The Abortion Debate | The New Engagement

The Abortion Debate

By Tenacity Plys
The Abortion Debate accompanying art

A bustling coffee shop in a trendy metropolitan city. Youths of all persuasions populate this coffee shop, enjoying the vista of life ahead of them from the summit of their triple-shot espresso drinks. In this coffee shop a rather comely young man has bought a young woman a large serving of caffeine, for on this afternoon they have agreed to go on a date. Let’s listen:

“You know, I wondered if the triple shot was too much, but I think it’s just the right amount.” The young woman sips a teeny cup of what is essentially crude oil. After her sip, her eye twitches slightly; she swallows and purses her lips. “Mmph! Goddamn, that’s good.”

“So, you really don’t take milk or sugar in that, huh?” The young man watches her sip the espresso with slight consternation.

“No, nothing. I think being a drug addict kind of blew out my neurotransmitters, so now I can only experience pleasure from punishingly intense experiences.” She puts her cup down on its teeny saucer and gives him a smile like sunshine. “But enough about my past traumas. What about yours?”

“Uh, I don’t think I have any past traumas.”

Our girl gives a little smile in place of an eyeroll. “I doubt that. But okay, here’s a better ‘date’ question: what do you like to do for fun?”

“Oh, well, I’m pretty ordinary. I like debating people on the Internet as if that actually changes anything at all, even a little bit. I’m into starting new exercise regimens but only sticking with them for like two weeks. I’m also part of this activist group that protests against abortion.”

The woman furrowed her brow at that last. “Against abortion? Why would you protest against abortion?”

“Well, it kills people!”

“What people?” The young woman’s brow furrowed further. After all, she had had two abortions herself and didn’t notice any people dying. The abortions had been less expensive than her triple shot of espresso, since her national healthcare plan covered all medically necessary procedures.

“The fetuses. Abortion kills fetuses.”

Once the woman realized what he had said, she laughed out loud. “Fetuses! What are you talking about?!” The young woman had a taste for guys who wholeheartedly believed in crazy conspiracy theories, but this seemed a little too much.

The young man was taken aback at her laughter, but otherwise had been prepared to explain: “Bear with me. Most people consider a fetus to be a non-conscious life form that feels no pain during the process of abortion.”


“But I believe that life begins at conception. A baby is actually a living thing with a soul from the moment the sperm enters the egg.”

“What? So, like, should I not cut my fingernails or hair anymore either?”

“No, because fingernails and hair are actually just dead protein.”

“I know. That was a joke. In all seriousness though, what about the bacteria in my intestines? Should I never take a shit again just because I flush some of them away every time?”

“Well, no, because intestinal bacteria actually do not grow into human babies.”

“Well, neither do fetuses if they get aborted.”

The young man was silent for a moment.

The young woman continued, taking no note of his feelings. “What about when I’m dreaming and there are other people in the dream? Some lucid dreamers have given the Turing test to characters in their dreams, and some of those characters pass the test! Is it murder for those lucid dreamers to wake up?” The young man just stared at her. She rolled her eyes, and continued: “But wait, this all makes no sense. How are people supposed to terminate their pregnancies if they can’t have abortions?”

“They don’t.”

“Well, doesn’t that mean there’s kind of a problem with this whole idea? How are people supposed to not have children if they can’t choose not to have children?”

“Generally, I believe that women—people, that is, who get pregnant should consider not having sex if they don’t want to have babies.”

“Are you kidding?”

The woman stared at the man so long after asking this question that he was finally forced to respond with: “….no?”

“I’m sorry, wasn’t this supposed to be a date? Aren’t you literally trying to have sex with me right now?”

“I would really like that, eventually! I was just thinking that we could save ourselves for marriage, because you would actually be a whore if you had sex with me before then.” His tone never left the register of a college professor giving a lecture on some little-known trade agreement from the 1800s.

The woman drew back, brow furrowed. “I’m sorry, so what you’re proposing is that I give up control over the number of children I have, on the premise that I’m a bad person for having sex?”

“Yes.” The young man nodded eagerly. “So, what do you think? Does this exciting new idea interest you?”

“Uh, hard pass.”

“Excuse me, are you okay?” There was a group of femmes at a table nearby who were all splitting a vegan apple pie. “Is this guy bothering you? We thought we heard him calling you a whore.”

“I think I’m good. Thanks, though!” The young woman raised her teeny espresso cup to the group of femmes. “But listen, I know this is a weird question, but are any of you able to get pregnant?” Two of the four femmes nodded. “Okay. So, what would you think of a proposal that you should never be able to have an abortion?”

“But then...what am I supposed to do if I get pregnant and don’t want the baby?” Asked a femme wearing a binder and about a dozen earrings in each ear.

“I know, right?” The young woman smiled. “My friend here thinks abortion should be illegal, because fetuses are people or something.”

The women all snorted with laughter at once.

One femme said: “I actually do believe that life begins at conception, so I would never have an abortion.” The young man brightened. “But I mean, I would never force someone else to live by my beliefs. That would make me a sociopath!” The young man’s face fell.

“Who would that help?” mused a femme whose gold metallic lipstick stood out against her dark skin. “It’s like if people who had cancer weren’t allowed to get chemotherapy anymore. I mean, a tumor is about as sentient as a fetus.”

“Right! It would just ruin people’s lives!” A femme with an ACAB tattoo and a punk band T-shirt agreed. “If it was something reasonable, like executing fascists, that would be different.”

“Um.” The young man, it appeared, was speaking again. “I actually do activism on that issue as well.” This only had the effect of making everyone laugh at him more.

The young man eventually got his things and left the coffee shop. This was his third abortion debate date this week, and he was starting to wonder if he shouldn’t take a new approach to meeting women. Meanwhile, the young woman exchanged business cards with all her new friends, and they all lived in happiness, empowerment, and solidarity for ever after.


Later that week, a case on the very same subject the man and woman had talked about on their “date” came before the Supreme Court. On one side, there was a man suing an abortion clinic for aborting “his” child, which was really a zygote attached to the lining of the uterus of a woman he had been dating until recently. The woman informed the Supreme Court that she had broken up with the man upon his deciding to sue the abortion clinic.

The Supreme Court conferred, but they didn’t need much time. The Head Justice, Laverne Cox, read a decision stating that there was obvious precedent in the cases Griswold v. Connecticut, McFall v. Shimp, and Roe v. Wade to protect the bodily autonomy of one person even at the expense of another person’s life. In other words, just as one person cannot be forced to donate an organ to another, so no person can be forced to give a fetus the nutrients, space, and time that it would need to fully gestate.

Justice Amos Curmudgeon III, the only white, cis-het, able-bodied man on the Court, read a dissenting opinion, one that referenced the sanctity of life even at the level of a zygote, despite the fact that he had murdered over a million bacteria by brushing his teeth that day. He also spoke of the responsibility we all have to face the consequences of our actions, despite the fact that he had never faced even one consequence in his life. However, shortly after he started to read it, he looked up and found that everyone had left to try out the trendy new food truck outside.

Amos Curmudgeon stopped reading and put down his notes. In a fit of passion, he shook his fist at the sky, his emotions rebelling against a God that would allow such injustice to happen. Why was he not allowed to stick his gnarled old-man nose into everyone else’s genitals? Why were his opinions about other people’s bodily autonomy not considered as important as their bodily autonomy itself? Amos found himself cursing God for not creating a world where people like him could decide the fates of all other types of people. What a world that would be, he thought; what a world that would be.


Tenacity Plys lives in zir head, but physically exists in Brooklyn. Zir identity is fluid and disassociated, just like zir art. Ze’s too young and commitment-phobic to pick just one medium, so ze works in prose, essay, poetry, and Evangelion meme formats according to zir whims. Whatever the form, zir work is generally about leftist politics, the end of the world, and zir frequent nervous breakdowns. Zir work has been published in such places as Pif Magazine, The New Engagement, BlazeVOX, Little Red Tarot, Thought Catalog, and Queerly Reads. You can find zir website at, or on Twitter as @tenacitywrites.

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