Which Onesie, Baby?

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

Today I learned of a new effort to revitalize the “War on Women” rhetoric – a political strategy that sadly divides women into camps and polarizes discussion.  Now, it’s resulting in some clothing choices for babies . .  

The apparent aim is coordinated rallies throughout the US on April 28 “to demand that every person be granted equal opportunities, equal rights, and equal representation.”  The sponsor appears to be the National Organization of Women, although the effort has its own Facebook page and website, www.UniteWomen.org.  Offered for sale in support of this event is a onesie for babies, sizes newborn to 24 months, in a wide range of colors, including mint green and light pink.  The onesie has this slogan on it:

Included to sell this item is an advertising photo for the $20 onesie.

If a mom dresses her beautiful, chubby baby in a onesie that says “My Mom made a choice.  Which was her right!”, what is she trying to say to the world?  Perhaps – though I could be wrong – this is not a statement about the baby, but a statement about the mother, using the baby as her billboard.  It brings to mind onesies that read “Grandma’s Favorite” or “My Uncle Went to Maui” – slogans intended to state something about a relative of the baby. 

But, of course, this abortion slogan is not at all like such onesies put on babies which spotlight the love for the child by a wide range of competing relatives.  The pro-choice abortion slogan emphasizes that the mother – not the child – is the holder of rights when it comes to who gets to be born and who does not.  The UnitedWomen.org onesie is a statement of power, not a statement of love, but I could be wrong.

Perhaps it is a statement of love.  A mother dressing her child in a $20 onesie that says, “My Mom made a choice.  Which was her right!” might say that this is a statement of love – a statement that “I loved you so much I did not abort you” . . . which brings to mind a conversation I had with a mother who regretted not having an abortion when pregnant with her first child.  She expressed earnestly that, in retrospect – though her daughter was now grown, married and a parent herself – she should have aborted that child and pursued a career for several more years so that, when her subsequent children were born, she would have a better employment history. 

This, of course, is one problem with calling babies “choices” rather than facts or blessings or persons.  A baby birthed because the mother considered it a “good choice” when she had the baby, can just as easily conclude that she made a mistake and her child was, looking back, a “bad choice”. 

I do not think that pro-choice women love their babies any less than their pro-life sisters.  But pro-life women do not think of their babies as choices – anymore than we think of crazy Aunt Ethel or generous Grandma Sally or incarcerated brother Bob as “choices”.  I do not think that babies – if they were given a voice – would be excited about wearing a onesie that tells the world their lives are mom’s choice.  I think babies would rather wear the onesies pro-lifers designed.  It only comes in pale yellow, but costs less at $12.97.  On this point, I am pretty sure that I am right.

3 thoughts on “Which Onesie, Baby?

  1. Actually – your point about the onesie highlighting not the love for the child but the rights of the mother is false – it emphasizes that the child was a WANTED child. Which should emphasize how much more love is attributed to the child.

    Every child a wanted child, every mother willing.

    And you obviously don’t have a problem with mothers displaying their political affiliations on their children’s clothing – because you posted a pro-life onesie.

    • Thank you for your comment. I think you identify a major difference between pro-choices and pro-lifers: pro-lifers don’t think of a baby as a choice. We think of having sex as a choice, using contraception as a choice – but we understand a conceived child as a person. Too, we worry that “every child a wanted child, every mother willing” is just as easily applied to newborns, for example. The argument has already been made that a mother with a newborn who has Down Syndrome, for example, should be able to request the termination of the child because she did not want a child with Down Syndrome. Related, we don’t think of love as being conditional as you describe. For many pro-lifers this principle flows from a belief in a God who loves each person unconditionally, just as they are and we, as a human family, practice extending that love temporally.

  2. Language is obviously a malleable tool. For many of us, the important issue was CHOOSING to have a child and being as ready as possible to take on the precious role of parenting a new life. For me – and probably many others committed to feminist principles for the past few decades – I never thought of my daughter as a “choice” – she is this extraordinary person I have had the privilege to love and nurture all these years. But getting pregnant and giving birth to her WAS a conscious choice – a choice made when I had the circumstances in my life that I saw as enabling me to be the best mother that I could be. And I see nothing wrong with such a choice. In fact, I view it as highly moral and responsible. Our children deserve and benefit from this special kind of valuing.