Watch out, this one's a doozy. If you don't feel like thinking of serious things, please skip it.
I was originally planning yet another adventure post, perhaps even the seemingly elusive "Sisterhood-post", but when I got home yesterday, two things happened.
First, there was a letter from Planned Parenthood waiting in the pile of mail on the kitchen table, reminding me that it was time for my annual check-up. As a (relatively) poor woman without insurance in These United States, they are my sole mainstream health-care provider.
Second, as I began to wade trough the pile of virtual mail that had stacked up in my absence, I came upon a message from a friend telling me that the House of Representatives had passed a bill to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and that there was a letter I could sign.
Now, it is obvious that the House of Representatives isn't actually trying to ban me from getting my annual pap-smear, though they would probably like it better if I would go ahead and get one from a private entity, thus stimulating the economy. (Unfortunately I like a lot of women in my financial bracket I might just go to bi-annual examinations were I forced to do so.)
What the Republican majority is attacking, albeit in a very indirect manner, is the arm of Planned Parenthood that offers women options. Or to put it more bluntly: abortions. This in spite the fact that federal funding in no way directly funds those services, it is those very services that The House is looking to cut millions of women off of. Me losing my affordable examination is just a side effect of that goal.
Here's one of the lines that divide people so sharply in this country. You can either be "pro-life", or "pro-choice". Most likely the group you identify with defines your opinion on Planned Parenthood.
In a country very much enamored with the idea of freedom of choice in everything for everyone, those who, like myself, believe the right to terminate a pregnancy the fundamental right of women, like to refer to it as "a woman's choice". Those who claim abortion should not be a choice we can make as free individuals claim that it is an act equivalent to pre-meditated murder. For a lot of people this is more or less the crux of the whole argument; whether one believes that in one way or another, each unique, individual life begins at the moment of conception and to vanquish it is to kill a whole human being. I believe it is a little more complicated than that.
Like most American debates in the public sphere these days, this one too seems to go to whoever happens to be shouting the loudest at any given moment. And many (if not most) of the people doing the debating have no first-hand knowledge of physical, emotional and financial implications of the very procedure they are debating over.
I do. When I was twenty-three, I had an abortion. I was lucky enough to have it in a country where all women's reproductive health services (all of everyone's health services, in fact) were readily available and free, thanks to being funded by the government. The procedure was relatively easy to procure, I was well taken care of, and there was minimal social stigma.
I recently read a article in MoJo about Harod Cassidy, a lawyer who's mission is to seek out women who've had a bad, emotionally scarring abortion experiences and then tout them as examples of the ills of abortion. His thesis: abortion is bad for women. It effects their mental health. No kidding. Having an abortion was probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and I did not had to make it with tens of millions of people screaming into my ear that what I was considering doing was morally wrong, possibly murder. I was not denied service by someone pretending to be a provider, forced to look at a sonogram image of the baby, or go through lengthy "counseling" to prove to me that what I was doing was wrong.
Not that any of this would have done any good in convincing me. I already knew that my baby had fingernails (A popular tactic, who's triumph over fictional teen-pregnancy poster-child Juno, always drove me crazy.), and I already believed that I was terminating a unique life that I would have loved and cared and fought to death for had they been born. I made a conscious decision to watch the sonogram image just to be absolutely sure of my choice. I even intuitively knew that she was a girl.
And I was sure. When I got pregnant I was living paycheck to paycheck in a foreign country, with nothing to my name, suffering from some fairly intense mental problems and the "father to be" was a worthless piece of string, whom I did not love, and who I later learned had already managed (and trust me, I grew up in a nation where they do teach you about contraceptives, so I did not pull a Juno) to father a child he rarely saw.
Without going too much further into my life circumstances at the time, I will just say that I've never regretted having an abortion. In the nine years (this March) that have passed since then, I've thought of my "baby" if not daily, then at least weekly. I think of her with great tenderness and not a little sorrow. And, each time I think of her, I absolutely know that I did the right thing.
For a split second I considered adoption, but I had enough self-awareness to know that I could not be that selfless. Suffice to say: I pondered the options as long as I could and determined that they would all crush me, but this one the least. I made a choice. It was to save my own life.
What Mr. Cassidy and various other "pro-lifers" concerned for the lives of innocents fail to note is that there are already a number of things that adversely effect women's emotional lives, some of which might cause them to be in a position to need an abortion to begin with. Furthermore, they are saying that women on the whole cannot be trusted to make choices for themselves, but rather these choices should be limited by kind, concerned legislators, most of them men.
It is never the legislators, or the outraged public who's votes they crusade for, who have to deal with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy, whether it is terminated or not. And until we as a society start taking responsibility for all lives, not just those unborn, I feel there is no argument that can convince me that abortion is wrong. Just as there is no argument on the other side that can convince me that each child conceived is not indeed a unique life of their own.
I would love to live in a world where abortion didn't exist. A perfect world where the many causes of unwanted pregnancy would have simply vanished; poverty, mental illness, ignorance, rape, prejudice, societal malaise, all gone. But we don't live in a perfect world, or even a world where we as a society are actively trying to fix these problems. We're just looking to blame someone, and who's easier to target than already downtrodden women and, by proxy, those who are trying to help them?
If you want to stand here with me here's how again. If you don't, I totally understand.
Edit: I would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt comments, stories and support. I'm very touched by the personal stories on abortion, the difference PP has made in your lives and your beliefs on this loaded issue.
I would especially like to salute two ladies seemingly on the opposite ends of the spectrum: Bellisimama who talks about her experience here and Anne who left a beautiful comment identifying herself as pro-life. Thank you Bellisimama for your honesty and Anne for believing that we can have a dialogue in a non-judgemental sisterly manner and get that much closer to understanding one another.
Lots of love and light to all you beautiful girls.