What makes these stories so infuriating to me is that they are emotional blackmail. As readers or listeners, we are almost forced by these anti-choice versions of A Wonderful Life to say, "Oh, I am so glad you were born." And then by extension, we are soon forced into saying, "Yes, of course, every blastula of cells should be allowed to develop into a human being."Beisner tries to counter abortion deliverance stories, and the argument based on them, by saying her case is just the opposite -- she thinks her mother should have aborted her. Her mother had a terrible life and gave her a child a terrible life as well, though she says she's come to be happy in the last 12 years. You have to read the article to see how moving this is--I won't try to summarize.
I like the anti-pollyanna tone of this article, and it's worth knowing that not every mother heroically overcomes adversity. But truth be told, giving examples of lives that shouldn't have started isn't the best way to counter the "argument from gladness": the argument that moves from "I'm so glad you were born" or "I'm so glad I was born" to "aborting this pregnancy would be wrong." That gladness is a very hice thing, but nothing really follows from it about abortion.
Think about it. I'm glad I was born. Had my mother had an abortion, I wouldn't have been born. But there are lots and lots of other precursors of my birth besides her not having an abortion--things that had to be that way, or I wouldn't have been born. Another precursor is that my parents didn't go to a movie on that fateful night. And they didn't use contraception. And they spent 15 minutes washing the dishes. Because the exact timing of conception alters which sperm meets the mother's egg, there are actually zillions of precursors to any particular person existing. Lots of things had to be that way for me to wind up existing and being glad I exist.
If I say my gladness means my mother would have been wrong to have an abortion, I'll also have to say she would have been wrong to eliminate any of the other precursors. The fact that I'm glad I exist will mean she had to skip the movie, and had to skip contraception, and had to wash the dishes for just 15 minutes. But all that's absurd. Surely nobody's obligated to do the vast number of things that imperceptibly make it so that one eventually-ever-so-glad person comes into the world, rather than another person or no one at all.
It's certainly more dramatic and compelling to counter deliverance stories with tragic stories like Beisner's. But here's the thing. Very, very few people are not glad that they exist. If the gladness argument made any sense, someone contemplating an abortion would at least be able to reason: my eventual child will almost certainly be glad she was born, so I shouldn't have an abortion. It's crucial, then, to see that it doesn't make sense ... ever, at all.
The fact that I'm glad I exist tells us literally nothing about what my parents should and shouldn't have done many moons ago, when all the events were transpiring that eventually brought me into existence. I suppose that's sort of surprising. The gladness argument seems rather appealing at first. That's why the deliverance stories are a good marketing device for pro-lifers. But scratch the surface and you actually find something barking mad. There's no way we're all obligated to do whatever it takes to create exactly those people who will eventually exist, just because they'll be glad they exist.