Friday, January 20, 2012

A tale of two "abortions"

Usually, I don't delve into politics. It's very personal and I don't usually like to attack another's beliefs. But there's an issue that is truly important and it involves women's health and rights. And it's being undermined by lawmakers all over the country. I don't feel that I can keep quiet about it because it's too important.
I am absolutely furious with those who are trying their hardest to limit access to abortion. From laws that allow healthcare workers to lie to the patient, to mandated "counseling" that is full of lies and misinformation, there's an outright war on women's ability to make decisions for themselves on what is best for them, their situations, and their families. Most of the people who argue in favor of these laws, and do in fact favor an outright ban on abortion, claim that it's the moral thing to do. They're preventing women from "making a mistake" or from "killing a human being". Bullshit. BULLSHIT. It's a paternalistic view of the world which says that a woman cannot make good decisions for herself, or that she will always regret the decision she made and therefore needs to be prevented from making it in the first place. I would like to say that anyone without a womb doesn't get to make reproductive decisions for those of us who do, but it's ghastly the number of women who participate in this suppression of a woman's basic right to make decisions for herself. I understand that a lot of women who are against abortion have had one themselves and came to regret the decision. In fact, I had a debate last year with a woman in just such a situation. (I got the feeling that it was more the religious beliefs she came into after the abortion that made her feel bad about it, rather than her regret about the child who might have been.) NOTHING gives someone the right to tell another person what reproductive choices are good for them. I don't care who you are or what you've done, you don't have that right and it's time more of us took a stand. I'm sick of sitting back and seeing the rights women have fought and lived and worked for for so long being sold out from under us.
First, I've never had an abortion. I've never needed to make that decision (thankfully), although I could see it being a possibility. Shane had a younger brother who was born without a diaphragm and, consequently, his lungs were deformed and too small. He died hours after being born. At the time, the technology didn't exist to see this before the birth. I'm not sure which was worse for my mother-in-law: the buildup and expectation only to go home from the hospital heartbroken and babyless, or hearing Shane's two-year-old self constantly asking, "Where's my baby?" You'd have to be a monster not to be just a little bit heartbroken by this story, right? But it has further implications for me. We don't know whether or not it was a genetic defect that caused Scott's deformation. We now have the tests and technology that it's very likely I'd find out about something like this before a child was born. I haven't looked into the issue, so I don't know if there's anything that can be done about it. But if there's not? Which is better, to have a baby who will most certainly die within hours of birth, or to abort it before it has the chance at life? I have absolutely no idea what we'd do. But I am most certainly not going to let someone else tell me what I can or cannot do in that situation.
My mother also never had an abortion, but she did go through the procedure. Most people don't realize that the procedure used for an abortion has other purposes. And the people who want to ban it can't ban the idea of abortion (which, I think, is what they'd really want--good luck) so they try to ban the procedure. My mother had four children, but five pregnancies. Miscarriage is like dark secret to pregnancy which most people don't talk about, although almost every woman will have at least one in her lifetime. (I recently had one woman tell me about hers and mention that it wasn't until after it happened to her that nearly every other woman she knows told her about theirs--until then she'd felt so alone, thinking that there was something wrong with her.) However, for some women miscarriage doesn't happen the way it should. My mom, after a short bout of false contractions with my oldest brother, never went into labor again. With any of us. And so it was with the miscarried fetus, too. Her body never got rid of it. There was no heartbeat, no growth. The fetus was most certainly dead but it was still there. If the abortion procedure hadn't been performed it's almost certain that the fetus would have festered in her womb and likely would have killed my mom too. (This was in the early 80's.) That procedure saved her life. The one in-depth conversation I've had with my mom about this, she said that all she felt afterward was relief. She said that knowing the baby inside of her was already dead was such a weight, she felt uplifted when it was over. Who's going to say that she's wrong for this?
I admit, until recently I'd never had any experience with someone who'd had a real, actual abortion of a viable fetus. I always wondered how I would react if a friend had one. Would I look at her just a little differently? Would I secretly judge her? Well, I was put to the test a few months ago. I invited a friend over I hadn't seen in a while and before she'd gotten her coat off she ended up pouring her heart out to me. Her birth control had failed and she'd gotten pregnant a couple of months before. (She later found out that her mom was on the pill both times she'd gotten pregnant.) She and her boyfriend have been going out for a while, but not more than a year. They're both in school. There are cultural boundaries between his family (foreign and not white) and hers (to be blunt, outside of her nuclear family there's a lot of racism) and economic considerations. And they're young. They were both devastated and after discussing their options decided that the best thing for them would be to go ahead with an abortion. This was not a decision they came to lightly or easily. The procedure itself wasn't easy, and my friend said that she'd never want to go through it again. And you know what? My only reaction was exactly what I'd hoped it would be--complete and unconditional love and understanding. I gave hugs and listened with sympathy, crying with her at times. I asked her more recently how she was feeling about it and she said that she had absolutely no regrets. In fact, knowing what she's been through is making her even more excited for the day when she can say, "Mom, I'm pregnant!" And I'm so happy for her. Just because now is not the right time, because something beyond her control (a failure of birth control--they've since changed to a different form) led to this situation doesn't make her a bad person for going through with an abortion. And whether you agree with her decision or not, the fact of the matter is that it was between her and her partner. It is not your decision to make, or mine, or the government's.
Even with my friend, I will never know exactly what went into her and her boyfriend's decision because I'm not her. But I know that I would never presume to tell her whether she did the right thing or the wrong thing. I will never understand how that's come to be the fashionable viewpoint in politics, or why it's gained so much ground. If you don't want to have an abortion, don't have one. But don't kid yourself into thinking that you have the moral high ground by trying to force other women to make that decision. Making abortion illegal doesn't stop it, it just becomes less safe and more people are killed because of the unsafe conditions. All those "pro-life" people out there actually cause more human harm because of making abortion illegal than do countries where abortion is legal. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. And if you don't believe me, or you'd like to learn more, here's a handy little fact sheet about abortion.
It's clear to me that we have to fight for our rights. This is me, standing up and fighting.

1 comment:

  1. Abortion has become such a dirty word in our society I often find myself keeping my mouth shut about the issue. Seeing others stand up and say something is incredibly inspirational. Thank you!