Self-care is not Selfishness

Christina M. Warden

As a counselor, I am always amazed at the strength and resilience of the people I am fortunate enough to talk with at The Hope Clinic for Women. Each of us has lived through so much; we each deal with obstacles that others do not know. We are each trying to do the best we can with what we have today. We each deserve respect, compassion, and support as we face life’s challenges. But there is something that comes up far more often in counseling sessions than I would prefer, a word that makes me wish I could pluck this poison thorn from people’s minds so it could no longer harm them. 
Too often people tell me that they’re concerned their decision to end a pregnancy is selfish. I think most would agree that part of being a responsible, caring person is to consider the people who are most impacted by our choices. But I see at least two big flaws in that self-condemnation. First, you are already taking into account the people in your life who are impacted. And second, there is one person who will be more impacted than anyone else by this pregnancy and what you do with it and that person is YOU. You are capable of knowing and anticipating your needs, as well as the needs of your current or potential future family. You are facing the reality of your everyday life circumstances and trying to make the best choice you can. People have abortions for many, many reasons and it is no one else’s place to judge those reasons.  
Typically, it is just untrue that the decision to have an abortion is selfish and the idea only distorts and complicates what can already be a complicated situation. There will always be people who have very strong feelings about your personal life choices, and some of them will act to influence those choices in ways that do not put your needs and wellbeing first. When they are very clever at doing this, it is called manipulation. Throughout human history, people with uteruses and vaginas have been forced and manipulated into doing with them what other people think we should do with them. Consequently, the courses of our lives have been shaped by these outside influences. This undue influence occurs in extreme and violent ways but also in everyday subtle ways, for example when we are given the message in a million forms that it is selfish to conduct our bodies and lives in ways that meet our personal needs and values. This is how we can be manipulated to believe that abortion is always a selfish choice. 
It is a cruel idea, and it ignores the often very serious self-searching and careful consideration that go into the choice to have an abortion. It ignores the diverse reasons that we can reach the conclusion that abortion is the best alternative. It ignores your say over what happens with your body and life. It ignores the ways this choice may enable you to be there for others in the future. It ignores the caring, compassion, and selfless efforts that you make in your everyday life, and what you are willing to do for the welfare of those most important in your life, including yourself. That is love, not selfishness. Self-care is not selfishness.