As I peruse the aisles of an immaculate Ralph Lauren store with my fiancé by my side, I stop at the rack of designer baby onesies. I let out an audible "aww" at the pint-sized clothing, and for a second think about one day deciding to have a child with my future husband. But then reality sinks back in, and my sudden flash of baby fever has passed.
My fiancé and I enjoy freedom. In fact, that shopping experience was on a Tuesday afternoon. I work from home and he was enjoying his last days off before starting a new job. We spend our time traveling, embarking on adventures, being goofballs, and enjoying the best cuisine and libations our city has to offer. In many ways, our lives are not at all conducive to having children.
Yet, all too frequently, people interrogate me when I casually mention that my fiancé are strongly considering not having any.
A few years back, I remember reading a Jennifer Aniston article where she expressed her frustrations about people assuming she’s wanted to be her mom all her life; instead, she explained how there are so many other ways for her to practice mothering without having children of her own. At the time, I eye-rolled. (Although admittedly, that was primarily because I can’t stand Jennifer Aniston.) But now, I see exactly where she’s coming from. Assuming all women want to bear children is as anti-feminist and reductive as we can get — despite how often I’m on the receiving end of these comments from women who claim to be pro-choice.
In reality, these outcries against women who wish to remain childfree serve as the fundamental antithesis of the pro-choice movement.
Being pro-choice is not just about being supportive of abortions; it’s about recognizing the right for women to have autonomy over their own bodies and make reproductive decisions for themselves.
When we examine pro-choice politics, we almost exclusively do so in the context of abortion, debating whether it is not only legal but also ethical for a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy. For many Americans, ethics largely tie into religion and thus begins another aspect of being pro-life versus pro-choice: the sanctity of life.
The biggest misconception of people who are pro-choice is that they do not value the sanctity of life. This is fundamentally untrue. In fact, my values on the sanctity of life serve as the foundation for my pro-choice stance. First off, the sanctity of life absolutely should apply to the women who are determining whether or not they are ready to have a child. After all, choosing parenthood is a large decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
As Americans we have debated at what point human life begins and argued that people should take personal responsibility if they conceive a child, but at what point does the topic become needlessly sanctimonious and neglect the best interests of the unborn child?
I believe women should control their bodies, and also that we shouldn’t bring life into this world that won’t be fully cherished and respected.
The pro-life agenda has long been debunked as hypocritical. This is evidenced by the historic infamy of pro-lifers only caring about unborn children — and not the millions of (already born) Americans living in poverty or without access to a reasonable quality of life. No child deserves to be born into a home where he or she will be unwanted, neglected, and/or not cared for due to lack of resources and structure. That, right there, is why I’m pro-choice. I believe women should control their bodies, and also that we shouldn’t bring life into this world that won’t be fully cherished and respected.
Therein lies where the sanctity of life most comes into play with me; if our focus is on the sanctity of life and protecting unborn children, shouldn’t we be accounting for their future quality of life? I value and adore children — despite my desire not to have any. I believe that innocent little humans without the autonomy and agency to care for themselves are entitled to proper care and environmental stability. And although I wish that the pro-life crowd fully incorporate this outlook in their fundamental ethos, I have long since realized that isn’t the case.
Therefore, I remain pro-choice. Because women deserve to choose, and children deserve to be chosen.
When I explain my reasoning for being pro-choice, I am typically met with understanding — even if the person with whom I’m speaking doesn’t fully agree with my position. But when I apply that same logic to why I myself don’t want children, I’m often met with astonishment — even if the person claims to be a progressive, pro-choice person themselves. It is widely accepted to say you know for a fact you want to have kids one day, even while you’re still an adolescent. Conversely, I’ve witnessed not only myself but also other women express a reluctance (or sometimes, a flat out refusal) to have children and these comments are universally met with a response to the tune of “Oh, you’ll change your mind.”
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Sure, maybe I will change my mind. But most likely, I won’t. It doesn’t matter how much you remind me of my empathy, kindness, or love of education, babies, and toddlers… I still don’t want children. I want freedom — socially, financially, personally ± and having children isn’t conducive with the free-spirited, laissez faire life I am cultivating.
The most insulting response to those who can’t understand my desire to be childfree is that I’m selfish. Nevermind all the people who bring children into the world knowing they can’t afford them or the people who dread parenthood but still bring babies to term because they feel guilty making any other choice. No, let’s focus on how it’s selfish to choose not to bring a child into the world with the decision being deliberate, conscious, and compassionately intentional.
Being truly pro choice is supporting the autonomy for women to not only decide to terminate a pregnancy or bring it to term, but also to choose whether being a mother is even desirable at all.
Alas, my reasoning for wanting to abstain from childbearing goes beyond my desire for freedom — not that I owe anyone an explanation. But I often share how, in a world that seems increasingly tense and tumultuous, I can’t justify bringing a child into this world. The future is never certain, and I’m well aware that our world is not heading towards a universal utopia anytime soon. Still, with so much turmoil both on American soil and abroad, I can’t help but worry for our future.
My fiancé and I do talk about whether we’d consider changing our minds on remaining childfree. We are in agreement that kids are not on our radar, but that if one person really changes their mind down the line, we will reconsider. We have also agreed that the solution — should that situation occur — might be fostering and adopting children right here in America. Kids who were neglected or orphaned and in need of loving homes shouldn’t be passed by just because of society’s overwhelming obsession with biological children. (I won’t lie, though, sometimes we do talk about how cute our biological children would be. But once again, that is no reason to have kids.) So in considering our future, that’s where we stand. The plan is no kids, but should that change, we would consider adopting children who have already been born but are missing stability, love, and a place to call their own.
Pro-choice shouldn't just be an issue of once an embryo exists; being truly pro choice is supporting the autonomy for women to not only decide to terminate a pregnancy or bring it to term, but also to choose whether being a mother is even desirable at all. We need to do a better job of supporting everyone across the spectrum of femme-ness and womanhood, and acknowledge that cutting down other women for choosing not to have children is counter productive, the opposite of pro choice, and inherently misogynistic. Our bodies exist for more than heteronormative male pleasure and popping out babies.
To assume that women wish to be mothers by default is the type of gender essentialism that I’d come to hope modern feminism has finally left behind — but we are still not there yet.
Because of my proudly liberal beliefs, it’s no surprise that I don’t quite click with the pro-life crowd, although logically, you’d think they’d support my position. I would think the staunchest supporters of the sanctity of life would be supporting people who don't want children on the basis of children deserving the love, respect, and commitment of devoted parents. Being pro-life should not be purely about policing pregnancies and demanding bringing all babies to term whether their conception was intentional or not. Being pro-life should be about nurturing the right for all humans — including those still unborn — to have a nice quality of life.
If anything, the responses I receive when telling people about my desire to remain childfree confirms how entrenched we are in our beliefs. I’ve learned that it’s less about the title of pro-life or pro-choice and instead all about the beliefs we’re indoctrinated into. I remain proudly pro-choice — and I always will be — but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to keep pushing the boundaries of inclusion.
Being pro-choice is not about abortion; it’s about autonomy. And I know I’m not alone in my beliefs.
Just a few weeks ago, I was out for some Mexican food and margaritas with a group of close friends. When our first round of drinks arrived, we decided to make a toast. Without hesitation, our table — filled with college-educated, whip smart young professionals — agreed, “To not having children!” We clinked our rocks glasses as my fiancé added, “And to still doing this when we’re 40!”
What can I say? I’ll drink to that.