I’ve been debating on this post for quite some time. And, moreover, this concept of posts. Just like I write up my music adventures, just like I often write a quick vignette set to song, I want to, occasionally, speak out about and hopefully spark the discussion of some hard topics. You know the ones: the ones that you avoid discussing because of the strong reactions it elicits. The ones where people get comfortable in just acknowledging the severity of the topics at hand. The ones where discussion attempts end at “We’ll agree to disagree” to maintain peace and civility in a social gathering.
No. Let’s talk. Let’s discuss them. Discourse and knowledge is what keeps us wanting to learn.
The topic I want to touch on today is abortion and abortion rights.
It’s only a propos, considering the South Dakota bill attempt for “justifiable homicide” of abortion providing physicians as a threat to the fetus. Also considering the article in the New York Times about coercive pregnancy as a form of abuse. (links embedded further down) There are so many myths about abortion, many of which people fight tooth and nail to continue perpetrating, even in the light of sound science disproving it.
Now, let us go back to pre-Roe v. Wade for a moment.
Abortion is by no means a new medical procedure. Abortifacient herbs like black cohosh existed since the ancient times, and avoiding/preventing pregnancy was on a front line. For as long as women had known that they could be pregnant, women always searched for, and explored methods to prevent and terminate pregnancies.
However, history lessons aside, let’s talk more about circumstances before Roe. Back-alley abortions, specifically. Women, back then, in the era where they were relegated to the role of housekeeper and happy housewife – regardless of whether or not they were happy, or wanted that sort of a life – were also desperate. Their circumstances for ending pregnancies then were as valid as they are now. Abusive partner. Not being able to afford a child. Health. Stigmas. Rape victims. But before Roe, they were lacking one thing: safe, legal access. The doctors who performed abortions did so risking their lives and practices, and were few and far-between. Organizations like Jane had literally saved lives because of their sheer existence. More often, you would hear stories of coat hangers. Bicycle-wheel spokes. Deliberate falls down stairs. Home surgeries.
To us, it sounds horrific. We have sterile environments now. Specialists. Doctors have anesthesia, antibiotics, and provide the procedure in a clean, safe environment.
Back then, women died because they didn’t have those things. Or they developed infections as a result of their illegal abortion that rendered them sterile.
Think about it. They were so desperate for safe, legal access to abortion that they were willing to die or put themselves at risk.
The anti-choicers – I utterly and absolutely refuse to address them as pro-life – completely disregard the very real fact that if a legal and safe abortion is prohibited, there will be an immediate spike in back-alley abortions. They’re under a disturbingly real impression that as long as the fetus is actually brought to term is born, nothing else matters. Not the life and health of the woman carrying said fetus. Not even the very real factor of what situation that pregnancy puts her in, economically, psychologically, or otherwise. And, considering that those very same people think nothing of slashing public day-care programs, early education, Medicaid, and any sort of a safety net that a new mother may require – especially if she’s poor – it’s fair to assume that their protection of life begins at conception and ends at birth.
Instead of Planned Parenthood, which is sometimes the only reproductive health resource a woman can get, including and mostly focusing on birth control, Pap smears, mammograms, and cancer screenings – only 3% of PP centers nationwide provide abortion services – states everywhere channel their funding to “crisis pregnancy centers” that do everything in their power to discourage a woman from terminating her pregnancy. I see the subway ads for one of those centers: “Abortion alternatives.” Like what? What is an alternative if a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life? Is her life somehow superseded by a being that, let’s face it, has no heart rhythm until eighteen weeks of existence, or nerve activity until the twenty-second? What, exactly, is the alternative if the father of that child is either her abuser, or a rapist? What, precisely, is the alternative? Adoption? Don’t joke. The adoption system in this country is deplorable. Some prospective “parents” don’t want to “trouble” themselves with American children, so they go abroad, and, considering the routine uproars about adoptive parents attempting to return their children to their native country, it’s safe to say that the screening for fit adoptive parenthood that prospective parents go through is complete, unadulterated bunk. Adopted children are abused every day, in ways that would curl our hair, all while loving couples who would love a child are repeatedly declined when it comes to adoptions. And what, precisely, is the alternative to a woman living with a daily living, breathing reminder of the time that she felt most violated?
What, precisely, is the alternative to abortion?
Prevention. But, of course, the anti-choicers firmly believe that birth control is abortion too. Even though sound science, decades of endocrinology research, and proof that it works all shows to the contrary. And we all know, especially from seeing the trainwreck that is the Palin family, that “just don’t do it” doesn’t work. And, of course, the gratuitous articles of spiking teen pregnancy rates.
If one lives in a liberal area like New York, it’s reflexive to think hey, this doesn’t happen here. But let’s not live in a bubble: it happens often. Every day, there is something about reproductive health that is under fire. Crisis Pregnancy Centers instead of legitimate, informed resources. Pharmacists being given the right to effectively not do their job by dispensing certain medications and/or birth control prescriptions. Chip, chip, chip away at access; if you can’t outlaw it, make access so difficult that keeping it legal becomes hollow. Misinformation on preventing pregnancy. “Studies” that show how the Pill is abortifacient when all it does is stops the ovulation process. Abstinence-only sex ed getting the funding while comprehensive sex ed is being cut left and right, shut down, criticized, and then the teenage pregnancies spike. Chip, chip, chip away at prevention.
South Dakota has introduced a bill that basically equates murder to justifiable homidice if it’s an abortion provider – whom they don’t even have the temerity to call a doctor. The same state that, alongside others, attempted to pass laws outlawing all abortion, even to save a woman’s life, even in the events of rape and incest. Chip, chip, chip.
Murders of doctors. Bombing of clinics. Harassment of women seeking services at the clinics. Refusal of permanent birth control.
Let’s face it: this isn’t about the unborn fetus at all. It’s about women. It’s about control, control by women and control over women.
Check out this article from the Times. A link between abusers and unwanted pregnancies. I would bet good money that people never even thought of this. But they have to, considering that pregnancy creates dependency. Abusers love to make their victims dependent. A pregnancy is a very quick shortcut to that. It’s twice as difficult to escape an abusive environment with a child, or a child on the way. She’s dependent on her abuser completely. This can, and often does, become dangerous.
Let’s state something obvious: there is no woman, not in the history of the world, who just wakes up and decides to abort her pregnancy. It is never an easy decision; it is agonizing, humiliating, a nerve-racking pressure cooker. It is something questioned every second up until it’s done. It is something vilified for even being thought of. It is something that is life-threatening, not the procedure itself, but considering that there were bombings of clinics before, how would a woman know, walking into the clinic, that the safe environment that it promises is really safe?
And for all the scare-mongering about how a baby’s dismembered inside the uterus during the procedure – please. Spare me the bullshit and the propaganda, I’ve aced my biology in college. Science doesn’t lie. 90% of all abortions take place within the first ten weeks. The fetus is little more than a clump of tissue. No, it’s not an automatically fully-formed baby that just grows a little bigger in size. A 6-week fetus barely differs from a 6-week fetus of a cat. And also, what about natural abortions…you know, miscarriages? They’re classified as abortion too, medically. They’re no more than an extra-heavy period. Half the time, the woman doesn’t even have a clue she conceived. Also in SD, if my memory serves, there was an attempt to put women in jail for abortions. Or attempting to “endanger the fetus.”
Oh, wait. In Florida, a woman was in fact put in jail for “endangering.” Not for abortion, but for wanting a natural birth after a prior C-section. The woman was sentenced to serve because she was “knowingly endangering the fetus.” Even though her doctor greenlighted her for a natural birth; she was in great health. So if a woman decides to keep her pregnancy, heaven forfend she has a voice about how she wants to give birth.
Chip, chip, chip.
It’s not about babies. It’s not about “protecting life”. It’s all about control.
And this is the one topic where people say that they don’t want to get involved in the debate.
Why not? Are women not people too?
Or do their lives, opinions, livelihoods, automatically become nonexistent when there’s a fetus in the picture?
When I look at the anti-choice brigade, their legislature, their continuous slashes of support for new mothers, for education, for public health, and at the same time do everything in their power to make sure a woman will give birth whether she wants to or not, this begs the question, what sort of a life are they sentencing these new mothers to? And the newborns that they fought to ensure the birth of – what’ll happen to them? After all, healthcare bankrupts thousands every day. How, exactly, is anything that they’re doing “pro-life”?
Hillary Rodham Clinton said it well in China: “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” Indeed. And the first right a woman should have is something as simple, as basic as autonomy. Because that is what abortion comes down to, autonomy. The right for a woman to decide what to do with her body as she sees fit. She is the sole owner and proprietor of her uterus, and therefore only she gets to dictate who or what takes up residence inside it, or in any other part of her body.
And mind you, I’m talking about choice. No one at all is walking up to a pregnant woman and forcing her into an abortion clinic. No one is guilting her, or shaming her, or coercing her into an abortion. No one is forcing her into it, but a great many people would love to force her out of it. It is a strictly voluntary procedure, in an enormous majority of the case. By the time a woman steps into a clinic or a doctor’s office to have an abortion, she had wracked her mind endlessly over the choice of whether or not to have it. Read: choice. And that choice is severely curtailed if the access is limited. There’s no coercion to abort – but the choice needs to be there. And with that choice – access.
A woman can choose whether or not to stay pregnant. It’s her body, her uterus, and her decision. Sure as hell not the state, and Griswold v. CT, Roe v. Wade, Lawrence & Garner v. Texas have already established that the government has absolutely no business in someone’s bedroom.
But access – safe, clean access – that is under attack. And to put doctors in the line of fire is reprehensible. I’ve not forgotten Dr. Tiller. There is no cloaking what this really is, and I cannot tell you the sort of chills that go down my spine at the consideration of how this proposed legislature can be applied. As a liberal female, I cannot tell you how horrified I am for the safety of women in that state. Already, this state has no abortion providing physicians residing. Already, women have to go through a gamut that involved getting the procedure. Already, there’s a barrier at every turn. And now, this attempt at legislature.
If this doesn’t scare the living crap out of you, it should. Really, it should. Justifiable homicide to prevent harm to a fetus…this can be taken into so many ways, and not one of them is remotely as benevolent as those lawmakers may try to make it.
Abortion is legal, safe, and voluntary. But access to it is becoming life-threatening for both the woman and her physician.
Chip, chip, chip away.
The pre-Roe world and way of life for women was not that long ago. Only 50 years. A generation and some change. For us youngins, our mothers probably remember those days, and look back with chills. Doctors nearing retirement may still remember the one time they saw a woman battling an infection she got from a back-alley abortion. How many more women need to suffer before people wake up and realize that women are people too?
It is the woman’s choice whether she wants to stay pregnant or not. No one else’s. The how she got pregnant is irrelevant. It’s her choice.