'My Mom Should Have Aborted Me'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Our reader unpacks that heavy statement:

I was a late-in-life baby, the fourth child born when my mom was 42 in 1959. My parents were very poor but devout Catholics, so abortion was not a legal or moral option for them for any reason. It could have cost my mother’s life, or the doctor could have told them I would be born a potato, but it would not have mattered. It was God's will.

Unfortunately, my mother suffered severe post-partum depression that was left untreated and became a lifelong affliction, along with numerous other serious maladies that went untreated. (Her lifelong doctor was a quack.) She was often suicidal.

As a result, my childhood was dysfunctional to an extreme.

It took a decade of therapy and psychiatry for me to recover, and I was 35 before I had an entire healthy year. I have always thought it would make no sense for my parents to give birth to me if it happened today and they had a choice. It is not a favor or something moral to give birth to a child you cannot properly parent or care for or who will suffer from completely predictable inherited family diseases.

God gave us intellectual reason so that we are not forced to breed mindlessly like rodents. If I had the power to choose as a fetus, I would have chosen to be aborted if it meant even a chance of improving my mother’s miserable life.

I have always found it odd that folks assume a fetus would choose its own life over the life and welfare of its mother and family. Why do we make that assumption? Would such a choice be moral? Is it not incumbent on a parent to make the moral choice for the fetus?

I have always been more comfortable with the Buddhist approach. Taking any life is always bad karma, even if unavoidable. However, causing the death or disability of your mother by your birth is much worse karma and constitutes the worst possible rebirth for the child’s soul. If a parent can avoid it morally, they should do so for the child’s sake. The soul of the fetus simply remains in its pre-birth state and is subsequently born into another child.

Although we kid ourselves otherwise, concepts of morality are highly subjective. That is why attempting to legislate it is so fruitless. Every human should have exclusive legal right over their body and its contents. Anything less is slavery.

I had an abortion at 30 after a reckless sexual encounter because I was single, not well enough to care for a child, did not believe knowingly passing on bad genetics made moral sense, and I would have had to stop my medications and further ruined my own health. I was also severely depressed and thought life was not worth living.

I never doubted my decision. I believe it was a sin and bad karma, but much less than bringing a child into the world under those circumstances. Life is often about choosing the least of all evils. I believe I am forgiven by a merciful god and thankful that I can spend what is left of my life striving to generate good karma and be of service to god and mankind.

On the bright side, my mom was finally successfully treated in her 70s and I had the opportunity to dote on her during her very happy second childhood as a result of Alzheimers until her death.

I am pro-choice, but I support a local pro-life group whose focus is on providing positive spiritual and practical support for women facing crisis pregnancies as opposed to passing laws. Solving very real practical problems eliminates the need for an abortion for many women.

The real tragedy is how many woman must choose abortion because of finances, homelessness, or other problems solvable with a little help from others. How many cannot control their sexuality or reproduction because of rape, incest, forced prostitution, or drug addiction? It is not really a free choice if you have no personal or financial power.

(Privacy is my personal choice, so please do not post my name or email ID in your reader series.)