Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy because of a genetic marker that made her chances of getting breast cancer very high — 87 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and up to a 54 percent chance of ovarian cancer — was front page news. TV news shows and gossip columnists led with her story.
Her mother died from breast cancer.
Jolie is not the first prominent person to take radical measures to fight cancer. Radical is the operating word.
Christina Applegate is best known for playing the role of Kelly Bundy on the Fox sitcom Married … with Children.
Applegate had a double mastectomy, even though cancer was found in only one breast. Like Jolie, she has an inherited genetic trait, a BRCA1 mutation, which often triggers breast cancer. Her mother, Nancy Priddy, is a breast cancer survivor. Applegate said when she first was diagnosed, “I was just shaking and then also immediately, I had to go into ‘take-care-of-business-mode’ which included a change to a more healthy diet.”
For both women, and others like them, there shouldn’t be any judgment. Cancer is a fearsome disease. A double mastectomy in a sex-obsessed culture and industry that glories in body image is nothing but brave.
Was it the right decision? I don’t know, and it’s not my business to say because the breasts belonged to Jolie and Applegate.
This brings me to the abortion debate. I’m watching the film Juno as I write this. It’s about sixteen-year-old high-schooler Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) who discovers she is pregnant. She first considers abortion. On her way to the abortion mill, she runs into Su-Chin, a classmate, holding a sign that reads “No Babies Like Murdering” and chanting “All babies want to be born!”
Su-Chin tells Juno that her baby “probably has a beating heart . . . It can feel pain . . . And it has fingernails.”
Juno still considers abortion as she sits in the abortion mill waiting room. She notices finger nails on a little girl and a woman scratching her arm. She starts seeing finger nails everywhere. “The receptionist clicks her nails on the front desk. Another woman blows on her fresh manicure. Everyone seems to be fidgeting with their fingers somehow.”
Juno leaves and decides to have the baby and give him up for adoption.
She realized that her pre-born baby was a person. His fingers were not her fingers. When the baby was born, Juno would have her fingers and the baby would have his.
Jolie made a decision to remove her breasts. She had a right to do so because they are a part of her own body. She made a similar decision when she had her skinned tattooed.
A baby is not part of a woman’s body. She is a separate entity that at no point even touches her mother. Aborting a baby leaves everything about the mother intact.
So the next time someone says that a woman has a right to do what she wants with her own body, you can say “but only with what is actually her body.”