The hip feminista Jessica Valenti has written a lot about children and abortion but never more personally than her “Sunday Sauce, Saving Me” blog post for The Toast in which she admits that she herself had an abortion.
Prior to her abortion admission published on October 22, Valenti was nothing if not an ardent and excited pro-choice warrior. No restrictions on abortion or contraception are allowed and she often critiqued the notion that becoming a parent is somehow a value or even desired.
In 2009, in The Atlantic she wrote in support of her book, Why Have Kids?, about why not wanting kids is entirely normal. “If there were no consequences, how many of us would give up our kids?” Valenti provocatively inquired.
She has argued that feminists should proclaim loudly and without apology that abortions be free on demand. “‘Free abortions on demand without apology’ is a call for equal access to a constitutional right. More importantly, it’s a promise that feminists won’t ignore the needs of all women in favor of tailoring messages to the mainstream. Because being pro-choice means doing what’s right, not what’s popular,” Valenti wrote at The Nation in August.
She’s written for the Washington Post about why “personhood” amendments are a terrible idea. “The people who attack reproductive rights are turning a blind eye to the impossible choices families have to make together, instead callously insisting that it’s lawmakers who know what’s best for women, not women themselves.” Her own callous insistence that public monies should fund abortion-on-demand ignores the fact that many people find abortion morally wrong and don’t want “lawmakers” to spend their taxes on something they believe is against God’s law.
Valenti was happy about the defacement of an “abortion changes you” ad declaring she “loved” the “pro-choice hero” who’d covered over a poster intimating that there are emotional consequences for the woman who decides to end a pregnancy with a printed sign about fulfilling dreams because the abortion meant “now I can go to college.”
Come October her tone and rhetoric were very, very different, though. She wrote then about her memories of Sunday dinner with her family, about how her parents – though no longer practicing Catholics – still maintained traditions about taking time out on Sundays to rest, eat, listen and dance to music, turn off the TV and just be together. Valenti then explains how she had become especially concerned about passing on traditions to her daughter because due to the trouble she had with that pregnancy she was sure she wouldn’t have any more children.
“Then I got pregnant,” Valenti admits. “Sometimes plans and being responsible don’t work out the way you thought they would. I always thought women collapsing at bad news seemed a bit overwrought, but there I was on the bathroom floor. I cried because I was terrified…but mostly I cried because I want so badly for [daughter] Layla to be able to dance with someone to Buddy Holly on Sundays,” Valenti writes as if moaning.
And then Valenti admits that she ended the pregnancy. “Today, with a toddler who puts on ballet shows for her dolls and scoops ricotta onto layers of dough, I know that I don’t hate myself enough to die. And I love her enough not to. But it’s not enough to just accept this reality.
“So I bake. And I roll dough. And I make Sunday sauce to tell Layla–I love you. This is enough.”
Reading Valenti’s abortion confession is difficult because though I’ve never agreed with her, I feel deep sorrow for any woman who wants a child and can’t have one. And clearly Valenti, even after questioning whether children are desirable seems to be saying that they are and that she wishes she could have more.
Two further observations about this abortion warrior who has now joined its ranks:
Valenti never actually writes the word abortion in her post. After writing that word (so often) in regards to other people she seems to be incapable of “saying” it out loud about herself. This doesn’t make her a coward, it makes her human and it leads to the second point that was always missing from her previous commentary about the issue, the despair.
No one who undergoes an abortion can deny to themselves that they have killed a potential living thing, that they’ve ended a life. (Of the women I know who’ve had abortions, each believes they had to do it and each also understands and feels pain about having killed a potential baby.) And that knowledge causes deep, primal despair. This is not to say that public policy around abortion should be driven by that despair. But while Valenti had no trouble in the past portraying pro-lifers as scary because of what she saw as their anti-woman zealotry, she has never been able to acknowledge of her own fellow pro-choicers (of herself) that they deny the pain and suffering that comes with aborting a potential life – whether justified or not. She has never been able to admit that ending a life could feel so wrong.
No one gets off without some scarring – regardless of whether the abortion is “necessary” in the eyes of the woman.
Peace be upon Jessica Valenti because she’s obviously in pain about what happened to her and her family. Maybe she’s learned some greater sensitivity toward those who want to protect and prevent others from experiencing her despair.