I Am A Woman And I Am Capable Of Deciding If I Am More Important Than My Fetus

Which is more important, a woman or an unborn baby/fetus?

That is the crux of the abortion debate. Of course, we can get into viability and the transition of fetus to baby, but I think it’s a red herring. A person out the womb who is dependent on another isn’t less important than a person who is independently feeding herself. NICU’s have 23- and 24-week-old infants. Mother’s struggle with their babies not being considered a baby loss until 20 weeks old. We can’t debate what is life in a meaningful way right now.

However, we can, and essentially do, debate whose life is most important because in order for a fertilized egg to become a bouncing baby, we need a woman’s uterus. There is no machine or man who can carry a zygote to infancy. Therefore, if a fetus’ life is more important than a woman’s life, a woman can be forced to be an incubator during her lifetime. Otherwise, government must uphold the right to have an abortion because there is no point where the lives can be viewed as equal until the baby takes his first breath.

Here’s where the exceptions come into play. A woman is more important than the baby she carries if the baby is made with a rapist’s sperm. Or by incest. Or if the baby will inadvertently kill the mother. Woman win that argument with most pro-life and all pro-choice people.

But aren’t our exceptions actually saying: Women are incubators unless horribly violated or almost dead? Are we forgetting other exceptions? Like the high percentage of women seeking abortions because of domestic abuse? The ties a woman has with her abuser are terrible even without child and (to him) a bargaining chip involved. Are those women allowed to not be incubators?

What about young teenagers who will not be supported through their pregnancies to make it to adoption? Or the woman who will be unable to do their job at 8 months pregnant so will end up homeless?

What if a woman just doesn’t want to be pregnant? She’s using birth control and it fails. She would still have to give up autonomy of her body for 9 months because of her biology. Her husband/boyfriend/one-night stand gives up nothing. Or maybe gives up the right to live a child-free life as well. Is the story so different if he’s the husband? The price a woman pays for having a sex life is becoming the equivalent to an expensive machine in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Banning abortion even with exceptions leads to the subjugation of women’s bodies and minds. We either trust a woman’s ability to make intelligent choices about whether her body should grow another body, or we believe women are incapable and put the government in charge of her body.

I not only believe my body and my daughter’s body are more important than the body which did and could, respectively, grow, I believe in our ability to make the choice based on our personal circumstances. A pregnant woman can decide to not have an abortion, but the law and government cannot pick and choose our right to our bodies and still call us equal.

Rather than debating exceptions, we must stand against any law that relegates women to incubators who cannot recognize the best decision for ourselves, our babies and our circumstances.


Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

62 thoughts to “I Am A Woman And I Am Capable Of Deciding If I Am More Important Than My Fetus”

  1. An exceptional perspective. It’s unfortunate that not only are some lawmakers deciding on behalf of the government what we should do with our uteri, but they are claiming to also act on God’s behalf where this is concerned. Because that’s absolutely the foundation of their argument. It’s a “sin.”

    I always wish that they would offer the “alternative.” Ok, so all of these unwanted babies WILL be born because you say we can’t have abortions. Who is going to take care of them? Who will provide for them? Will they? I don’t see these millionaires donating tons of money to orphanages or places for wayward mothers in need. I don’t think there’s a place called the Mitt Romney Center for Forced Births. So basically they want control of the uterus, but are hands-off once its inhabitant comes into the world.

    So I guess a fetus is only worth protecting until it becomes a child?

    1. I posted this very question on Facebook today. Everyone wants to talk about abortion and the unborn baby and what a woman can/can’t do with her body, but no one will tell me what they think should come next. What is the plan for all of these children after they are born?

  2. Beautifully, beautifully said. Well done. At the end of the day, no one knows what they’d do if faced with the prospect of an unwanted pregnancy until they’re faced with it, and all the factors surrounding it.

    I just skimmed the comments and Nicole’s really hits home for me. In the news yesterday was the story of a woman with a history of mental illness who not only stabbed herself to death after barricading herself in her home, but killed her 2 year old as well, in an exceptionally horrifying way. I think about that baby and all the other babies and kids out there who aren’t being taken care of, who are born and then either left to unfit parents or left to float around the foster care system – until, of course, they turn 18 and then are completely abandoned.

    If you’re so hell-bent on the rights of an unborn child, then be hell-bent having their backs after they’re born. Otherwise you have no place in the discussion.

  3. I have been desperately trying to put this into words for weeks now. You’ve managed to say everything I’ve wanted to say, and more. I just get SO emotional when I try to talk about this subject that my thoughts become tangled and confused. Thank you for being so eloquent and wise.

  4. Have you seen the documentary on the abortion debate “Lake Of Fire”? I just watched it. Most of it was the usual stuff. It was graphic and hard to watch at times. Some people sounded like idiots on both side of the argument (I guess that’s why they called if fair and balanced). There was a part near the end where ethicists discussed the debate on abortion. That part was fascinating. Taking away the rights of the mother is basically saying that her life has no value. The problem is when we say all life has value we have to determine which life has more value. One ethicist said if a being cannot care about whether it lives or dies it shouldn’t have more importance over a being that does care about whether it lives or dies. That’s how she came to the conclusion that the mother’s life had more value. It’s incredibly complicated because there is no black and white answer, espeically with topics surrounding morality. That’s why ultimately it comes down to a personal decision.

    Also, you are brave for writing about this and thank you for doing it!

  5. This is exactly my problem, and I am having the hardest time keeping my trap shut on FB about it. Why does everyone completely disregard the mother? I understand the pleas of those who claim that every child has a right to life, but this is a much more emotional debate than some people, myself included, can ever imagine. Most of us have no idea what it’s like to endure sexual assault and even fewer to have to carry a child conceived from that horrific act. I can’t imagine the trauma and subsequent resentment, physically and emotionally. Why are WE so brushed aside?

    1. I can’t agree with Leigh Ann more if I tried. I’m always unable to come across as articulate and educated when it comes to this particular subject because it cheeses me off so much that people in the government want to make decisions about something they can never understand. It’s like arguing with a brick wall. And I get so frustrated, I often just end up in tears. Just another reason why you should be commended for this eloquent post.

  6. Yes yes yes. I used my own daughter (with her permission) as my example in the post I recently wrote about abortion. My daughter is precious and wonderful and very, very smart. She’s not a uterus with arms and legs. She’s a young woman at the very beginning of her child bearing years and SHE gets to make the decisions about her health and reproduction!

  7. As a married mother of 3, abortion is not an option for me. But my heart hurts for the 16-year-old Ali’s of the world who would be held to having a baby she couldn’t support or frankly might not be mature enough to raise or give up. While I’ve always been responsible…kinda…I knew back then that if something “happened” I felt fortunate to live in a country where it was my choice. Back then I was so naive to think that some day it might not be my right. I’m baffled and scared by the whole thing. I think your use of the word “incubator” is right on. Babies are a wonderful blessing for people who WANT them. In my opinion women who carry a child to term and then offer the baby to a loving family are heroes and much more selfless than I am. However, pregnancies come with risks and I don’t want any person being told that they have to take risks they don’t want to. And that’s about as soap-boxy as you’ll ever see me get.

  8. It may be a cliche’ but it’s a cliche’ for a reason, in that it’s true: if men were the ones to get pregnant, abortion would have been legal and covered by insurance or governmental assistance from day one.

  9. This post. It perfectly puts into words what it means to be pro-choice. I could never find the words to say this as well as you have today.

    I live in South Dakota where the state legislature has passed a complete ban, which was overturned by the voters, and they have set up so many hoops that getting an abortion is basically impossible for some people. Then this year, they tried to legalize surrogacy. They want women to be incubators for their own unplanned pregnancies but are not supporters of woman as incubators of they are helping someone else. It’s awful, these men AND women have absolutely no respect for women and their bodies. It is an exhausting battle but one that I will never give up on because it is too important.

    I’m happy there are people like you out there Alex who are able to use the perfect words to talk about such difficult topics! Thank you!

    1. I live with and thus am responsible for the well being of four women. One of them is sixteen years old, and at the crossroads of decisions involving her body. If I lecture her on what to do and what not to do, and disregard her feelings and ideas, then aren’t I being a bad father?

      What I wish pro-life viewpoints would understand is very few people regard abortion as frivilous or use it as birth control. Abortion is about health of the mother as much as it is about the life of the unborn. It’s pro-choice not pro-abortion.

      For a country alledgely founded on the idea of freedom and the rejection of tyranny, why do so many want to tell others what to do with their own minds and bodies?

      That seems UnAmerican.

      You wrote this post in a thoughtful way, Alex.

  10. Alex, you’re elegant and completely correct. However….we must change the national debate (polite word) on abortion. Roe vs. Wade ended a horrible time in this country and made abortion legal in this country. No matter what scare tactics factions in this country use, I do not see the ruling ever being abolished.

    I feel that the debate should shift from “If?” to “Where?”

    Obamacare mandates that abortion will be available at every medical facility. Many hospitals in this country are run by the Church. Catholic churches have been in the cross hair lately. Catholic dogma states that abortion is an abomination. It is their dogma. They have taken a stance that the government forcing them to ignore church dogma violates their right to practice their religion as they see fit to do. It is a very clear line in the sand.

    Governor Perry has taken heat for rejecting Planned Parenthood in Texas. Fear Factions (maybe I should copyright that) are saying that he has taken health care from Texan women. No, he hasn’t. He has rejected federal funding for abortion saying that Texas will take care of it’s own. Texas will fund it’s own healthcare. It is NOT and abortion issue. It’s a State’s Rights issue under the Tenth Amendment. Again a clear line in the sand.

    I feel that Perry has given us a map to get out of this moral morass.

    A woman’s TRUE RIGHT TO CHOOSE should be not “Can I have an abortion?” But, “Where will I have an abortion?” The federal government can fund places for low or no cost abortions and the private sector or individual States can provide alternative care for Moms-to-be by offering the CHOICE of adoption.

    This would limit the federal government’s intrusion into a very private part of a woman’s life. Moms give me a shout out. When dilated to ten centimeters all you want is to “GET THIS THING OUT OF ME!!!!” I’ve seen this happen I know it’s true. A woman should have the same option at the beginning of her pregnancy as well as the end. Whether the child goes into her arms, to Loving couple (of any two adults by the way) or into the bio waste bucket, it should be HER CHOICE for HER REASONS.

    Done. End of debate.

    1. I think you said what I have been unable to articulate: WHERE not IF. This is exactly what the debate should be. “A woman’s TRUE RIGHT TO CHOOSE should be not “Can I have an abortion?” But, “Where will I have an abortion?” The federal government can fund places for low or no cost abortions and the private sector or individual States can provide alternative care for Moms-to-be by offering the CHOICE of adoption.”

      Brilliant. Then everyone’s beliefs on this issue can be respected. There are plenty of women who DON’T believe in abortion, either, and would benefit from viable, realistic alternatives.

  11. Once again, you take an issue that is so complicated and you bring such a refreshing view to it. Thank you so much for your honesty.

  12. Very well said. It’s a slippery slope of saying this woman can have an abortion, but this other one can not. Why should the government get to decide?

    I wish the politicians and men would exert as much energy into promoting birth control and sex ed programs and stay out of my uterus.

  13. awesome alex. i love this line “the law and government cannot pick and choose our right to our bodies and still call us equal.” that’s it right there. and i take GREAT issue with the GOP making this part of their platform… being ‘against big government’ yet wanting them to dictate what i can and cannot do with my body. ARRRRGHHH. it makes me so mad.

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  15. It breaks my heart to hear anyone say their life is more important than another’s. In any other situation it would be called racism, or ageism, or discrimination. Here? It’s called freedom, intelligence, discernment. Let’s drop all the fancy words and just call it what it is…murder.

    1. But being pro-life automatically says that the woman’s life is less important than an unborn baby/fetus. How do you explain or justify that? I mean this question honestly, not to attack your beliefs as I was once pro-life and understand where you are coming from.

  16. YES. I was raised Catholic and pro-life, then slowly became pro-life personally and pro-choice politically. Then I became a mother. After a miscarriage and two pregnancies, births, and now as a mother of 2, I become completely enraged that anyone thinks that a woman shouldn’t get to decide for herself whether to carry and birth a baby. Thank you for writing about it. We have to keep saying what we believe or people will get stuck debating things like the exceptions and overlook the basic point: it’s my body.

  17. Alex, this is why I read you! So perfectly said…and you know it’s good when my own mother, who rarely posts on Facebook (or maybe she has me blocked…hmmm) shared this post!

  18. What about when your 16 year old daughter can legally have an abortion without you even knowing it? This can and does happen in the USA …

    1. The idea behind not needing parental consent to obtain an abortion is about families whose daughters feel they cannot talk to their parents about the situation due to violence or fear. We have neither in our family. I believe my daughter would talk to me or a trusted adult, pray, and make the right decision based on her values and education.

      1. right, I understand that but what about those families? I wrote “you” as in “you” in general … I just think that it’s far to easy to obtain an abortion … even for minors. There’s just got to be a better way.

  19. Yes, I couldn’t agree more! Very well said… and on a subject that’s hard to write about without sparking lots of hurt feelings and ugly words. Thank you for writing this!

  20. You make a very compelling point. I am especially thoughtful about the point one of the posts made about the ethical problem of assigning value to all life. Here is the thing, I do give value to all living people. Not through religious motivation but rather as a basic human rights argument. I do not believe that one person can have more value than another. This view has driven me to be pro-life. But how can I assign value to both the fetus and the mother? Your article sets up some very clear cases where the needs of the mother are opposed to the existence of the baby. So I am forced to differentiate on some way. And here is how: life itself is the most important right. Other rights (on some case the psychological well being of the mother) must be secondary to the right of all humans to life. The only exception to this is when both lives are in danger. In this case we, as humans are obliged to defend our own life even if it means taking that of another. So, while both the mother and the fetus have equal value as living persons. The mother cannot “for her own reasons” take the life of the fetus. In the same way that I believe it is unacceptable for me to murder the man who raped me on my youth. Even though he caused me serious (and due to his evil manipulation) ongoing psychological harm. His life was and is not mine to take.

    1. All of this might be fine if it didn’t include murder for the baby in the end. Less than POINT FIVE PERCENT of abortions are for reasons of rape/incest. So for the rest- just because the circumstances look bad, you shouldn’t have it? So if my family suddenly loses our income, has to live off the government, etc. should I murder my 8 month old since that would make things easier? You can’t predict what kind of life you, your child, or anyone else is going to have. But the choice about bringing a child into the world doesn’t come when you get pregnant, it comes when you have sex.

      The choice for 99.5% of these women came at sex. The majority of reasons given for abortion- not ready for child, can’t afford a baby, don’t want to be single mom, would interfere with education plans, etc, etc, sound like the reasons that should be stated BEFORE they have sex. Like these are the reasons I can’t have SEX right now. Not reasons the kill the baby now that the choice has already been made.

      1. The killing the 8 month old analogy doesn’t make sense because if she was a product of rape or incest you couldn’t murder her if you realized it was too hard to be reminded yet you and the vast majority of pro-life people make that exception in abortion because there is difference in those first two trimesters. Or do some babies not matter?
        Telling me this is a baby and not a fetus doesn’t make it so. Telling me it’s a woman’s job (because men are where?) to not have sex only means we need better sex ed and access to bcp. Telling me that a woman isnt being a good mom to her living children and getting them out of poverty by having an abortion isn’t the right a choice and instead she should live in an area with bad schools on little food and even less prospects doesn’t make it so.
        My problem with the pro-life movement is that they aren’t actually doing things to reduce abortion (improving access to birth control for example) instead they create unnecessary medical interventions and clinics that lie about abortions. (I go into more detail here:

    2. I don’t believe that other person read your comment or didnt realize she hit reply and I didn’t realize it was directed towards you rather than me until after I hit approve (I would’ve turned off the comment getting emailed to you).
      I think if you value all life and believe life begins at conception and believe that you can take away one person right to their body to keep another person alive (the incubator analogue) then pro-life works. I wrote about how if one is pro-life, the movement as it stands needs to change if it’s going to reduce abortions (rather than what it’s doing now which is restricting abortion and access to birth control).
      I’m also sorry that you were raped. I know sorry doesn’t cut it but know you aren’t alone and I am glad you are here.

  21. @Alex- not sure how my comment got in the wrong spot…so I’ll just post again. Hopefully it works.
    Let me clarify that I was referring to my already born 8 month old- not in the womb. Circumstances can look bad while you’re pregnant, while you have kids who are already born, when you don’t….it doesn’t mean the baby has to be killed b/c the circumstances look bad. Even women who want and have their kids, could have circumstances come up later that they have no control over. Such is life. That doesn’t mean someone’s life has to end because the circumstances are bad.

    And since 99 to 99.5% of abortions are from women who CHOSE sex, they already had a chance to make the decision. At sex. Not once another life has already started.

    I don’t just tell you that it is a baby, science does. DNA starts at conception ( A baby’s heart starts beating in the 5th or 6th week ( Please tell me what other thing that has a beating heart isn’t living? And if it is living, then to take that life is called “killing.” If it’s not a baby from the beginning, please tell me when it *poof* becomes one? Why is it only a baby when it is WANTED?

    It’s not just a woman’s job to not have sex. It’s everyone’s individual responsibility to have or not have it. No one- male or female- can force you, and if they do, that is called rape. Which still doesn’t answer for the vast majority of abortions. Women ARE given a choice. And that comes before the baby is conceived.

    If a mother can’t afford to take care of her child, adoption is always an option. There are so many families who want to adopt newborns. Is it such a sacrifice to let the child that THE WOMAN DECIDED to conceive grow in her and have a chance at life?

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