B.L.U.F. – This is a subject that I think we could achieve a middle ground for, if the loudest and most extreme could just be removed from the equation. As it is, we’re going to end up even more polarized than ever. I apologize in advance for the VERY LONG and rambling nature of this missive. It’s hard to write, and I’m doing my best.
Abortion is a terribly touchy subject. I hate talking about it, because I really don’t have any interest in fighting over it. However, it’s a topic which I almost definitely have a “more left” stance on than anyone else on GFZ, so I will share.
First and foremost, Roe Vs. Wade was a terribly written law that should not have stood as long as it did, if at all. That it was overturned was inevitable. That doesn’t bother me. The idea of States being able to ban abortion entirely does bother me, but not too much so long as interstate travel for medical care is still allowed.
I would love to live in a world that didn’t require abortions. However, I live in a world that has rape, incest, accidents, and medical problems. I don’t foresee a change in that anytime soon, no matter how much I hope. That means that I can never be 100% against abortion. As long as there’s a chance that a living, breathing, adult (in body if not in mind) woman could be harmed by carrying a child to term, I have to support at least some cases of abortion.
I got pregnant when I was 19. It was most definitely an accident. I was on the Pill, and he was wearing a condom, and we both screwed up somehow. At the time, in my very misspent youth, I was actively drinking and using drugs frequently, and I was not eating well. I was malnourished, stressed, and in physical/medical distress. I won’t even go into my mental health at the time; suffice to say it was dismal. I found out at 5 weeks. I agonized over the decision, because I had suffered several miscarriages (likely a good thing, I say now as an adult with a large number of years under her belt… at the time it was devastating). I had to be honest, though, that any child I had at that moment would have been undernourished, likely exposed to a large number of chemicals (before I found out), and would have lived in extreme poverty. I chose to abort the child. By the time I managed to get in for an appointment, I was just shy of 12 weeks along (remember that for later in this discussion). That was over 30 years ago. I still mourn that child.
My sister got pregnant at 41. It was a surprise, but VERY much a wanted child. She took care of herself, ate relatively well, tried to lose a bit of weight (with a doctor’s help, not alone). At about the 17 week mark, she found out the baby had Trisomy 13, considered to be a terminal genetic condition. The depth of the problems were discovered very soon thereafter, and she lost the baby. Because there wasn’t a doctor on staff at that time who was willing to do an abortion (because yes, a D&C in the case of a 17 week fetal death IS an abortion by all definitions), she had to wait several days with a dead thing inside her. They “hoped it would pass on its own,” as we were told. It was ridiculously traumatizing, not only for her, but for all of us supporting her.
Every woman I know has a story like this. A story that is either about themselves, or a person who is no more than one person away from them (ie a grandparent or grandchild, a cousin, etc.). EVERY woman.
Every woman I know, every woman I’ve talked to (online or in person), either has been raped, or closely knows a woman who’s been raped. In my household, two out of the three females have been raped. My best friend and both of her (now grown) daughters were raped. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
Why is it that we talk so much about rape when we also talk about abortion? Because the two are intimately linked. The average woman doesn’t find out she’s pregnant until the 6 or 7 week mark. Especially in the case of rape, it may take even longer, because the stress of rape can cause a woman’s period to be infrequent or out of normal scheduling. Currently, 13 states ban abortion after six weeks.
There are caveats in some of those laws that make room for victims of rape, incest, and domestic violence, but there’s a lot of question about what happens to doctors who perform the abortions. Doctors and nurses have been through a lot in the past three years, and they’re not willing to take any risks on behalf of anyone right now (and personally, I don’t blame them, but that’s outside the scope of this missive). That said, many probably would, but the people who handle the legal side of things at their hospitals are saying NOPE. No one wants to be the test case, with all its expenses and trauma. So if there’s even a little bad wording in these laws, doctors and their lawyers are erring on the side of caution and refusing to do abortions. This leaves a great many women in a very bad place. It’s a disgustingly “chilling effect” on medical care.
There are all sorts of ways that this could be helped. The first and most important is giving birth control access to all women of childbearing age. But that’s becoming problematic as well. First, there are quite a few legislators out there who are currently gunning for certain forms of birth control. Leaving aside Plan B (which some people consider birth control and others consider an abortifacient, so it’s in a murky area), they are coming after IUDs, one of the types of birth control that stop an egg from implanting. IUDs are not only used for stopping pregnancy, but are also tremendously good at helping some women with uterine fibroids, PCOS, and other uterine diseases.
I have heard many times, if you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex. Let me share with you the story of a friend of mine who lives in the midwest. She’s a fully adult woman, late 30s, has been married for about 12 years. She has a medical condition which would cause her to have severe issues if she had a baby. She’s allergic to latex, so condoms are not a good option (and yes, there are non latex condoms… have you looked at the price of them??). She can’t get an IUD because of her medical condition. She was on the Pill, but lately, it hasn’t been arriving at her pharmacy on time. It’ll be there one month, and not the next. That is not how the Pill works. You need to take it at the same time, every day, every month. You can’t skip a month. So she’s basically been told that she, a married adult, cannot have sex with her husband. If you can’t have feelings for her, at least consider her poor husband. What’s he supposed to do?
You might think she could just go get “fixed”. After all, tubal ligation is a simple procedure, rarely requiring anything more than a day visit or possibly a single overnight in hospital. If she doesn’t want to get pregnant, just go get your tubes tied! Of course, that only works if the woman is certain she NEVER wants to have children. Let’s ignore that inconvenient fact, though. Let’s take your wife into the doctor and ask for tubal ligation. I guarantee that you will spend 30 minutes trying to convince the doctor that it’s really worth getting done. That’s right, a woman can’t make this kind of decision about her own body without having to argue about it. I’m not talking about the doctor assuring themselves that the woman knows the repercussions – that should and will be done. I’m talking about doctors telling adult women of child bearing age that they are obviously not thinking clearly, and will probably want a baby later, you know, when their biological clock starts ticking. It’s horrendous. The younger you are, the worse it is, but it’s raw, embarrassing, belittling, and nasty. And it happens hundreds of times a day across the country.
At this point in our nation’s history, abortion access is spotty. However, with the exception of Alaska and Texas, I think that the States are all close enough together to allow a woman to travel out of state to get an abortion, if that’s what she chooses. Don’t like it where you live? Move. Okay… but some of these States that ban abortion, that are currently causing a chilling effect on medical care for female patients, are also now pushing for legislation that bans women leaving their State to get abortions elsewhere.
So here’s where I run into some issues. No one can actually ban abortions. That’s a full stop, by the way. It can’t be done, anymore than you can ban drinking alcohol or smoking pot. You can try, but it’s never going to work, and in most cases, it just makes it all worse. The only think you can stop is SAFE abortions.
I have started thinking about medical procedures and what the courts can tell me to do with and for my body. Consider an Amish couple with a child who has a rare blood disease (several cases are on the books), who refuse blood transfusions due to their religious beliefs. That’s basically condemning the child to death; post-birth abortion. That’s legal. Any adult can legally refuse medical care, guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Your privacy and health records are between you and your doctor, also per the 14th.
Oh wait. Unless you’re a woman who could get pregnant. Our right to privacy appears to end at our wombs.
What about the child who has been conceived to provide a kidney or other donation to a sibling? There are several cases of that type that uphold the absolute right of someone to refuse to medically help another. A movie was recently made about two sisters in this exact situation, though I can’t recall the name of it at the moment. Regardless… how is this different from abortion? Is the mother (host?) legally, morally, socially bound to provide life giving medical care to the baby before it’s born? It’s an interesting question. There’s a court case from 1991 that has an interesting comment made by the judge:
For a society which respects the rights of one individual, to sink its teeth into the jugular vein or neck of one of its members and suck from it sustenance for another member, is revolting to our hard-wrought concepts of jurisprudence. Forcible extraction of living body tissue causes revulsion to the judicial mind. Such would raise the specter of the swastika and the Inquisition, reminiscent of the horrors of this portends. [In re Schiller, 372 A.2d 360 (N.J. Super. Ct. Ch. Div. 1977). In re Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Ctr. v. Levitt, 342 N.Y.S.2d 356 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1973).]
Without arguing the legality of abortion itself, how do you discover whether a woman is likely to get an abortion? You violate her Constitutional right to privacy. Worse than that, because of the way this current issue is being handled, ALL women’s right to privacy is being violated. Any and all women of child-bearing age are having their cycles tracked (or rather, that’s what we’re told is going to happen), to make sure they haven’t gone out of state for an abortion or haven’t somehow gotten ahold of Plan B. That violation of privacy affects all women, not just the pregnant ones. And that’s wrong.
Perhaps we could decide to prosecute women and doctors for committing murder? In order to do so, we’d have to come up with an adequate medical and legal definition of “life”, however. We do have a legal definition of death, but we lack one for life. Until there is a legal and medical definition of life, we simply cannot codify abortion.
It’s easy to say that a woman who’s 8 months pregnant is now carrying a baby. Yes, we all see that the child is viable outside the womb, that it would do just fine if she had an emergency birth today. That’s definitely life. No concerns there. But where does that begin? Does it even matter?
I believe it does matter, at least somewhat. This is opinion on my part. There definitely is a moment when killing a child in the womb is actual murder. The 8 month example above, for instance. But is that different from the Amish couple withholding life saving medical intervention from their child? I don’t know. My heart tells me it’s different, but my heart also tells me that the Amish couple are doing something entirely reprehensible, even if it’s legal. That means it’s legal to do things that I consider morally wrong. So is killing an unborn infant at 8 months morally wrong? Yes, yes it is. Is it legal? I really don’t know. I’d love to say an unqualified no, but I don’t know.
The problem isn’t the 8 month pregnancy, though. The problem is the three month pregnancy, and the six month pregnancy. And the 6 week pregnancy, apparently, though I think that’s an extreme on the other end (ie that it’s clearly not “life” and therefore shouldn’t be an issue to terminate). I can tell you that at three months, a fetus doesn’t look like a “baby”. I can also say that something “looking like” something else doesn’t mean squat when it comes to legal definitions.
In my very strong opinion, it all comes back to birth control. Until there is effective and safe birth control for both men and women, abortion is going to be a reality whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not. If it doesn’t happen in hospitals, it’ll happen in dirty basement rooms. If you want to stop abortions, stop pregnancies before they happen.
And there simply must be more involvement of men in this whole equation. In terms of abortion, it seems to me that too many people ignore the fact that there’s a father involved. Now if it’s a rape or some other horrid situation, sure, his parental rights mean diddly squat. But if it’s a situation like with my sister or myself, he should have at least some rights. And when it comes to birth control, he MUST be as responsible about preventing pregnancy as she is. It takes two to make a baby. When we see abortion in terms of women alone, we do a disservice to all men. We strip them of their rights, AND their responsibilities as fathers.
All of this debate seems to come about because of the 7% of abortions that take place after the first trimester, aka 13 weeks gestation. Of that 7%, 6% happened before the 20th week, and 1% happened after the 20th week. Because of the political mess involved, there’s very little study of abortions that happen after the 30th week, but after several hours of investigation, I couldn’t find a single mention of one that was elective (meaning done “just because” rather than for a pressing medical reason). That doesn’t mean they aren’t happening (Gosnell is proof of that, in my opinion), but it does indicate that we’re not seeing a rash of post 30 week abortions.
Those who chose to get abortions post 30 weeks are doing so because either they found out late about fetal abnormalities (Trisomy 13, 21, etc, or other fatal abnormalities), or because they’ve been attempting to get an abortion for months and only at that point have managed to get together the ability and money (there are only a handful of places in the country that will do legal abortions that late, and generally speaking, insurance doesn’t cover it even in the case of severe and fatal abnormalities of the fetus, so you’re on the line for upwards of $25,000 in costs).
It appears to me that we need to focus on the 6% of women who are getting abortions between 10 and 20 weeks. Those after that point are in medical distress of some kind, which really ought to be covered. I find it incredibly heinous that a woman with a dead or suffering child within her has to come up with $25k cash to deal with the problem. Those before that point should really be able to get something in a nearby state if their own doesn’t offer it.
Why are these women seeking abortion? That’s a question that no one is answering. In the current political clime, it’s not going to be answered, either. No woman is willing to let go of a shred of her anonymity, however small it might be. Yes, that matter of privacy is That Important. And it isn’t necessarily to do with abortion at all.
After all… If someone were to ask a bunch of personal questions about you, with the knowledge that it might be used against your right to keep and bear arms, but really it wasn’t something that affected You Directly… would you want it? No, you would not. The consequences in the future are too large to deal with. The possibility of misuse is vast.
Yet women are expected to just allow it.
In a nutshell, that is why so many women are standing together on this issue, even those of us who aren’t going to get an abortion (because we’re too old, or we’re fixed, or we can’t bear children for whatever reason). The overlying issues that could come out of this fraying of personal privacy are too great.
If you want to read stats and more on the subject, check out these sites: