’t you love me? What did I do to deserve what they did to me? I want to live, Mommy! Please! 
Yeah, so do people who need bone marrow transplants, but we don't drag folks off the street, make them do a blood test to see if they're a match, and then force them to be donors. We don't even force people to donate blood, which is far less invasive. Hell, we don't even force people to donate organs when they're dead. 

And what is that "Please!" supposed to accomplish? "Mommy" can't bring you back from "heaven", Johnny boy. 

And isn't heaven supposed to be better than earthly life anyways? 
It really, really hurts to see you not care about me, and not talk to me. Didn’t I love you enough? 
Okay, now Johnny Fetus is starting to sound like a stalker. 
Please say you’ll keep me, Mommy! I want to live smile and watch the clouds and see your face and grow up and be a doctor.
As I mentioned before - fetuses don't know what any of those things are. They aren't aware of the world. They don't have any relationships. They don't have any aspriations. They don't have any experiences. 

That's why a fetus =/= a born, living person. 
I don’t want to be here, I want you to love me again! I’m really really really sorry if I did something wrong. I love you!
Oh for fuck's sake... 
I love you, Mommy. 
Every abortion is just…
One more heart that was stopped.
Two more eyes that will never see.
Two more hands that will never touch.
Two more legs that will never run.
One more mouth that will never speak.
But since Johnny Fetus never experienced those things, I guess he isn't really going to miss them.

*sniff* So moving. 


  1. Thanks for turning a piece of crap into hilarious context!

  2. This is great! I like the inclusion of the animal graphics. Also your comment about the gender of the fetus and the fact that he is expected to grow up and protect the woman was spot on. Particularly considering the fact that being born into an abusive household would increase the chance of him being an abuser too. (I don't know what the statistics are for boys who have been abused to grow up to be abusers, and perhaps it is just anecdotal...but I think there is a connection. Please correct me if I am wrong!)

  3. @javoor

    A gif of an unimpressed llama is worth a thousand words. :)

    In a previous post, I cited a whole bunch of stats about the effects of corporal punishment/abuse on a child. You can read it here.

  4. Where Do Infants Go at Death: Heaven or Hell?

    The Salvation of the 'Little Ones': Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

    By R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
    and Daniel L. Akin (President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary)

    (This article was written while Dr. Akin worked at Southern Theological Seminary)

  5. Considering religion is a social construction Kimberly, they would be born atheist and go no where. But a fetus is not an infant.

  6. They read those letters in church back when I was a Cathoholic. seems so much more horrifying now. thanks for writing this.

  7. Oh for fuck's sake. I followed the link back to FB reported this as gender discrimination, just because I could. Facebook won't take it down, but at least I feel a little better.

    But seriously.

  8. I feel sick. Your dissection was great, but reading that emotionally manipulative crap, I feel nauseous.

  9. The increasingly stalkerish tone of Johnny Fetus's "letters" really helps prop up my "every serial killer, rapist, and mass murderer in history was an unaborted fetus" argument.


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