Monday, January 22, 2007

Raquel Ervin and Why I'm Pro-Choice

Today's the 34th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, so naturally I turned to my stack of Icon issues and dig out the appropriate story for the occasion -- Icon #7, which illustrates pretty well why I went from anti-choice to pro-choice over the last 5 years.

The first thing you need to know about Icon is that is is a very political book. Augustus Freeman IV is an alien who has been stranded on Earth for almost two hundred years. He's very old, very rich, and very conservative. Raquel Ervin is an idealistic teenaged girl with very progressive leanings who convinces Augustus to don a suit and use his powers to inspire and help people. She has a belt that gives her superpowers. Together they are Icon and Rocket, fighting crime and debating human nature across Dakota City.

Early on in the series, Raquel discovers that she's pregnant, and the father asks how she knows its his. Raquel doesn't react too well to that.

So yeah, help from him is out. The family already lives in the projects. Her grandmother all but tells her she won't help, its abortion or adoption. Raquel doesn't think a black baby will get adopted, so as Icon #7 (by Dwayne McDuffie, Erica Helene, and MD Bright), the "Very Special Issue About Abortion" opens, Raquel sees one option to save her ambitions.

Hoping for a mistake, Raquel takes a trip the clinic to get the diagnosis confirmed. After the Doctor tells her that yes, indeed, she is pregnant, she goes off the record. Because the government funds the clinic, its illegal to give Raquel the information she needs, but the Doctor tells her what type of procedure she needs, how long it will take, and that she needs to make the decision quickly for both her physical and her emotional health. this leads to the first revelation of the issue (all issues of Icon of drama and personal revelations that lead to social commentary monologues on Raquel's part).

After this, she decides (consciously) that an abortion is the smart thing to do so she goes to Augustus to borrow the money. Augustus, as mentioned before, is very old, very rich, and very conservative. She goes in expecting a denial and a sanctity of life lecture but here's where the writers throw a little twist her way. Augustus was married before.

Estelle and Augustus decide on an abortion, and fortunately they had enough money to afford a safe one, by 19th century standards. Augusus tells Raquel that he can't put himself in her position, or judge her based on her choice, but the money is a gift if she needs it.

Raquel does not react well to that.

This is when we find out what Raquel's really been searching for. Not money, not options, but someone to tell her what to do. Raquel's at a scary crossroads. She can have the baby and forever wonder what her life would have been like without having put her life on hold for a child, or she can have the abortion and forever wonder what her life would have been like with a little son or daughter. Its such an incredible decision, and both choices have a lot of pain associated with them. If she was denied the money, or the ability to get an abortion, she would be forced to keep the baby and responsibility for her decision would not be on her. She could always blame Augustus if she has to drop out of school. She wants to keep the baby, but she doesn't want to think that she gave up her dreams when she does.

This may also be when I start projecting onto Raquel. See, I've lived my life avoiding responsibility and deferring to other people for even little decisions. I put off college too long, I put off learning to drive until I was forced to, I put off buying a car until my situation become impossible, I put off moving off base and into an apartment until the USAF forced me out of the dorms. Every single step I've taken towards being an adult has been reluctant, and made at the very last moment. Because, at the least moment, its very easy to blame circumstances or other people if the choice you've made was the one you regret. This always made the pro-Choice movement scary, because whichever choice you make, you own it and its a unimaginably huge decision.

Raquel ended up keeping the baby, but she couldn't resign herself to having been forced to make the decision. She had to commit herself to working her butt off to making things work for her, and for the baby together, and if she fell on her face it would all be her fault.

I've gotten into arguments at work with pro-lifers who think that the pro-choice movement is irresponsible. For me, being pro-life and letting everyone else makes my decisions for me is the irresponsible path. Its the easiest path possible, that's why I was pro-life when I was a teenager.

As an adult, I can't be anything other than pro-choice, because adults make decisions. And adults don't make other's decisions for them.

And this issue captures my own view of it perfectly. At the end Raquel makes the choice to have the baby, but she and everyone around her are better off for having the options available that they do, and the right choice for Raquel is not the right choice for everyone and the stories of the Dr. Sidhani and Estelle Freeman illustrate that.


  1. I can't believe I'd forgotten about that story. I think it was the one that turned me into a McDuffie fan.

    I think, thanks to the high politicization of abortion in the United States, there's a feeling that any suggestion that a woman may feel regret, even strong regret, for her abortion is in of itself a message against Roe. I'm not someone that insists that any and all discourse on abortion has to include a footnote that abortion is ever and always a necessary evil and must be regretted. Still, the important thing is that the choice is there, and that women are kept informed about all options and about their sexual health.

  2. Man. I loved Icon. Almost entirely for Rocket.

    Good post. Thank you.

  3. Icon is one of those titles that I'd be first in line to buy if they reprinted the series.

  4. Nice entry, R. The thing that peeves me is when anti-choice people think that abortion is an easy thing for people. Like it's just something to do during their day -- get a carwash, pick up a loaf of bread, and get an abortion. No matter who you are, abortion is always a difficult decision, but it must always remain a choice if women (or, as I mention in my entry about Roe, EVERYBODY) are to be given the right to self-determination. I'm glad that I never have to make a decision about having an abortion, BUT, I am glad that I work for Planned Parenthood, an organization that guides its clients through the wide array of reproductive choices.

    Now I got to go back and read these issues of Icon. It's been so long that I didn't remember the story.

  5. Elliot, I had the same reservation about Racquel that you did. I hope she keeps her anger management issues in check around that kid. Hope Neal Bailey from the Superman Homepage never reads this same story, as this is one of his pet peeves.

    Also, Loren, you'll appreciate this article from The Onion's archives regarding abortion. Once you get past the satire, you'll see that this article makes the same points that you just did.

  6. Well written books in any form are great if they can make you view something from a different angle. Nice post.

  7. Dear Ms. TheFoul,

    Have you seen the article about Rocket in the latest issue of _Modern Fiction Studies_? Contact me if you want help getting a copy of it.

  8. I love Rocket, but she is exceedingly violent. The message people need to hear is that violence is impermissible, irrespective of whether men or women are the perpetrators. Otherwise, she is a fantastic character.