Magazine article The Human Life Review

And Then I Heard the Heartbeat

Magazine article The Human Life Review

And Then I Heard the Heartbeat

Article excerpt


[The following column first appeared in the New York Post on October l, 1999 and is reprinted here with permission of Ms. Berkman.]

It's hard to hear the life inside you and stay pro-choice

For the first couple of months, I jokingly referred to my material state as the "alleged pregnancy." There were no outward signs that anything inside of me had changed; I continued to run 9 1/2 minute miles in Central Park; my clothes still fit. I smiled at other women's children in the neighborhood-but had no thoughts about having my own.

And then I heard the fetal heartbeat.

Friends already saddled with double strollers and nursery-school tuition fees had assured me that the eerie racing noise would completely alter my perspective, that I would finally understand I was having a baby. But no one warned me that listening to that unfamiliar sound-as my husband excitedly stood beside me in the doctor's office, holding my hand-would transform the way I feel about abortion.

I have identified myself as pro-choice for my entire adult life, and supported a woman's constitutional right as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. Like most people I know, I have donated money or attended fund-raisers for groups like Planned Parenthood. I have never voted for a pro-life candidate. I have condemned protesters who carry graphic signs outside abortion clinics; I would have willingly engaged them in heated debate.

But from the moment I listened to the thrilling rat-tat-rat-tat pulsing inside my uterus, I knew there was a living being inside me, whether or not I was emotionally prepared for its impending arrival. And the thought of losing that life or deliberately ending it seemed almost unendurable.

"There's someone in there!" I tearfully told my husband as we left the doctor's office. "How could anyone want to take it away?" I protectively stroked my stomach many times that night.

At first, I was almost ashamed of my visceral reaction, and wondered if my spontaneous rethinking of this hot-button issue was related to raging hormones (the excuse all pregnant women can rely on when we need to explain anything away). But as the weeks have passed, and my husband and I have seen the baby moving on the sonogram screens (though it's hard to tell sometimes if you're looking at the head or a knee) the feeling has intensified. I am oddly comforted when other staunchly pro-choice friends and acquaintances admit that the experience of pregnancy-and astonishing technological advances that allow us to see and hear the baby much earlier-has forced them to question their political positions. …

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