The Legacy of Reproductive Choice for the Infertility Community

Blog for Choice Day 2013Today, I blog for choice as part of NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day on the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. According to a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, most Americans under 30 don’t even know what Roe v. Wade is about.

I turn 31 in May, so I just make the cut for this statistic. On one hand, I’d like to believe it’s because my generation doesn’t need to even consider the legality of abortion as it has always been legal in our lifetime. On the other hand, I worry that our generation has lost sight of the significance of just what Roe v. Wade has meant to millions of women and families in America since it’s ruling forty years ago today.

So that’s a huge motivator of why I’m writing today, of why I’m blogging for choice.

I am all too keenly aware of how this topic is both a sensitive and impassioned one for many of you. Today, NARAL wants us to share our stories about what choice means to us. So despite whatever your beliefs and opinions are on the abortion debate, I hope you’ll allow me the comfort of my space to share my story and my thoughts.

Pregnancy tests have been a loaded object for me most of my life. Prior to getting engaged, they were a mark of shame, of clumsy embarrassment and guilt. When Larry and I were in college and after we moved in together, we had our share of pregnancy scares. In every instance up until 2008, our plan for an unplanned pregnancy was a no-brainer: I’d get an abortion. It wasn’t because we didn’t love or want our future child – far from it. We loved the idea of our child growing up in a supportive environment: physically, emotionally, financially. And for those seven years before we got engaged, we just couldn’t provide that.

That changed on January 28, 2008. It was just two days after our wedding and we were walking around the Magic Kingdom at Disney World for our honeymoon. We had stopped in front of Peter Pan’s Flight, one of my favorite rides. In front of us was a sea of parked strollers, their seats empty and their owners presumably occupied with their little ones on nearby rides. We laughed at the sight, joking that one day too, a stroller of ours would join that throng.

“I guess ‘eject’ isn’t our immediate response now, huh?” I said casually, even though having children was never a casual idea to us.

Larry chuckled. “You know, I guess you’re right.” He smiled.

We wouldn’t have “the talk” for another ten or so months, when we decided that we’d wait at least three years before diving into family building mode.

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That all changed just a year and three months after our wedding when I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. That day changed everything in our lives, our marriage, and our previously imagined ideas of how we’d build our family together.

In the days and weeks after my diagnosis, I remember having this particularly bitter thought: all those pregnancy scares were a waste of our time, causing us unnecessary worrying and stress because it was never going to happen anyway. The truth was that I’d never need an abortion because my body just wasn’t capable of getting pregnant on its own. That revelatory notion brought me little comfort as I grappled with the knowledge of my barren womb and my desperate longing for a child of my own.

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Infertility was never a choice for me. And for 1 out of every 6 couples in the United States, it’s not a choice. It’s a disease. Infertility is as biologically indiscriminate as cancer, diabetes, or the size of your feet. In many ways, infertility robs us of choice: the choice to build our families the way we imagined we would; the choice to parent when we want to; the choice to have genetic children of our own.

I was robbed of all those choices the day I found out I had infertility.

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Roe v. Wade isn’t just about abortion.

Roe v. Wade is about choices and rights. It’s about the choice to terminate or the choice not to terminate a pregnancy. It’s about the right for women to make decisions and choices about their bodies and their own lives. It’s about protecting those choices and those rights.

I have a right to build my family. I did not choose to be infertile.

Infertility and reproductive choice are inextricably linked to one another. And sadly, that link is largely bound in legislation that would seek to deny me access to those medical procedures that would help me build my family. Defining “when life begins” or “when a person becomes a person” – as was the case back in late 2011 – directly challenges and threatens Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to her reproductive choices and rights. But personhood amendments also challenge and threaten the entire infertility community, potentially barring us access to the necessary medical treatments and procedures we need to build our families.

While it seems that personhood legislation has largely died down since Mississippi Initiative 26 failed, it has popped in some frightening ways since then. The idea of a personhood debate still looms large in the back of my head as a direct threat to the infertility community and as such, I remain vigilant.

Because I’m not about to have my choices and my rights – my right to build my family in the way I choose in this infertility paradigm – be taken away from me again.

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The legacy of Roe v. Wade was never about taking away life.

The legacy of Roe v. Wade lives in the protection of reproductive choice. And for the infertility community, its legacy lives in the protection of that choice. It’s that protection that paves the way for us to access the treatments we need to build and create the families we so desperately desire.

The families we have a right to build.

If that isn’t pro-life, I don’t know what is.

See the rest of the blogs participating and join in yourself here for today’s Blog for Choice, hosted by NARAL.

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  1. says

    Wonderful piece, Keiko. I admire your willingness to discuss the commonality between these two sensitive issues that deeply affect women’s lives. I know so many women with fertility issues that express their frustration with having stressed out over avoiding pregnancy during their 20’s only to later hear their infertility diagnosis. And women that grapple with guilt over having terminated a pregnancy when they were younger, and feel as though they’re being punished because they can’t conceive once they’ve decided they’re ready.

    As women, we’re inevitably faced with a series of conundrums as we “grow up”. We must choose between important areas of our lives, often forced to sacrifice one area for another. While we struggle with making these difficult choices, we’re met with judgement and shame no matter which choice we make. We crave support and encouragement. We need options. We need to know that our concerns MATTER to our community at large. That we are working together for solutions rather than ostracizing and demonizing those that raise difficult topics.

    Rather than stripping away choices, we need to work together for bigger, better, and more plentiful choices. That is moving forward.

  2. says

    I believe that women should have the choice to make the family that they want. Both infertility and abortion are an important part of that right. Just like I believe that a woman with an unplanned pregnancy should have teh right to terminate, I believe a family like the Duggars should have thE right to have as many children as they can care for, and I believe I should have teh right to build my family using third party reproduction. All of these situations are very different. But it all comes down to one issue: reproductive choice. On this day lets remember what Dr Tiller said: Trust women.

  3. says

    Well done, Keiko. Could not agree more.

    I think one of the things that opponents of Roe vs. Wade assume is that the decision to carry a child vs. not carry a child is black and white. Yet too often, we see the consequences for this thinking. The reality is, taking away a person’s right to chose what always ends badly. Whether it be that people seek abortions for unskilled individuals who will ultimately hard them, to prohibiting D&Cs for women who have missed miscarriages and even to inhibiting individuals from received fertility treatments allowing them to grow their families. The reality is, this isn’t a black and white situation and no one has the right to make sweeping generalizations about another person’s body.

    Thank you for standing up for reproductive choice.
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  4. Kristy Johnson says

    Well maintained blog with nice looks Keiko. I think each and every woman has the right to think for her future either it’s about her education, personal life, married life or the parental life. Because as she grows up she has the ability, mentally & physically, to maintain the balance between the present & the upcoming challenges. She also has a right to decide when and hoe she will start her married life and how to deal with her parenting issues. I appreciate your writing and thank you for giving others some good points to think in depth.