Children of the revolution

“Participants in last week’s pro-choice march hang signs around children’s necks proclaiming, “I was a chosen child.” The implications are chilling. “Chosen” has surface connotations of being special, but also the cold wind whispering in your ear: you could have just as easily not been chosen. Your siblings, your flesh and blood, may not have been chosen and therefore are absent forever from your life. Such a slogan screams that adults are all-powerful. They have the right to exclude others from even being defined as human.”

Breda O’Brien, Irish Times Sat 1/10/16

I wondered when the subject of children on protest marches would arise. More specifically, the subjective value-judgements commentators inevitably attach to it. Breda might’ve been left cold by the perceived connotations of the gesture, as is her wont; I just thought it was extraordinarily naff. But I’m sure she’d expect nothing less from an irresponsible pro-choicer like myself who brought her own daughter on the march last year.

She continues…

“Children cannot rationalise abortion in the way adults can. They cannot rationalise taking away a life as a solution.”

As statements of fact, the first will likely be met with broad agreement by anyone who has ever spent a few minutes of their lifetime dabbling in logic. The second will prompt many to ask for clarifications on the meaning of life, whether that includes the life of a sentient woman, the solution to what exactly, and other plentiful well-worn question marks frequently posed by my 4 year-old and her mates over play-doh.

Breda’s contention is not that children shouldn’t be brought on marches  – she brought her own on pro-life rallies – it’s that pro-choice marches are essentially an exercise in compromising the emotional security of those children attending. Where the use of such slogans as ‘chosen child’ is an unequivocal demonstration of how their mother’s love is conditional, and there but for the almighty power of her (presumably) blithe judgement, their own lives might very well have been taken away before they began.

Tell me about it, Breda. Sure our wee one has been milking that one for years, and will continue to do so until it dawns on her around 13 that she didn’t actually ask to be born.

“No parent loves perfectly, but babies bring out a fierce protectiveness in us. The urge to protect the weakest and most helpless is primal. Or at least it used to be.” 

Or at least it is for us pro-life parents, in short. As a pro-life protesting parent, Breda is satisfied with the phased exposure to the principles of the pro-life movement undertaken with her own children. Pro-life protestors, it would seem, have a monopoly on ensuring responsible engagement of children in forms of protest.

“I told them that abortion was a word that they had to trust me to worry about and not to explain until they were much older. “

I’m not sure I feel so confident. When it comes to protecting the innocence of my own girl, and balancing that with the cultivation of a sense of justice and an incremental introduction to the complexities and messiness of life, there is much I won’t be able to guard her from. But such is life.

In time, she will come to learn there are few areas in life that can be unequivocally defined by a single moral perspective. That those holding competing views will always be the last to see their own hypocrisy. And, just as Breda marches alongside children brandishing placards showing foetal remains; the rest of us take our place next to our own diversity of bedfellows and march onward in the hope of reaching a fair destination.

For now, I’m reasonably certain that instilling an awareness of the existence of public disgruntlement, unhappiness among women about the rules that govern them, and their corresponding entitlement to use the public highway to highlight that, will not compromise our girl’s sense of security. She’s been doing it effectively in the hallway since the time she could walk.


What do we want?

Our mothers to be trusted

When do we want it?

Er can we have our crisps now?

10 thoughts on “Children of the revolution

  1. Hmm “choosing” – it can make the act seem so flippant; new shoes or…. It gives no weight to the deliberation taken to reach the decision which makes most sense. As you say, life is messy,and there is rarely a single answer/solution to anything without a voice uttering, “Ah, but…” I’ve certainly found that the “choice” of having just the one means that the One has time to ask a hell of a lot of questions. Sometimes I think this is a test to see if I’m living up to his expectations, because he usually has an answer in waiting. I’m impressed by his answers to the messiness of the world. We also have a mutual understanding that of course a hug from him will distract me from whatever it is I’ve asked him to do!

  2. It’s such a divisive issue. I personally am very much against abortion…for myself, but I have three girls and if any one of them came to me and for whatever reason wished to have an abortion, I would want to be by their side. Because choice for me, means choice for all.
    My youngest has never really asked about any of this. She is 14. I don’t think she needs to know now, but I would think that I’d want her to know she has choices. Ultimately I would want her never ever to have to get on a boat to make her choice.

    • Sure is divisive, tric. And not one that lends itself to the either/or discussion format. I’ve yet to meet a fan of abortion. The day when folk don’t feel they have to qualify their personal view on it, will be the day maturity and reality have finally collided for the better. It’s interesting to hear your 14 year old hasn’t been asking questions. It’s hard to know what their thoughts are on these things at that age, and what they’re exposed to. The responsibilities attached to protest are fair game for a kicking in my eyes. One person’s sense of fairness, and values, is another’s unsanctioned indoctrination etc.. There’s no perfect way to navigate these things; we’re all trying to be cautious and open-minded. Our incurable addiction to sweeping issues under the carpet hasn’t helped til now 🙂

  3. Not being able to have children never made me any less pro-choice than I was before, interestingly (for me anyway).
    Re this, I was at the march last Saturday and I didn’t happen to see any of these weird, sci-fi sandwich-board kids; just seen the reports now. To be honest, I don’t really get it. “I was a chosen child” – and my aborted sibling wasn’t? How does this slogan draped over a child help the pro-choice cause? Will someone explain it to me – for some context, it’s 5.29 pm and I’m still at my desk in the office and the old brain is mince.

    • Your pro-choice stance is interesting in the context of your own experience. Martina Devlin has written about her IVF experiences and remains vociferously pro-choice. Reflects the complexity and contradictions of women, I guess. This is the original articles with the batty pics I don’t think it would be beyond the pro-life crew to have set them up as a stunt. I also don’t think it would be beyond elements of the pro-choice to have set them up in an attempt to prove a point. Either end of the spectrum is not devoid of stupidity.

      • I’m not really sold on her idea that it reinforces patriarchy. Anyway I get now that the slogan is a naff riff on the pro-choice idea that every kid born should be a wanted child. Implying that if a pregnant couple want to terminate but can’t for some reason, the resulting child will be officially Unwanted for all of his/her days, which is mostly bollocks. And Wanted kids can end up unwanted, of course. So I’m reasonably happy today with the idea that it’s just a shite slogan and that’s that.

  4. Pingback: 16 from ’16 | department of speculation

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