To the editor:

Gabriel and Robin Greenspan's letter, "Abortion permanently separates babies, parents" (Eagle, Jan. 21), is a perfect example of the emotionally overwrought pieces of false information that have been used for decades to try to shame women and keep them from having control of their own bodies, lives and health. The Greenspans' impassioned letter boldly compares pregnancy termination to the horrific policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, and refers to abortion as "the killing of a baby."

A fetus, however, is very different from a child or a baby. It is not a human but a potential human, just as an egg and a sperm hold pieces of the potential human. A woman sheds part of a potential human every month during menses. A teenage boy sheds abundant portions of potential humans on a regular basis. But if you take a walk in any cemetery, you will see that for as long as humans have been documenting other humans' lives, it is the moment of birth that has been used to mark the beginning of life, not the moment of conception. Conception is a powerful, mysterious moment, for sure, but so are the thousands of beautiful amazing transformations of the embryo that continue long after that, as well as the remarkable transformations that continue as we grow from infants into children, adolescents and adults.

It is true that progressions in science and our ability to transition younger and younger embryos into actual babies has made this question more complicated — and will likely continue to. But life has always been defined as the time between first inhale and last exhale. It is only in the last few decades, as women have been increasingly fighting for equal rights, equal pay and demanding sovereignty over their own bodies, that this notion of conception as the first moment of life has appeared.

I terminated a pregnancy in my early twenties, when contraception failed. I have absolutely no regret, shame or guilt about this decision whatsoever. It caused no long-term physical or emotional issues, and my soul feels quite whole, thank you very much. The real tragedy would have been if my own life's trajectory had been determined by a moment of failed contraception and truncated because I did not have the choice and the means to end that pregnancy in a safe way. As with most women who have had abortions (one in four of us, according to the Guttmacher Institute), this piece of my past is not something many people know about me. I share my story in the hopes that others may know that they, too, have nothing to hide.

If we begin to shed some of the societal shame around a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy, perhaps we can continue to move toward creating a society of equals that respects a woman's right to determine her own fate. If not, we move back toward the dark ages and a time when women were viewed as having less value than men and certainly were not in charge of their own bodies. Oh, right, we're still there.

Jurian Hughes,

Pittsfield