I'm in a prenatal yoga class and one of the members had her last day last week. She found out at the 20 week ultrasound that her baby had severe hydrocephalus (basically, the brain was not developing). She could likely carry the baby to term, but it would not survive once born. She told us all what was happening, in the most brave and unbelievably strong way I had ever seen. She sent a room full of pregnant women into an emotional rollercoaster, but also spoke eloquently about losing a child, and how her relationship with her husband had changed so significantly in such a short time. She told us that she had opted to terminate the pregnancy, and she would appreciate us writing a sentiment of love on a piece of paper. These papers would be cremated with the baby. The whole situation was quite difficult. I think we all felt a bit of "survivor's guilt". Why is my pregnancy going fine when others are having trouble? I think others were reminded of previous pregnancies lost. And I think all of us were amazed at the poise, grace and strength of a woman on the verge of losing her first child. I will hopefully never know what that pain is like, but experiencing it was raw and emotional. It was clear that her situation was her situation, and that she was very adept at making decisions for herself and her family.
At one point, however, I was grateful. I was grateful that we live in California, where there are no restrictions on reproductive medical care for women. I was grateful that this woman would receive good, compassionate care at a hospital. I was grateful that Roe v. Wade happened, and that her husband didn't have to find some back-room, seedy clinic to provide healthcare for her.
I'm disappointed on a daily basis by the slow erosion of women's reproductive rights in this country. It concerns me that many states have passed such restrictive laws that abortion is no longer legal. This disproportionately affects poor women. I am convinced that this overwhelming patriarchy must be stopped. There is no medical reason a woman needs a transvaginal ultrasound to tell her she is carrying a fetus. Trust me, politicians. We know. We also know how to make decisions for ourselves. We know what the right decisions for our families are. We know what our lives are like and what our situations can and cannot handle. We are capable human beings and we can make our own medical decisions for ourselves, thankyouverymuch.
I think I honestly wouldn't have so much trouble with policies trying to reduce the number of abortions if people received comprehensive sex education (and yes, I am talking about discussing it all - vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, STDs, reproduction - ALL OF IT - starting with age appropriate material at a young age). If health insurance companies were forced to cover birth control (coming soon...), if birth control was easy to obtain, and (god forbid) even over the counter! I would feel better if abstinence only education was ELIMINATED. I would feel better if there were more programs to support single parents, if we had a wider social safety net. If we could subsidize child care and provide free pre-school. If maternal and paternal leave was more regulated and better. But, as far as I can tell, patriarchal, conservative politicians merely want to restrict women's rights more and more until we are unable to work and forced to reproduce, even when we don't want to.
I may be an idealogue academic with her head in the clouds, but I generally tend to trust people. I trust people to make the decisions that are best for them (or if they make the wrong decision, to live with the consequences). I trust women (yes, even teenagers) to know their life and their situation. And that's where I split with the conservatives. For all the talk about "smaller government", its actually the opposite. It's bigger government with their point of view, and nobody else's. The stark reality is that a fetus really can't live without its mother. That's the fact of mammalian reproduction. And abortion is a safe, medical option that is legal in this country. I sincerely hope there is something we can do to change these restrictive laws popping up across the country. I certainly don't want to live in a country that considers women second class citizens. I want to live in a country where we value individual rights and opinions. Where people can make their own medical decisions, without the involvement of a politician. The country that our foremothers fought for. That's where I want to live.