On Motherhood and Abortion

  • Feb 22, 2016
  • maya

By Pratima Gupta, MD MPH
Emerge California Class of 2016 and 2016 candidate for San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee

Last year, Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, walked into a committee hearing in Congress, visibly pregnant with twins. As she tells the story to a Washington Post reporter, an anti-choice activist pointed at her pregnant abdomen and asked, “Is that real?” as if someone who is pro-choice couldn’t possibly be having a baby.

In the public and highly politicized dialogue about abortion in America, we tend to talk about women who have abortions on one hand and women who have children on the other. It’s as if all women fall neatly into one of these two categories, when, in actuality, these are often the same woman, at different points in her life. These are our sisters, our friends, our Emerge colleagues, us. Many women who have abortions will go on to become mothers and sixty percent of women having abortions already have a child. 

We women make the decision to have an abortion in ways that are thoughtful, nuanced, and considered. I know because I provide abortion care and every day I see women in my practice, both those who have children already at home and those who do not. A woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is not made frivolously. Nearly all of my patients tell me some version of the following: “I need to have this abortion because I want to be a good mother and this is not the right time.” Maybe they are talking about the children they already have or maybe they are thinking about the ones they will have, when they are ready. Some women may choose to never have a child, but women think about the tremendous responsibility that comes with being a mother. 

I understand this, not just as a doctor who helps walk each woman through this decision, but as someone who also made a choice to become a parent. While I was pregnant, I continued to be an abortion provider. When a patient or support person asked about providing abortion care while pregnant, I said that it was my time to have a family and theirs would come at another time if they wished. When my son’s nightmares occasionally wake me up at 3am, I caress him back to sleep and stare at his long lashes. I am grateful I had the support and resources to plan the adventure of motherhood.

Those of us who advocate for reproductive rights and perform abortions are often asked the same question when we choose to become parents: “Are you less prochoice now?” As if all it would take to change our minds about this fundamental right is experiencing parenthood on a personal level. The reply, uniformly, is: “Quite the opposite. Parenting has made me more prochoice.” Parenting is a full-time job, a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week job. And it’s one that should be a conscious, willful decision, and not the result of insurmountable legal, financial, or societal barriers.

Abortion, therefore, is truly about motherhood. The abortion care we provide is about parenting by choice, not by happenstance, by helping mothers have wanted and welcome pregnancies and deliveries and supporting those who choose not to as well. It’s about listening to a woman who says, “I want to have a child, but not now.” It’s about supporting her when she says, “I have already had all the children I want.” It’s about knowing that parenting is an awesome responsibility and letting every person decide when and if it is right for them. 

As a member of the Emerge class of 2016, I will fight to ensure that women’s rights are human rights and never taken away.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Emerge America or its affiliates.