Topher Payne: Choice of reason

I am reminded of Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of Joan Crawford. She’s in her seventies now, on tour with her one-woman show, “Surviving Mommie Dearest: From Tears to Triumph.” Someone should really teach Ms. Crawford the meaning of the word “triumph.” Spending 70 years working out your maternal issues, especially when your mother has been dead for nearly half of those years, is not a “triumph.” It is pathetic and sad. Which brings us back to Irma.

Irma is filled with regret because, as she screeches to anyone within earshot, she was not able to conceive again after her abortion.

Irma had a choice, and with the benefit of hindsight she now wishes she had made a different choice. Her solution is to take that choice away from others. By Irma’s logic, anyone who ever got sick from too many shots of tequila should have alcohol banned, in order to protect others from the bitter regret of a Jose Cuervo hangover.

I’m sure Irma would say she is attempting to spare other women the pain she has experienced. I do not believe this is the case. I think Irma’s most fervent desire is for everyone around her to feel as bad as she does.

I do not have the reproductive organs required for an unplanned pregnancy, but that certainly doesn’t stop other unqualified white men from weighing in on the matter, so what the heck, I’ll give it a go.

Let’s clarify the terminology. The opposite of Pro-Choice is not Pro-Life. Everyone is Pro-Life. No sane individual celebrates the need to terminate a pregnancy, or the process of doing so. My nephews were unplanned pregnancies who were given up for adoption, and what made that experience so remarkable was seeing that it was the birth mother’s choice. There was no law forcing her to have a baby. She was mentally and emotionally prepared to give that amazing gift to a waiting family.

I believe that a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy should have every option made available, and then she will make a private, personal choice. People who oppose that scenario are not Pro-Life, they’re Anti-Choice.

Anti-Choice activists, like those who oppose marriage equality, think that by making their personal value system the law of the land, people will give up and do as they are told. But doing so would be denying what makes us great as a country, and as a species.

We believe in the right to choose — our religion, our careers, our side items with Wendy’s value meals, and what our families will look like. Mine is two guys and a dog. My sister’s is a straight couple, two kids, and entirely too many animals. Christina Crawford’s is one attention-starved lady and the ghost of a movie star.

Each has its own kind of beauty, because while we may not choose our inclinations or desires, we do choose the life we build.

Irma has made it abundantly clear she regrets the loss she experienced 37 years ago, but I wonder if she’s reflected on everything she’s lost in the decades hence by refusing to set down her sign and make the choice to pursue happiness.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at