"Spare Parts" is a pro-choice song.

we will save us.

"Spare Parts" is a pro-choice song.

"Spare Parts," from Bruce Springsteen's 1988 album Tunnel of Love, is a pro-choice song.

Bobby said he’d pull out, Bobby stayed in

There is such violence in that line. It has always chilled me.

Writing it and then putting it on a record right after you became a global superstar was a bold action in 1984. There's not a lot of songs about coitus interruptus in rock and roll, at least not as clearly articulated as this one. It’s one of Springsteen’s key devices, pulling you right into the action with a first line that negates the need for backstory. You know what’s happening here.

Some men got really excited about that line. You were usually not surprised by the people who took obvious glee in its existence; they were the guys already on the whisper network: Don’t be the last one in the car with him. Take your drink with you if he’s in your vicinity. Those guys.

“Spare Parts” is a pro-choice song because it begins with this non-consensual moment: he said he’d do one thing, and he didn’t. There was an agreement. Yes, withdrawal as a birth control method is 78% effective. That is not what happened here. That is not what happened! Back then, it wasn’t considered sexual assault if he didn’t pull out when he said he would. Even if it was deliberate.

Janey had a baby, it wasn't any sin / they were set to marry on a summer day / Bobby got scared and he ran away

Unsurprising that the man who doesn’t honor his commitments would leave his future bride standing at the altar. (There’s an engagement ring and a wedding dress so this to me always implied that there was an actual wedding date that he didn’t show up for.)

Maybe Janey might have made other choices if Bobby told her he didn’t want to get married, that he wasn’t ready to settle down (in which case, Bobby should have worn a condom). Withdrawal is 96% effective as a method of birth control, if you use it correctly.

If you use it at all.

There were always back-alley abortionists or women in the community who you could go to if you got in trouble. Abortion might have been illegal at one point, but it never went away if you had enough privilege to access it. Janey did not.

Jane moved in with her ma out on Shawnee Lake / She sighed, "Ma sometimes my whole life feels like one big mistake"

And Bobby? He took off down to South Texas and now he’s out of the picture. He’s gone! Just like that. No child support. No help. No taking responsibility.

Bobby heard 'bout his son bein' born and swore he wasn't ever goin' back

Young people do stupid things. Women make bad choices in men. Men aren’t taught about consent and responsibility, society brands women who have premarital sex as sluts but, you know, boys will be boys and why should this fine young man ruin his life over one mistake?

None of this would have been catastrophic if Janey had been able to make her own decision about whether or not she wanted to be a mother. She wouldn’t have had to give up her life. She wouldn’t have been relegated to the drafty back room off the porch like some kind of pariah, her mother wouldn’t have had to take an adult child back into her house, and Bobby could have had a chance to grow up and not let his poor judgment skills reroute his life.

“Spare Parts” is a pro-choice song.

It’s a pro-choice song all the way to the end, where Janey considers infanticide as a solution to her problems.

Mist was on the water, low run the tide / Janey held her son down at the river side / Waist deep in the water, how bright the sun shone / She lifted him in her arms and carried him home

In my mind, though, when Janey goes to the river, she’s not just thinking about putting her son in the water, she’s thinking about walking into the water with him. It’s always been interesting to me who never considered that might also be what’s about to happen, that it was just about that slut who could have just closed her legs.

I imagine this is about the time someone comes in and says SHE COULD HAVE PUT HIM UP FOR ADOPTION. She still had to carry a baby for nine months and then go through the cost and trauma of childbirth. She had to uproot her life and put herself in a precarious financial and economic position. Sure, she pawns her engagement ring, but does anyone believe that solves any of her problems for the long term? Bobby says he’s never going back. Janey’s son has to share her bed with her. This doesn't end well for anybody.

And this is why “Spare Parts” is a pro-choice song.

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