Kourtney’s Choice


Kudos to reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian for honestly sharing the
process she went through deciding whether to keep or terminate her unexpected
pregnancy, a revelation that resulted in headlines on all the gossip
blogs. She could have played the happy "always wanted this"
mom card, and lovingly patted her bump. Instead, she admitted that she
had skipped birth control pills and considered abortion. She gave the
world a peek into the messiness of women’s reproductive lives and decisions.
Her openness may go with the reality TV territory, of course, but even in our exposed celebrity-laden
world, a glance into that particular aspect of women’s existence is
a rarity. 

However, it’s also almost needless
to say that the end result of Kardashian’s decision is that she’ll be
keeping the pregnancy. If she had decided on abortion, we would never
have heard about it, because no stories about celebrity abortions–even
though they’re allegedly having them left and right–make it to the
surface. People would not have written a long piece about her choice,
and the story wouldn’t have been picked up by CNN. So while women ostensibly
have freedom of choice, one choice brings attention and a fawning spread
in dozens of magazines, while the other choice means silence. (To be
clear, it appears that Kardashian has certainly made a decision she’s
happy with. Analyzing her story and
the coverage of it isn’t meant to criticize her decision in any
way, but to talk about the way the "choice" process is framed
in women’s lives and reflected the media.)

Here’s what Kardashian told
People in her own words:
 

"I definitely thought
about it long and hard, about if I wanted to keep the baby or not, and
I wasn’t thinking about adoption. I do think every woman should have
the right to do what they want, but I don’t think it’s talked through
enough. I can’t even tell you how many people just say, ‘Oh, get an
abortion.’ Like it’s not a big deal." 

Funny, but if there are tons
of people out there saying "Oh, get an abortion," in a flip
or casual way, I’ve never seen or heard of them. Instead
of hearing about abortion being a casual choice, lately, I’ve seen more and
more stories like hers.

And that’s because Kardashian’s story fits in to the mainstream narrative
about abortion, popularized in movies like "Knocked up" and
"Juno" and even on TV shows like "90210" and "The
Secret Life of the American Teenager." Stories like these and celebrity
stories like Kardashian’s (and even, to some extent, Bristol Palin’s and
Jamie Lynn Spears’s stories, too) all pay lip service to the notion of
another option
besides carrying the pregnancy to term. The "Knocked
Up" narrative acknowledges the importance of the ultimate choice
belonging to the woman–this, at least, is a victory of the pro-choice
movement. But the flipside of this narrative is that there’s a right
choice and a wrong choice, particularly if you’re a white, middle-class
or otherwise privileged woman. In that case there appears to be no legitimate
reason not to want kids, and if you want kids, no legitimate choice other than to
carry a pregnancy to term.

In this new paradigm a woman becomes pregnant, agonizes over her options,
gets dismissively told to "get rid of it" by a callous pro-choicer
(the mom in "Knocked Up," the lollipop-sucking clinic worker
in "Juno" and Kardashian’s "oh get an abortion"
masses) and ultimately decides to go forward with the pregnancy, earning
smiles and attention. In America, abortion is always a choice that "someone
else" makes–except in this case someone else is a huge percentage of
the population. Kardashian’s story advances an
anti-choice agenda while being ostensibly pro-choice. No wonder Americans
are so
confused
about
where they stand. The acceptable position is to frown on the practice
but begrudgingly insist on its legality in case "someone else"
desperately needs it.

The problem with this popular narrative is that if "the other option"
always gets presented as the bad one, how do we view the women who are
picking it? The answer is that they’re either desperate or selfish.
Here’s what Kardashian said.

For me, all the reasons why I wouldn’t keep the baby were so selfish:
It wasn’t like I was raped, it’s not like I’m 16. I’m 30 years old,
I make my own money, I support myself, I can afford to have a baby.
And I am with someone who I love, and have been with for a long time. 

If Kardashian, with all her financial advantage and a supportive relationship,
had nonetheless genuinely felt that she was not ready to have a child,
why would it have been selfish for her to have an abortion? Having children
is a risky, life-changing high-commitment. It’s not selfish
to defer it or decide not to do it. Compounding the
aspersion cast at those who may choose "the other option,"
it appears that Kardashian may
have come across some suspect information

"I looked online, and
I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories
of people who felt so guilty from having an abortion," she recalls.
"I was reading these things of how many people are traumatized
by it afterwards." 

According to Kardashian, her
doctor encouraged this point of view, saying that she would not regret
having a child, but might regret having an abortion. He was incorrect. Both decisions are liable for regret. Furthermore,
post-abortion syndrome has been debunked but postpartum depression is
very real. Pregnancy brings health risks, both physical and mental,
and a lifetime of commitment and concern about another human being. Asks Anna N at Jezebel,  

But is it really her
doctor’s place to tell her what she will and won’t regret? Many moms
have some occasional regrets about having children, even if they love
these children very much, and to promise Kardashian that motherhood
will be a totally uncomplicated decision seems unrealistic and irresponsible.

Kardashian’s "on again
off again" boyfriend also urged her to keep the pregnancy–and
it’s effected a reconciliation between them. So it seems like even Kardashian’s
doctor and partner are buying in to the "Knocked Up" narrative
wholesale. And that’s a problem.

While Kardashian’s forthrightness should
be praised, we need to start facing the reality. The women who choose
"the other option" aren’t selfish, desperate, or someone else.
As Lynn Paltrow reminded
us
, "Sixty-one
percent of women having abortions are already mothers. By the age of
45, 84% of all women in U.S. will have become pregnant and given birth
and 43% will have had an abortion."  They are our friends, our neighbors,
and often, us. 

The "Knocked Up" narrative isn’t true, but
it dominates the way we talk about abortion. And in order to win more
legal rights, we have to get rid of the stigma that spreads so quickly
it’s even reached reality TV royalty. We have to not only paint abortion
rights as a necessity, but the right to make a choice as a moral good. 

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  • anavfvf

    I totally agree with you

  • julie-watkins

    Good article: thanks: I agree. Popular culture (what gets written and reported) is for keeping pregnancy and against choosing abortion, for the most part.
    When my IUD failed and a had an abortion — I didn’t tell friends, family, or co-workers. This was 28 years ago; we didn’t want children (that’s why I had an IUD). I had my tubes tied the reversible way — never reversed it, now I’m in menopause.

     

    I did tell a few friends afterward, and my supervisor at work shortly before. I don’t make a secret of it on the internet, so if any one in my family or work googled my name they’d find out — but then if they "didn’t want to know" they’d have the option to ignore it. I wouldn’t be forcing the issue. I think it’s one of those "too much information" topics — average person probably doesn’t want to know about my sex life, whether or not I’m constipated, what my underwear looks like. And I wouldn’t want to be impolite and force someone to know and expect a reaction, pro or con. It’s not TMI here, since it’s pertinent to the discussion. In most other places, it isn’t. It’s a problem.

  • christie

    For writing in words everything I was thinking inside my head when I heard what Kourtney said about her choice. I’m so thankful that in this country women are able to make the choice to have a baby or not. And I’m so happy for Kourtney that she has made the decision which she is happy about and at peace with. I just wish she could discuss her choice without disparaging (even unintentionally) those who make the opposite choice. Her comment about reading about how traumatized many women are after having an abortion made me cringe. I guess in her internet surfing she didn’t stumble across the “I’m Not Sorry” website.
    I applaud her honesty, but also wish someone would have edited out her comments that were insulting to those who make the opposite decision.

  • airina

    This was a beautiful and thorough analysis of what rubbed me wrong and right about that story. Thank you.

  • derekp

    I think it’s sad that in defending abortion feminists sometimes betray a cardinal principle of their movement, "Trust and listen to women." It’s not fair to dismiss the valid feelings some women have after having an abortion, including the feeling that they have killed a child. You may not like how they feel, or the words they use to express to others how they feel, but that is their subjective experience and who the hell do you people think you are to disparage or try to silence that. You all should take a lesson from Aspen Baker and learn about the pro-voice model to abortion.

     

    It is wrong for pro-lifers to claim all, or even the majority of women, regret their abortions. But it is equally wrong for pro-choicers to sweep women’s valid feelings under the rug. Just listen to women.  All women.  Listen without censor or judgement.  You may not like what you hear, but the frustrating, upsetting, and contradictory things women say about abortion shed light on a very complex issue.

  • julie-watkins

    I didn’t see the author of the piece disvaluing the emotions of the real woman, Kourtney Kardashian. What I got out of the essay is that the mainstream media keeps finding woman whose stories fit the mainstream narative, rather than also interviewing women who chose abortions.

  • anonymous99

    “The problem with this popular narrative is that if “the other option” always gets presented as the bad one…” Abortion IS the bad option. That’s why it gets presented as the bad option. The choice between giving birth and abortion is not like the choice between Coke and Pepsi. People are happy when children are born and sad when they aren’t. “According to Kardashian, her doctor encouraged this point of view, saying that she would not regret having a child, but might regret having an abortion. He was incorrect. Both decisions are liable for regret.” Really, the way the author frames this debate makes me sick. As if you could even compare the regret for ending the life of an unborn child to not being able to hit the bars Friday night with the girls. “Furthermore, post-abortion syndrome has been debunked…” Here’s the proof that most women getting abortions are cold-hearted, selfish bitches who only think of themselves. I understand there are women who under very difficult circumstances make the hard choice to end their pregnancy. My comments here in NO way apply to these women.

  • ahunt

    “Here’s the proof that most women getting abortions are cold-hearted, selfish bitches who only think of themselves.”

    And what fine mothers they will make, if forced into it!

  • pilar608

    Who ever said that the only reason women regret having children is because they regret "not being able to hit the bars [on] Friday night"?  Who ever said that this is even the primary regret?

     

    Having children is not proof of someone’s selflessness.  Parents neglect their kids, abuse their kids, ignore their kids all the damn time.  Would you argue that, because these people are parents, that they are somehow more selfless, more warm-hearted, better people than a childless woman who aborted at nine weeks?  Really?

     

    You may love being a parent.  That’s great for you. Not everyone loves being a parent, and unfortunately, some women (and men) find that out too late. 

     

    Seriously, you can’t think of another reason to regret having a child other than you lose out on party time?  Children require huge sacrifices on the part of their parents–why can’t we acknowledge that and realize that even the best of parents might have twinges of regret?  How much greater, then must that regret be for a woman who didn’t really want to have a child in the first place, but who bore it out of duty, because it was the "good" choice, because having kids is just the next thing on life’s checklist?  And you think that being a child raised by a parent who regrets and resents your very existence is a good thing?

     

    And please try to understand that for some of us, parenthood is the last thing that we want, and I don’t believe that I should be forced into a life of loveless celibacy because I don’t want offspring.

  • coveman6

    Savethebabies

    It is murder. I want to love and help those who think this is a choice. Yes hard to some, but so is any kind of life decision. The question is can anyone of us make the decision to kill a defenseless baby? Doubt it is a baby? Check medical facts and have a sonagram.

    There are many organization who will help you. Love your baby. God Loves you. One bad choice cannot be corrected by a worse choice.

    God Bless

  • crowepps

    Speaking entirely from the biological standpoint, a woman who does not WANT to have a baby is far better off physically if she has an abortion since doing so lowers her health risks considerably compared to pregnancy. She may regret it or she may not. Your assumption that abortion is always the ‘bad option’ is rooted in the belief that the purpose for which women exist is the production of babies and that any woman who diverges from that role is a ‘bad woman’ unless she feels really, REALLY guilty. That is very agricultural. You don’t seem to grasp quite how insulting and sexist it is to reduce women to uteruses.

    Here’s the proof that most women getting abortions are cold-hearted, selfish bitches who only think of themselves.

    Oh, sure, because your meme is that women are all supposed to be interchangeable cogs in the baby-making process and any woman who isn’t ‘giving’ and ‘unselfish’ or who ‘thinks for herself’ is OBVIOUSLY a promiscuous alcoholic. After all, there’s no room for ‘defective’ women in a society dedicated entirely to preserving and honoring men’s sperm.

     

    Every time I start to think that Paul might have a point someone comes on here and posts this sort of blatantly sexist diatribe about how women need to be constrained in a role that meets the needs of men and I get irritated all over again by the underlying idea that ‘woman’s role’ is to make everyone else happy by sacrificing herself while ‘man’s role’ is to make his mark in the world and control other people. Can’t we get past the idea that its the DUTY of girls to be thrown in volcanoes so that the men will be safe and happy?

  • crowepps

    Women who are getting abortions know they are pregnant and that if they don’t terminate they will have a baby. They aren’t stupid. They don’t WANT a baby. Sure, there are organizations that will help, IF you pay for that help by turning over the baby to a ‘good Christian home’.

     

    http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/142274/christian_organizations_shame_and_coerce_women_into_giving_up_their_children/?page=entire

     

    What you want and your religious beliefs are totally irrelevant to women in these situations because they also have moral agency and freedom of religion. God ALREADY loves them and will continue to do so no matter what. Frankly, your assertion that you “want to love and help” is feeble if you require those women to first do what you want. I usually don’t post scripture, but I’ll make an exception here:

    32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.

    33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.

    34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.

    35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

    36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6

  • emma

    Abortion IS the bad option.

    Sez you. I disagree.

    Really, the way the author frames this debate makes me sick.

    Your response to the author’s framing of the debate is excessive. ETA – if you’re having problems with nausea/vomiting, it’s probably just a virus. Try to keep down liquids and see a doctor if necessary. Wouldn’t want you to end up in hospital needing IV fluids – we want you to keep demonstrating that ‘pro-lifers’ are indeed motivated by their pathological hatred of women.

    As if you could even compare the regret for ending the life of an unborn child to not being able to hit the bars Friday night with the girls.

    There are far more significant regrets than not getting to go to a bar with one’s friends. If you have a child young, you are more likely to miss out on educational and employment opportunities – the things that enable you to build a career and to be able to afford to live – just to give two examples. It would be easier for you to understand this as you shifted away from thinking of women as frivolous, irresponsible, selfish obstacles to your political agenda and remember that we’re actually people, just like you.

    "Furthermore, post-abortion syndrome has been debunked…" Here’s the proof that most women getting abortions are cold-hearted, selfish bitches who only think of themselves.

    I’ll start off by pointing out that this comment is a huge bucket of FAIL.

     

    I’m not clear on this point, though – what is this proof that most women getting abortions are ‘cold-hearted, selfish bitches who only think of themselves’? Is your ‘proof’ the fact that ‘post-abortion syndrome’ has been debunked? Because, going back to the idea that women are people, just like you, women have diverse approaches and responses to having abortions. Many are relieved; some are sad; some are happy; some of them even experience combinations of those feelings. I guess to you, the correct response to having an abortion should be devastation, wailing, gnashing of teeth, suicidal ideation….oh, and guilt. Lots and lots and lots of guilt, yes?

    I understand there are women who under very difficult circumstances make the hard choice to end their pregnancy. My comments here in NO way apply to these women.

    How generous of you.

     

    ETA again – It honestly kind of scares me when I come across men who demonstrate this degree of loathing for women. It’s just…kind of disturbing.

     

     

  • emma

    Haha, I read this commenter’s name as ‘Caveman6′ and thought for a minute he must be a parody troll.

    God Loves you.

    Makes me think of the Slayer song ‘God hates us all’.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Is not silencing.  And not to speak for Aspen, but it’s ugly of you to misrepresent what she says.  That women have complicated feelings about abortion doesn’t necessarily mean they regret them.  That a woman regrets an abortion doesn’t mean she’s traumatized.  "Post-abortion" syndrome has been investigated and demonstrated not to exist.  Aspen doesn’t deny this. 

     

    I do feel very badly for women who claim to feel traumatized by abortion.  But I’m not blind to the fact that most of them are women who already had marginal mental health issues and aren’t receiving real treatment, because we have a screwed-up health care system.  And so women with fragile mental health are found by anti-choicers who, instead of giving them real help, exploit them for anti-choice propaganda.  And we’re supposed to look at this exploitation and say pro-choicers are in the wrong?  Doesn’t compute.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Why on earth does he think that promiscuous alcoholics are the best people for mandatory motherhood?  The straw woman he constructs sounds like a bad mother, the sort who’d neglect a baby to go out drinking.