Todd Akin, abortion, and infertility. What constitutes a child?

On several occasions in the not-too-distant past, I visited a local abortion clinic to pee in a cup. It was always in the wake of an artificial insemination, and I was desperate to be pregnant. There I sat in the waiting room with a bevy of young women, most of them bleary-eyed and resigned, waiting for our urine to be examined by an underpaid staffer who then opened a door and called a name.

Each time, I feigned appreciation at the congratulatory tone of that staffer’s voice when she told me I was not pregnant. I would eke out a polite smile, thank her, and go home to cry.

These were the days before instant home results were available; my doctor tested me, of course, but not until two weeks after the procedure. I couldn’t wait that long.

Recently I have been remembering those days because of U.S. Representative Todd Akin, who I’m hoping has been scheduled for a much-needed lobotomy. If you’re just emerging from beneath a rock in Borneo, Akin said earlier this week, in defense of his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape, that women seldom become pregnant as a result of “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” If you can’t find anything wrong with that sentence, I….I….well, then, I’m speechless.

KIDDING! I’m hardly ever speechless. Akin continued blathering, because he’s a moron: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

That very last word stopped me: child. Who in the world is he talking about? I have three children, and none of them bear any resemblance to a cluster of cells joined together that could fit on the head of a pin. Yes, those cells are alive, the same way a plant is alive. In the first days and even weeks of pregnancy, there’s no brain! There are no limbs! No organs! It is, quite literally, a speck with potential. A mosquito has more purpose in life. Mosquitos, in fact, have actual brains.

Obviously, that embryo’s potential is significant. As the speck develops and a human creature begins to evolve, the conversation becomes stickier even for pro-choice advocates like me. I strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy – but I also wish the conversation could turn to making birth control more affordable and available to all women, and increasing access to the Plan B pill, which can be taken the day after sexual intercourse, and to oral medications which simply prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

But let’s not get into that argument. I want to talk about infertility treatment – because if you oppose abortion, you logically must oppose in vitro fertilization. In vitro involves collecting eggs from a woman and sperm from a man, and using a needle to force the sperm into the egg. (It kind of sounds like legitimate rape, doesn’t it?) Then the fertilized egg – several of them, usually – are implanted in a woman’s uterus.

Seldom are these processes linked together, but they’re both inextricably tied together by the belief that a cluster of cells is not human. The woman seeking in vitro counts on those cells becoming human; the woman seeking abortion wants to get rid of the cells before they do.

If you believe those specks are “children,” as Rep. Akin apparently does, then you should be appalled that the eggs are implanted in the hope that some of them will die. I, for example, was implanted with five fertilized eggs. I did not want to be pregnant with quints. In my case, it didn’t matter because they all died. My inhospitable uterus ushered them out. But in the event that all five had survived, some of them would have been extracted – it’s called selective reduction – so that one or two would have had a better chance at healthy development.

By the way, I have four fertilized eggs left. They’ve been sitting in a freezer for over a decade. Hear that, Akin? I’ve been keeping four “children” on ice since 1998! I should totally be wearing an orange jumpsuit by now.

(I haven’t done anything about the eggs because I can’t bring myself to step foot in that doctor’s office again. But that’s a different story.)

I thank Nefertiti every single day that the specks inserted into my uterus died – because their lack of viability led us to our darling children. Our real children.

I guess I just want you to get your thoughts straight. If you’re opposed to abortion rights because you believe a fertilized egg is a person, then make sure you are also protesting against in vitro fertilization and the entire field of reproductive endocrinology. And then you should protest against your local mosquito control. Those guys kill a lot of bugs, man. And a lot of fertilized eggs.



12 responses to Todd Akin, abortion, and infertility. What constitutes a child?

  1. Thomas says:

    Oh dear Tricia, you have forgotten your Catholic roots here (well, at least you did not reference them). Your former church has declared and abided by the doctrine that fertilized eggs are precious human children, a gift from a loving god. You cannot compare that blastocystic clump of tissue to a mosquito. You are failing to follow the precepts of (Christian and Islamic) faith, to keep separate humans from animals. Some lost souls want to believe that we are chordate-vertebrate-mammal-primate, Genus Homo, and they can continue in that belief until they properly meet the searing agony of perdition (blessed be the lord! blessed be Allah!). We must continue to abide by God’s plan, and bless the earth with our presence, and our issue. I am sure the Earth and its lesser minions just cannot get enough of our blessed populations.

    • tricia says:

      Oh, I haven’t forgotten my roots. But I cut them off and planted new ones that actually bear fruit ; }

  2. It is about time that someone (other than me LoL) brings up this very valid point on in vitro and abortion. I have never really understood how someone can be completely against abortion and in the same sense completely for in vitro. I am just going to leave it at that. There is a religious debate in there that I don’t even want to begin to touch…

    • tricia says:

      Thanks, Rochelle. It always seemed duplicitous to me, too. Glad you visited, and glad you get me.

  3. Amanda says:

    Very well thought out. I fear this is an issue that people on both sides refuse to compromise. These conversations are hard and heated, but I am still glad we are having them.

    Also, Akin is a tool.

    • tricia says:

      Total tool. And I love the word tool. Thanks for visiting, Design Tramp.

  4. Jen says:

    Legal and safe abortion is not a good or desirable thing. However, it is necessary. I agree with you that if we could promote education among women and children and ensure more access to birth control, then abortion would be used less. Regardless, I stand by a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her body and future over that of a clump of cells with potential for life. I get extremely angered by old, white men sitting in D.C. filled with the audacity that they have any right to impede upon this private and difficult decision.

    • tricia says:

      Hear, hear, Surfer Girl. Thanks for reading and weighing in with your thoughts. xo

  5. Joe Clancy says:

    Brave. Right on the money, Tricia. Mr. Akin’s remarks are in keeping with his fellow Republicans – they’ve deceptively branded their position as “right to” when it is a restriction of a woman’s freedom, which your post beautifually points out is a freedom and a right no national Republican politician would politically challenge when it comes to in-vitro children. There is an awesome disconnect between the insistence that we legislate
    a woman’s freedom to choose an abortion and a desire to rollback economic subsidies that assist poor women and children. It’s deeply flawed thinking. We need support and education which you perfectly point out. Thanks for a brave post.
    I think your opinion is the perfect product of your Christian upbringing and roots. It puts value on human “beings” – not human “potentials.” What to look for next? The Republican Party and Todd Akin’s contention that a woman doesn’t have the right to a miscarriage.

    • tricia says:

      Thanks for reading, cousin! Hope all is groovy in the Big Apple. xo

  6. jonna says:

    I’m with you on this one! I too went thru fertility, fortunately it was successful. I refer couples everyday to Dr. Liperi.. Couldn’t of said it better.. Damn, you good!

  7. Gwinn says:

    Just catching up on you my friend after a long summer. I want a way to Like this on Facebook. Get your guy or lady to add that to your site. Then I can share you with the world! xo

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